Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #259

April 16 – April 22, 2017

Welcome to week two hundred and fifty-nine of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. Meet Alicia Napoleon, the Championship Boxer Moonlighting as an Artist
  2. Josh Dobbs: The Rocket Scientist QB Who Could Be the Next NFL Draft Steal
  3. The Good Fight: Aleksandra “Ola” Magdziak Lopes
  4. Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers Is Looking Like a Future Captain America
  5. One-handed pitcher Kevin Ewing a perfect inspiration
  6. 1st woman to officially run Boston Marathon does it again, 50 years later
  7. Twin, lose or draw: Sabrina Flores plays for the U.S.; Monica for Mexico
  8. David Freese, World Series hero, finds greater triumph in depression battle
  9. Kobe Bryant tackling game’s fundamental problem with Mamba League
  10. The Secrets Behind Russell Westbrook’s Extreme Physique

No Place Like Home (by C.J. McCollum) (The Players’ Tribune)
Inspiring future generations of girls through sport in Togo (Sport and Dev)
National Golf Month targets gender imbalance (Beyond Sport)
A Letter to NFL GMs (by James Conner) (The Players’ Tribune)
Up2Us Sports Stands With Got Your Six In Support Of Female Veterans (Up2Us Sports)

11. Crowdfunding effort of the week – Support The Pride (, FanAngel

We are very much taken with individuals, teams, organizations, etc. that help create a breakthrough that benefits greater society. These folks often face both formal and informal obstacles meant to exclude them from experiences that should be available to all. At the very least, this is frustrating, at the worst, patently illegal.

This past week such a trailblazer, Kathrine Switzer, took to the streets that she championed 50 years ago to shine a light on the amazing impact she and others helped spur when it came to not just running for women, or women in sports. No, they helped make society better.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: Alicia Napoleon, championship boxer and artist; Josh Dobbs, a stellar student-athlete from University of Tennessee looking to fulfill a dream of playing in the NFL; the multitalented and multidimensional Aleksandra “Ola” Magdziak; up-and-coming professional soccer player Cameron Carter-Vickers; future college baseball player Kevin Ewing who is learning from his hero how to follow his dreams and be an inspiration to others; twin sisters and soccer stars, Sabrina and Monica Flores, who each represent their home country; MLB player and World Series hero David Freese, who is finding success on the field as he finds peace off of it; NBA legend Kobe Bryant who is taking it upon himself to help change negative aspects of youth basketball; and current NBA superstar Russell Westbrook, whose physique is as impressive as his game.

Finally, we are excited to let you know an event being hosted by our friends at Up2Us Sports. The Up2Us Sports 2017 Gala will take place on Monday, May 15 at Guastavino’s, an architectural masterpiece under the East 59th Street bridge in Manhattan. The 2017 Gala theme celebrates coaches and athletes who are leading the elevation of women’s sports. You can learn more by visiting

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Meet Alicia Napoleon, the Championship Boxer Moonlighting as an Artist
Alicia Napoleon is a lover and a fighter. When she’s got her gloves on, the 31-year-old boxer is a force to be reckoned with. Known as The Empress, Napoleon is currently the WBC silver super welterweight champion of the world with a perfect 7-0 record. She’s also a business owner, teaching boxing out of her boutique gym in New York City (the deeply cool Overthrow). A rigorous training schedule combined with the stigma that comes along with her athletic line of work can leave her feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. “I’m not just this big, bulky fighter,” Napoleon says. “I’m a very feminine, beautiful woman, and that’s what I want to show the world.” When she’s not knocking out her opponents, you can find her in a very different studio, creating striking paintings inspired by Basquiat and Picasso that have been exhibited in NYC galleries. The hobby might seem unconventional, but there’s nothing about Napoleon that’s ordinary—and that’s just how she likes it.
(Video, Caption: She’s ruthless in the ring, fluid in the studio, and better than ever.

Josh Dobbs: The Rocket Scientist QB Who Could Be the Next NFL Draft Steal
If anything, engineering may have held Dobbs back more in the past than it will in the future. Bond says the most difficult stretch in the brutal aeronautics curriculum is the first semester of the senior year. “They’ve got aerodynamics, propulsion and astronautics, which are three real heavy-duty engineering classes,” Bond said. “And then they’ve got a design class on top of that.” Dobbs had Florida, Georgia, Alabama, a bowl game against Nebraska, national attention and the scrutiny of NFL scouts on top of that. It’s hard to imagine that he reached his “ceiling” as a quarterback while balancing one of the toughest conference schedules in college football with one of the most demanding academic schedules any student could devise. “Sometimes, a guy can get through a college career and not get much better,” former Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “I think will continue to get better. He has more football ahead of him.”

Dobbs rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another score to end his college career with a win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl. Mark Humphrey/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Good Fight: Aleksandra “Ola” Magdziak Lopes
“In boxing, it’s either going to be a win, loss or maybe draw. But that’s as bad as a loss,” she says. “In law, there’s no such thing as black and white, losses or wins. It’s such a mixture of listening to clients’ needs, being able to talk and negotiate with the other side, to come up with [the] best solution in light of the circumstances.” On April 7, perhaps for the first time, she wanted victory for more than herself. In front of a packed house at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island, Lopes and her stepson Artie, under the training and management of her husband, Wayne, fought in honor of Wayne’s oldest son, Manuel “Manny” Lopes. Manny, a Golden Glover and popular local pro, lost his battle with depression and drugs on New Year’s Eve 2016. Lopes and her husband coordinated with boxing promotion Classic Entertainment and Sports to set up fights in his memory, as well as induct him into CES’ Ring of Honor. For the Lopes family, it was a way to heal. “It might sound funny,” she says, “but after Manny’s death, this fight is exactly what we needed.” That night, the longtime pro, immigrant, attorney, wife and stepmother stepped into the ring for the 23rd time, going eight rounds against Mexico’s Paty Ramirez in front of a sea of T-shirts that read “Manny.” And when she ducked through the ropes on the way back out, she left her heart behind.

Aleksandra and Wayne share a laugh with his son Artie. Wayne has been training both fighters for close to two months. Their fights will be in memory of Wayne’s son and Artie’s brother Manuel “Manny” Lopes, another pro boxer who passed away on New Year’s Eve 2016 after a long struggle with depression and drugs.

Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers Is Looking Like a Future Captain America
Carter-Vickers cites visits to Louisiana in his youth as giving him an appreciation for life in America. He stays in touch with his father, who’s proud of who the young man is becoming. “Most parents want their children to do better and have more in life than they did,” Carter says of his son. “He’s already on pace to do abundantly more.” Meanwhile, Carter-Vickers remains eligible for the Under-20 World Cup this summer and could play a defining role during the tournament in South Korea. From there, anything is possible, but patience is required. And Carter-Vickers knows it. “Cam is a really level-headed soccer player,” Ramos says. “I’m sure he’s not thinking, ‘Hey, I want to be the best centre-back in England tomorrow.’ I’m sure he’s just taking it a step at a time and thinking about his club first. I think he’s doing it the right way.” For Carter-Vickers, it’s one powerful step at a time.

One-handed pitcher Kevin Ewing a perfect inspiration
Meet the dreamer and the doer. Kevin is expected to pitch in Tampa Bay today in the Dunedin Classic. He’s the perfect inspiration with the imperfect right hand, the one missing fingers and part of the palm, a stunted right arm, the result of amniotic band syndrome, a congenital limb defect. Only Kevin has never thought he was different. Even when the kids at middle school taunted him, and the words stung, he was sure he was blessed with a passion for baseball, his faith, his family and a puckish appetite for proving doubters wrong. “He has had to prove and prove and prove and re-prove,” said his mother, Kathy. Greg Ewing, Kevin’s father, said, “Kevin has such heart.” “And you say he’s going to pitch in college?” Jim Abbott said. “That’s wonderful.” Kevin wears No. 25 because Abbott wore 25. He has never met Abbott, though Abbott wrote Kevin a letter when he was younger, as Abbott has written thousands of limb-different children. Kevin has an entire shelf in his Sarasota bedroom filled with Abbott autographed cards and baseballs and photos, and Abbott’s book, Imperfect: An Improbable Life.

Kevin Ewing laughs in the dugout with his teammates during a baseball game between Lakewood High and Inspiration Academy of Bradenton at Lake Vista Sports Complex in St. Petersburg on April 5, 2017. Ewing, who was born without his right hand, is the starting pitcher for the team.

1st woman to officially run Boston Marathon does it again, 50 years later
A 20-year-old Syracuse University journalism student made history in 1967 by becoming the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon. Monday, 50 years later, Kathrine Switzer crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon wearing the same bib number an official tried to rip off her clothing in the 1967 race. This was Switzer’s 40th marathon and her ninth time running the Boston race. The 70-year-old walked through water stations, stopped for pictures and interviews and still finished under qualifying time: 4:44:31 and an average mile of 10:51. The 1967 encounter was captured in an iconic photo that turned Switzer into a hero and launched her career as an advocate for women in sports. Switzer has said she did not intend to break barriers by entering the race. After all, another woman, Roberta Bingay Gibb, had completed the Boston Marathon in 1966 without a bib. But the photo exposed the ugly nature of sexism in sports, thrusting Switzer into the spotlight. “What happened on the streets of Boston 50 years ago completely changed my life and changed other people’s lives,” she said in a phone interview after the race. “The race today was a celebration of the past 50 years; the next 50 are going to be even better.”

Kathrine Switzer finishes the Boston Marathon on Monday.

Twin, lose or draw: Sabrina Flores plays for the U.S.; Monica for Mexico
What neither was aware of then was their moment together was broadcast and shared on social media all over the world. Messages began pouring in for the twins about how their sisterly affection at a competitive event touched many. “The uplifting messages to keep going, and to have support from a huge variety of people, it meant the world to me and my Mexico team,” Monica said. Though she didn’t take her sister’s gesture of comfort for granted, Monica wasn’t surprised by the combination of tough competitor and tender consoler in Sabrina. “That’s what makes us the players that we are, always constantly having each other’s backs, pushing each other when we need to or just being by each other’s side to give each other help,” said Monica. “They have similar values, aspirations,” Romagnolo noted. “There’s a lot of respect. When you’re going up against an opponent of that caliber every day, you’re going to continue to grow.” Going forward, the university juniors want to close out their college careers together and continue to pursue their soccer dreams. Monica has already appeared for Mexico’s senior team. Sabrina is hoping to make the USWNT. Both understand as regional rivals, they may face off against each other for years to come internationally and accept that as the price of success on the highest level. One dream scenario would echo their Notre Dame experience by making the roster of the same pro club. “If we could be playing together, we’d definitely be doing that,” Sabrina said.

Sabrina Flores, left, claps hands with her sister, Monica. The duo play for the United States and Mexico, respectively, in soccer. Ian Walton/FIFA/Getty Images

David Freese, World Series hero, finds greater triumph in depression battle
Freese may have a body about to turn 34, but he’s playing with a rejuvenated heart. He enters the Pirates’ game Friday against the New York Yankees hitting .326 with a .453 on-base percentage and .575 slugging percentage. “When you see him now, he’s got a total different perspective,’’ Carpenter says. “You can see it in his mindset. It looks like he has a clear focus when he plays. “Really, he’s as good now as I’ve ever seen him.’’ Freese truly believes the best is yet to come. He’s talking about life, not baseball. “I used to be so afraid what would happen to me after baseball,’’ Freese says. “I was getting older, watching other people, and it was like, “Man, all of these people have their lives together. People were passing me by.’ “That’s all changed. I’m confident that when I retire I’m going to be a loving, great husband. Hopefully a kick-ass father. And a guy who doesn’t booze. “‘Things are just so different now.’’ From the very moment he awakes. “Now, it’s so different,’’ Freese says, “I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning. You wake up, and you’re ready to face the world. “To be honest, I never knew I could be so happy.’’

David Freese celebrates his game-winning, 11th-inning home run in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)

Kobe Bryant tackling game’s fundamental problem with Mamba League
“The line for our league is ‘Play, Learn, Grow,’” Bryant said. “When I wrote it, the first thing that came to mind was my journey. Through playing the game of basketball, I learned – not just about the game – but about myself and about others. Through that process, you grow as an athlete and as a person.” Kobe has plans to expand nationally when the Mamba League resumes in the spring of 2018. His hope is to build an emerging division of youth basketball more focused on the basics of the game, with a long view on player development. “I like seeing kids get better,” he said. “I like seeing the light go on, where they’re like, ‘OK, I couldn’t do this last week, but now I can.’” With less of an emphasis on wins and losses and the stress that comes with that, the aim is for children to pick up a bit of the work ethic that powered Bryant’s Hall of Fame-caliber career. “That’s what Mamba Mentality is,” Bryant said. “It’s understanding that every day you can work on something, every day you get better, and then you can fast-forward years later and it seems like it was a ‘Voila!’ moment, but you know that patience and perseverance every single day is what got you there.”

Kobe Bryant poses with some of the Mamba League’s players. (Courtesy of Nike)

The Secrets Behind Russell Westbrook’s Extreme Physique
By the time Russell Westbrook jogs onto the court, his work is already done. It’s three hours before the Thunder are set to tip off against the Denver Nuggets in their season finale, but there’s nothing left to play for. Oklahoma City is locked into its first-round series against the Houston Rockets, and Westbrook has already seared a seemingly impossible sum of statistical accomplishments into the record books. Still, here he is, sweating before many of his teammates have finished dressing. As he cycles through midrange jumpers and free throws, he merely mumbles to himself. But when he starts working against a defender on post entry passes, he finds his voice—calling his makes and cursing his misses. Although Westbrook’s pro career has been defined by his dizzying and dazzling play, it has been built on methodical practices like these. Fortunately for Westbrook—and for the millions who have marveled at his triple-double spectacular of a season—his body seems to have been engineered perfectly to withstand not just the rigors of an unrelenting NBA season but also the personal toll of his extra workouts and practice time.

(Allegra Lockstadt for B/R Mag)

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