Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #264

June 4 – June 17, 2017

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

  1. The Christian Pulisic Blueprint
  2. Retired NFL safety Chris Crocker wants athletes to get their fair share in sports memorabilia business
  3. Two Local Organizations Awarded $68,000 Let’s Play Sports Equipment Donation
  4. Atlanta United Foundation and Good Sports are Teaming up to Donate $150,000 of Soccer Equipment to Youth Organizations in Georgia
  5. Packers fans drive Davon House from Minneapolis to Green Bay after missed flight
  6. Teacher praises LeBron James with signs near his home in Ohio
  7. Racing cancer to the finish line
  8. How The NBA Became The World’s Most Tech-Savvy Sports League
  9. Rochester’s Rhinos and the Ghosts of ‘99
  10. Renaissance man: Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins turns love of fashion into a business

She Can Coach: A Campaign in Support of Women Coaches (Up2Us Sports)
Letter to My Younger Self (by Chipper Jones) (The Players’ Tribune)
Manaseer Group support for Generations For Peace expansion in Jordan (Generations for Peace)
Redoing the 1998 NBA Draft (by Al Harrington) (The Players’ Tribune)
Recognizing the First, the Greenest, the Best in Sports and Sustainability (Beyond Sport)

11. Crowdfunding effort of the week – Cycling enthusiast rides for best friend with Muscular Dystrophy (Pledge It)

One of the good things about the advent of social media (yes, there actually are a couple of good things) is the occasional interaction between athlete and fan. There have been a host of stories of fans reaching out to athletes in ways big and small, and athletes replying. Beyond such direct communications, we have seen situations in which tickets and autographs have been exchanged, pros have participated in pick-up games with fans, and others in which the athlete will contribute to a cause the fan supports. We feature such a story this week in which two Packers fans, the Johnson brothers, drove Davon House, a player from their favorite team, from Minneapolis to Green Bay after he missed his flight. Twitter was the forum where Davon expressed his frustration about the missed flight, asked for help, heard from the brothers, and did a quick “background check” before accepting their offer of a ride to Green Bay. It all led to the fans meeting up with Davon and getting him to practice in time. Davon showed his gratitude by thanking the brothers and giving them some gear and a chance to take some pictures. The Johnson brothers were grateful for the items given by Davon but seemed genuinely happy just to help out someone in need, share some time with him, and to help their favorite team.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: young U.S. soccer star Christian Pulisic and his development on the world stage; retired NFL player Chris Crocker and his budding career as an entrepreneur; the awesome sports non-profit Good Sports and its partnership with the Atlanta United Foundation and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group to bring sports equipment to the needy in Georgia and Florida, respectively; a fan who wanted to publicly support a hometown kid who just happens to be the world’s most famous basketball player; an inspiring story about an amateur athlete, and overall “good guy” Raymond Howe, who has had multiple bouts with cancer and has come through more determined and driven to live and help others; how the NBA became the “world’s most tech-savvy sports league;” professional soccer team the Rochester Rhinos and how current players recognize the glory and the pressure of the team’s championship run in 1999; and Philadelphia Eagles “renaissance man,” Malcolm Jenkins.

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So, enjoy. And have a good week.

The Christian Pulisic Blueprint
Christian also had no specialized training prior to joining U.S. Soccer’s under-17 residency program as a 14-year-old. Before moving to Germany, his weight training consisted primarily of body-weight exercises like pushups and pullups. “I saw parents who after the games would allow their kids only fruit chips and water,” Mark says. “I am all for teaching kids good nutrition, but if after a game Christian got handed a bag of Doritos, I wasn’t the parent who ran over and said, ‘Don’t eat that.'” The lesson: Removing any semblance of freedom or joy from a kid’s life leads to burnout more often than stardom. Christian spurned the academy team of the Philadelphia Union, a unit consistently more talent-laden and successful than the PA Classics. “When you are the best player on your team but your team is not as good, it means you handle the ball more, you have to do more to carry your team and in the process, you are developing your game,” says Richie Williams, an assistant coach with the U.S. men’s national team who coached Christian, then 15, at the U17 residency program in Bradenton and in the 2015 U17 World Cup. “If it is a loaded team, that same player might be identified as a role player and never develop those skills.”

Retired NFL safety Chris Crocker wants athletes to get their fair share in sports memorabilia business
According to Crocker’s business plan, fans will choose the item and the player and customize their message. FanFlow will take it from there. The business is still in its initial phase. “Choose the athlete you want that has an article you want, and then have that athlete personally inscribe it,” Crocker explained. “Along the way, we video verify it, and we give that to you. That’s really a connect, and the thing that we do with the video, which is an integral part of what we do. We’re able to expand on that video, and that customizes as well. It’s a form of engagement, it’s an experience. It’s really awesome.” Each athlete’s signature has a specific price point, and they will be paid accordingly. FanFlow will take a percentage of each transaction. “We not only offer a premium form of authentication; our platform makes it significantly cheaper to acquire memorabilia for consumers because there are no markups in the product, and alternately more profitable for athletes because of the same fact,” Crocker said.

Chris Crocker #42 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates with fans after the Bengals defeated the Cleveland Browns 27-17 at Cleveland Browns Stadium during a season opener on September 11, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 27-17. Jason Miller/Getty Images

Two Local Organizations Awarded $68,000 Let’s Play Sports Equipment Donation
OCPS is an urban school district serving more than 200,000 kids daily. The district added 4,000 students in 2017 and it anticipates the growth to continue in 2018. 69% of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. OCPS offers sports including basketball, softball, cross country, track, golf, swimming, volleyball, flag football, baseball, soccer, and tennis. The grant will impact all 19 high schools and 35 middle schools. The Orange County Police Athletic League is a juvenile crime prevention program that provides athletic, recreation, and educational activities to at-risk children. PAL uses law enforcement officers as coaches, mentors, instructors, and role models to encourage kids to become healthy, productive, and law-abiding citizens. They have an extremely low participation fee of $10. “We could not function without the outside support from companies like Dr Pepper Snapple and Good Sports,” said Orange County Police Athletic League Executive Director Brenda Knowles. “This equipment donation will allow PAL to add an extra day of activities in low-income areas by providing scholarships to juveniles who cannot afford to enroll.” Let’s Play is an initiative by Dr Pepper Snapple Group to provide kids and families with the tools, places and inspiration to make active play a daily priority. Through DPS’s partnership with Good Sports, an organization that provides donations of athletic gear and sports equipment to deserving organizations, Let’s Play has donated more than $4 million in brand-new equipment over the last three years to help kids become active.

Atlanta United Foundation and Good Sports are Teaming up to Donate $150,000 of Soccer Equipment to Youth Organizations in Georgia
The Atlanta United Foundation and Good Sports, a national nonprofit, are joining forces to provide brand new soccer equipment and apparel to youth programs and schools across the state of Georgia through two cycles of donations. These donations will not only aid in the growth of existing programs, but will also provide the opportunity for youth organizations to offer soccer for the first time by removing the barrier of high equipment costs. The initiative is set for two different cycles, and is projected to benefit over 1,000 of Georgia’s youth by providing the balls, uniforms, shin guards needed to get off the sideline and in the game. “We are proud to partner with Good Sports to deliver soccer equipment to youth across our state,” said Atlanta United president Darren Eales.  “Removing common obstacles to sport such as high equipment costs is a core initiative of the Atlanta United Foundation.  This program will have meaningful impact and will help to provide broad access to soccer for youth in Georgia.”

Packers fans drive Davon House from Minneapolis to Green Bay after missed flight
Packers coach Mike McCarthy was impressed with House’s commitment to getting back to Green Bay for Tuesday’s OTA. “It tells you about his commitment — both from our fans and Davon,” McCarthy said before Tuesday’s practice. “He knows the importance of it. [Practice] is so limited at this time of the year. And really, outside of Aaron and maybe a couple other guys, you don’t have veteran players that are pre-CBA [collective bargaining agreement] that clearly understand the importance of nine weeks as opposed to when you had 15 weeks. “It’s important, especially when it’s an install day. You never want to miss an install day because you get it going with everyone and the adjustments, and this is the time of year when you can slow things down and teach it in a progression. I think Davon obviously showed the importance of being here.”… The Johnson brothers were back at work Tuesday morning, too. They turned around and drove right home. Chad, 41, works as a process engineer who molds medical components, and Mike, 38, runs a demolition crew. “It was a bad night for him, but made memories that will last forever for a couple of lifelong Packer fans,” Johnson said.

Brothers Mike and Chad Johnson pose with the Packers’ Lombardi trophies after driving cornerback Davon House from Minneapolis to Green Bay after he missed his connecting flight. Courtesy of Chad Johnson

Teacher praises LeBron James with signs near his home in Ohio
After LeBron James’ house in Los Angeles was vandalized with racist graffiti last week, a northeast Ohio teacher wanted to make sure the Cleveland Cavaliers’ superstar knew how much he continues to be appreciated back home. Jennifer Pennington, a middle school English and language arts teacher for Akron Public Schools, placed several signs outside James’ property in Bath Township, Ohio, with descriptors praising the Akron native. Pennington created three double-sided white placards, writing the phrases “Hero,” “Role Model,” “Mentor,” “Humanitarian,” “Leader,” and “Good Samaritan” in big block letters using black magic marker and placed them about 10 yards apart on the side of the street across from James’ driveway. “My heart broke when I saw the N-word posted on [his gate in Los Angeles]. Because that shouldn’t be a word to describe anybody,” Pennington said in a telephone interview with ESPN on Sunday. After posting her idea to make the signs on Facebook and receiving encouragement from her friends, Pennington executed the plan, spending approximately $20 on supplies and then making the 15-minute drive from her home in Copley Township, Ohio, to James’ residence. “It just seemed like the right thing to do to combat the evil, combat the hate in the world,” Pennington said.

Jennifer Pennington, a middle school teacher for Akron Public Schools, placed signs with phrases praising LeBron James near his property in Bath Township, Ohio. Photos courtesy of Jennifer Pennington

Racing cancer to the finish line
Raymond Howe is a super achiever. A tri-athlete one weekend, a marathoner the next, and a 300km bike racer the week after. He raises funds for various charities through his sporting activities and helps strangers in small ways where he can – like helping the person ahead of him in the queue pay her hospital bill when her debit card is declined. Raymond holds a senior position in the hospitality industry and has lived on more idyllic island resorts than I can name. It’s all a bit annoying, really. Super fit super achievers have a way of making me feel bad about my lack of super anything. At 54, he’s has a dozen years on top of me but he’s fitter, has better hair, a better jawline and smile. The fact that he has cancer for the second time and is still a super fit achiever makes it worse, because, well, he has cancer for the second time! The thing is, it’s hard to be annoyed with Raymond. He’s genuine, friendly, polite to a fault, and utterly human. Human enough to have wanted to kill himself 14 years ago after three years of cancer treatment zapped his will to live when he had cancer in his face, brain and lungs. He wrote a suicide note and planned his exit, and then went on to travel and fulfil his bucket list.

How The NBA Became The World’s Most Tech-Savvy Sports League
The NBA’s leadership in that area, and its impetus to move quickly in adopting new technologies, is due in part to the fact that some of its newest team ownership groups are led by venture capitalists (the Warriors and the Boston Celtics) or those who’ve run tech companies (the Cavaliers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Portland Trailblazers). Still, the efforts began in earnest when Adam Silver became league commissioner in 2014. For his part, Silver lauds the league’s relationships in Silicon Valley and credits work done by the Warriors to help build bridges to the largest companies in the tech community there, who have been enthralled by the team’s recent success, and the NBA. The league has worked with many of those tech giants, such as Facebook, for some time. But when it comes to discovering and evaluating startups, Silver credits Melissa Brenner, the NBA’s senior vice president of digital media. “She seems to know all of those small companies,” Silver said during his annual pre-Game 1 State-of-the-NBA press conference. “She finds them, she meets with them, and then she brings [in] the really interesting ones.”… “They have been very proactive in developing select relationships,” says Jeff Jordan, a partner at the A-list VC firm, and NBA partner, Andreessen Horowitz. “There’s a short list of VCs who clearly love athletics….The NBA establishes relationships with people who have that interest [and] we see deals that are of interest to us. They’re getting into the deal flow by having the relationships.”

Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers at ORACLE Arena. [Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]

Rochester’s Rhinos and the Ghosts of ‘99
One thing working in the 2017 Rhinos’ favor is a wave of love from the local community. Being a so-called small market kept Rochester out of the reckoning for a place in MLS, but it also helped lay the groundwork for victory in 1999. And its status as a sporting backwater has led directly to a firm and buoying support in the city for every iteration of the team, win or lose, since then. “It’s fun being a Rhino here in the City,” said Indiana-native Brown, who had a hand in both goals against Boston amateurs GPS Omens that set the Rhinos a Fourth Round date with MLS outfit New England Revolution. “We’re one of very few sports options for people here, so we get to do appearances and it’s fun. People come up to you after the games and say, ‘hey nice pass,’ or, ‘that was a great goal.’ It’s great to interact with a community who really care about the team.” Morton, who’s following in the footsteps of a succession of standout goalkeepers that began with ’99 net-minder Pat Onstad, also enjoys the adulation of the Rhinos-mad folks of Rochester. “It’s a minor-league town, but the people here are crazy for sports,” said the James Madison University product, who does yoga as part of an extensive pre-game warm-up. “People are drawn to what we’re doing here and being a part of that give-and-take is awesome.”

Renaissance man: Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins turns love of fashion into a business
Jenkins says he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to perform on the field, despite the criticism he’d likely face if his play dropped off while he pursued so many other interests. In fact, he said, the time demands have led to an increased focus and stricter regimen that have helped him play at a high level. There are no complaints from the Eagles thus far, as Jenkins has developed into one of the game’s best safeties. He was recently named one of the league’s top 100 players by NFL Network after he posted three interceptions — two of which he returned for touchdowns — 72 tackles and nine passes defensed last season. “I think it’s admirable, just the way his football level hasn’t diminished by any means,” Eagles tight end Zach Ertz said. “I think if he was one of those guys where his play has taken a step back, it would be an issue with some of the guys. But he is one of the best safeties in the league while still doing all this other stuff.” Although he might be on the extreme side with his Renaissance Man approach, Jenkins is part of what appears to be a growing number of NFL players who are branching out into other areas of interest, despite the demands of their football careers. Jenkins refers to it as “a wave of this conscious athlete” in which players are more aware of the options and opportunities around them and more eager to explore them.

Jenkins and Anquan Boldin spoke at a congressional forum in March about improving relationships between minority communities and the police as well as supporting re-entry programs for inmates. Tasos Katopodis for The Undefeated

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