Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #265

June 18 – July 1, 2017

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

  1. A Look Inside the World’s Most Beautiful Basketball Court
  2. Title IX turns 45 today. Its impact goes beyond women playing sports.
  3. Female Olympic Athletes Honored Over 50 Years Later
  4. Olympic Day: Olympian shares passion with youngsters to spark new sport interests
  5. 2017 RWJF Sports Award Winners Announced: Giants Community Fund, The Moyer Foundation, and PeacePlayers International
  6. From Georgetown to Nebraska to a cheese counter: Tim Adleman’s unlikely path to majors
  7. Barefoot and beyond: Basketball academy builds hope in Mexico
  8. ‘I’m a Protestant, and she’s a Catholic:’ Belfast friends worry over political stalemate (PeacePlayers International)
  9. LTA Promote Participation Through Grassroots Investment
  10. The Bond Between Two Teenage Swimming Stars, Decades Apart

2017 Draft Class Gives Back Through NBA Cares (Beyond Sport)
The Loss (by Gordon Hayward) (The Players’ Tribune)
My Indian experience: Working in sport and development (Sport and Dev)
Social Movements, Activism and Advocacy on the Agenda at Beyond Sport United (Beyond Sport)
Marnisha Mintlow has been a Marine, a teacher, and now as an Up2Us Sports coach, she is ‘super’ (Up2Us Sports)

11. Crowdfunding effort of the week – Morro Bay Boosters Unite,, (FanAngel)

We have written before about the importance of gender equality in sports, especially when it comes to basic opportunities to play. This past week we celebrated the 45th anniversary of Title IX legislation. The first instinct is to congratulate women and girls on the progress that has been made. But that is short-sighted. We all have benefited from the advances that have been spurred directly and indirectly by Title IX. We are better for having had opportunities to play sports with each other, to work together, to serve in leadership roles together. And while gender dominates the discussion with respect to Title IX, we have certainly seen similar benefits of working with diverse populations in so many other instances. And that is key to keep in mind when we speak about equal treatment of individuals. We must all see this equal treatment as an opportunity to learn more about each other and to advance together.

In addition to the Title IX story, we have two other stories dealing with amazing women in sports, three of them stars from the past and one dominating on the world stage today. We are sure you will enjoy the stories on Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz, as well as Chris Olmstead and Katie Ledecky. The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: the world’s “most beautiful basketball court;” Olympian Edvinas Krungolcas sharing his love of sports and encouraging a new generation of youngsters to follow their dreams; the 2017 RWJF Award Winners – Giants Community Fund, The Moyer Foundation, and PeacePlayers International; Tim Adleman, a current Major League Baseball pitcher who took a most unusual path to baseball’s highest level; a basketball academy in Mexico providing wonderful options on and off the court for the young kids participating; the success of a program from the aforementioned PeacePlayers International and the hard work needed to sustain that progress; and funds going toward enhancing opportunities at the grassroots level for thousands of individuals in the U.K. interested in playing (more) tennis.

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So, enjoy. And have a good week.

A Look Inside the World’s Most Beautiful Basketball Court
When I traveled to Paris last year, it took me only a few minutes after landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport to realize the city had a deep appreciation of design because even its airport bathrooms are stylish. Parisians are not timid about designing public spaces with flair. The latest space to get an amazing treatment is a basketball court tucked between two apartment buildings on the north side of the city. Designer Stephane Ashpool, founder of the fashion brand Pigalle, collaborated with the design firm Ill-Studio and Nike to create the colorful court. Ashpool has previously professed his love of 1990s basketball and how it has influenced his design. He reimagined this court in conjunction with the release of his new fashion collection, which he described as “an evolution of ’90s basketball allure from the U.S., but in an elegant, Parisian way.” In his designs, he created colorways and lines that simultaneously harkened to the past while adding a touch of futurism. The resulting court, viewed from any angle, is pretty amazing.

“The anatomy of the human body as well as it’s performances have had a lifelong relationship with art. Since the legacy of Greek and Roman antiquity, sport is represented as a dominant idea within the beauty of an era. This never-ending quest for modernity has forged a strong bond between functionality and aesthetics over the decades. Through this new court, we wish to explore the relationship between sport, art and culture and its emergence as a powerful socio-cultural indicator of a period in time. We aim to establish visual parallels between the past, present and future of modernism from the « Avant Garde » era of the beginning of the 20th century, to the « Open Source » times we live in today, and our interpretation of the future aesthetics of Basketball and sport in general.” Ill-Studio & Pigalle.

Title IX turns 45 today. Its impact goes beyond women playing sports.
Title IX essentially bans discrimination on the basis of sex within federally funded schools, including universities. The law states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Because almost all educational institutions, both public and private, receive some sort of federal funding through federal financial aid programs, they must abide by Title IX. Title IX has been most commonly associated with the increase of women’s participation in sports throughout their educational careers. The impact of Title IX on women’s sports cannot be overstated: the NCAA says the number of female college athletes is at an all-time high, and the numbers of girls playing high school sports has swelled from fewer than 300,000 in 1974 to more than 3.1 million in 2012…Despite the gains made under Title IX, advocates say there is still room for improvement. For instances, before Title IX was implemented in 1972, over 90% of women’s collegiate teams were coached by women. Now, they coach fewer than half, according to a report released by the NCAA earlier this week. And of those female coaches, about 86% are white.

Female Olympic Athletes Honored Over 50 Years Later
“Sport belongs to us all,” she stated during the ceremonies. She recalled not having the opportunity to participate in sports in her youth. “I knew there was something about it that all the guys liked,” DeFrantz said, “so why shouldn’t we have a chance?” That question led her to help other women pursue opportunities in sport—and as a member of the IOC, she is passionate about bringing a gender balance to the Games and increasing reporting on women’s sports. “The reportage is equal to the number of athletes on a team,” she said, noting that by her count, there was “a tiny bit” more reporting on the women’s events for some teams at the Rio Games—a sign that her life’s work is starting to pay off. While DeFrantz is focused on getting the stories of other female athletes heard, the plaque at the stadium will make sure that her story and Benoit Samuelson’s aren’t forgotten. “These plaques will forever immortalize and tell the story of these women for generations to come,” Simril said, standing in the shade and gesturing to them with pride.

Joan Benoit Samuelson poses with her newly unveiled plaque in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum’s Court of Honor. She and Anita DeFrantz became the first women to be honored with a plaque since 1961.

Olympic Day: Olympian shares passion with youngsters to spark new sport interests
Modern pentathlon is one of the oldest Olympic events, having featured on the sporting programme since 1912 and it consists of swimming, fencing, shooting, show-jumping and running. Lithuania has a proud and successful record in the sport, having won four Olympic medals since 2004, with Krungolcas himself winning silver in Beijing in 2008. For Olympic Day 2017, Krungolcas is taking part in a fencing event in his home country with the aim of introducing more children to a discipline that they may never have come across before. He believes it is vital that children try as many sports as possible if they are to find one that they are both good at and enjoy. “I would like for children to try as many sports as they can,” says the silver medalist. “They must all search for a sport that fits them and this is why Olympic Day plays a very important role in Lithuania because you can find a lot of different sports in one place. You can try every sport, you can get information and contacts about each sport and you can meet sport stars, Olympic champions, medalists, coaches and sport veterans during this event.”

2008 Getty Images

2017 RWJF Sports Award Winners Announced: Giants Community Fund, The Moyer Foundation, and PeacePlayers International
The San Francisco Giants Community Fund, The Moyer Foundation, and PeacePlayers International have been selected as 2017 winners of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Sports Award. The winners will receive a $7,500 cash award and will be honored at a September 13, 2017 ceremony at the RWJF headquarters in Princeton, N.J. The three recipients have been awarded this honor for their innovative and influential approaches to using sports to improve the Culture of Health in their communities. Approaches include: using baseball as a forum to encourage education, health and violence prevention; utilizing physical activity and sport to provide comfort, hope and healing to children and families affected by grief and addiction; and using basketball as a vehicle to unite divided communities. Past winners include the Chicago Fire Foundation, MLSE Foundation, Tony Hawk Foundation, Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, Doc Wayne, and InnerCity Weightlifting. “Congratulations to these organizations and their creative approaches to building healthier communities,” said Richard Besser, RWJF president and CEO. “This year’s winners inspire packed stadiums, provide comfort to grieving children and form international friendships. Each effort demonstrates the passion for community that will make our country stronger and can inspire all of us to do more for our neighbors.”

The RWJF Sports Award focuses on recognizing those in sport who display an innovative and collaborative approach to making their communities a healthier place to live.

From Georgetown to Nebraska to a cheese counter: Tim Adleman’s unlikely path to majors
Now let’s go back to the cheese counter. After that 2012 season in El Paso, Adleman moved in with his grandparents in the Connecticut home where his mom grew up. His grandmother had been shopping at the Village Market for years and was friendly with management, because she’s friendly with everyone. “I think if you go down there, they’ve got a spot for you,” she told her grandson. What did he have to lose from taking a brief food sabbatical? “It was just like what any other minor leaguer would do who needed to make some cash on the side, because we don’t make anything during the season,” Adleman said. “And so, four to five days a week, from 8 to 2, I was back there, wrapping international cheeses and packaging chicken pot pies and doing kind of whatever they needed.” You’re not supposed to go from the cheese counter to the big leagues. But you also aren’t supposed to go from the Motel 8 in Sioux Falls to the Mayflower on Connecticut Avenue. It all takes some combination of faith and luck, persistence and happenstance, plus a willingness to play for the Lincoln Saltdogs even when the Florence Freedom have told you no. “You know, maybe it was a little bit stupid at the time, I don’t really know,” Adleman said. “But I just felt like I’d have wasted a lot of time going for this just to quit because it got a little tough. It just didn’t make sense to me. …  Obviously, I worked really hard and took a difficult path, but I had some breaks along the way and I was able to take advantage of them. So I’m just trying to soak up every minute of it.”

Reds starter Tim Adleman, at Nats Park in late June. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Barefoot and beyond: Basketball academy builds hope in Mexico
The teams laughed and spoke through the universal language of basketball. The only pro who could communicate in Spanish with the youngsters, members of the indigenous Triqui tribe from the mountains in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca, was Manu Ginobili. “He gave us a tip, that we’d have to work hard at the sport, but also in our studies so that we can get ahead — and never to give up,” Maximiliano Celestino Rodriguez recalled in Spanish. Ginobili’s message meant a lot to the basketball-loving kids from some of the most impoverished and illiterate regions of Mexico, and four years later they are on the verge of their next big accomplishment. Their coach and mentor, Sergio Ramirez Zuñiga, is in the final stages of organizing scholarships to American and Spanish schools so the A-team members can continue their high school careers and be one step closer to their college dreams. Another big change since their days in the spotlight? They no longer play barefoot thanks to the increase of donations and other funding that came with the academy’s exposure.

Members of the Mexican Indigenous Basketball Academy’s A-team scrimmage during an early-morning practice at the school’s campus near Oaxaca City. Nathaniel Janowitz for ESPN

‘I’m a Protestant, and she’s a Catholic:’ Belfast friends worry over political stalemate (PeacePlayers International)
Seventeen-year-olds AJ McMinn and Rachel Madden went to primary schools in Belfast just across the street from each other. One Protestant. One Catholic. Back then, they wouldn’t even have crossed the road to speak to each other. Today, they’re the best of friends, having managed to bridge what is still a vast sectarian divide in Northern Ireland with the help of a program called PeacePlayers International, which seeks to bring kids from both communities together to play basketball. “I’m a Protestant and she’s a Catholic, and that’s, like, completely opened our eyes to how the other side isn’t bad from what we were told growing as kids really,” says McMinn after helping to coach a new batch of recruits to the program. But that still doesn’t mean they can easily mix in each other’s worlds. “It’s still the same now. Like if I was to walk around in my school uniform in a Protestant area it wouldn’t end well,” says Madden with a slight laugh…Both AJ McMinn and Rachel Madden clearly hope they might be the way of the future for Northern Ireland, not the division they still cope with in their day-to-day lives. “I think it’s more the older generation passing down stories,” says McMinn. “Like my nanny would tell me things and I’m sure your nanny would tell you things too,” she says, looking at Madden. “You won’t have the stereotype that your parents made you have, because they told what happened in the ’70s and ’80s. You’ll have: ‘Last week I met a Catholic on the bus and now I have her on Facebook and I’m texting her right now and she’s a great wee girl.'”

Best friends AJ McMinn and Rachel Madden attended neighbouring Catholic and Protestant schools growing up. They say they wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for a program that brings children together from both communities to play basketball. (Richard Devey/CBC News)

LTA Promote Participation Through Grassroots Investment
The national governing body will plough £125m (US$162.3m, €142.1m) into the transformation of British tennis courts over the next 10 years. As part of strategy, 750 courts will be covered and a further 4,000 will be floodlit. In addition, online booking and entry systems will be implemented for 3,000 courts so that facilities can be booked from mobile phone, computer or tablet. Clubhouses and social spaces linked to courts and clubs will also be refurbished. To deliver the project, the LTA plans to work local authorities and local businesses to put together funding packages for facilities. It is hoping to unlock a further £125m for the project. This method has been tested in 10 pilot towns and cities, including Sheffield, which has received an investment of £1.5m (US$1.9m, €1.7m) over the past three years to improve six park venues. As a result, participation has increased by 54 per cent. Local authorities, tennis clubs, parks, businesses and educational institutions are being asked to bid for funding. The ultimate goal for the LTA is to capitalise on the “unprecedented levels of interest” in the sport following elite success, which has seen Andy Murray win Wimbledon and the Olympic tournament in 2016 – becoming World Number One in the process – and the Great Britain team winning the 2015 Davis Cup.

The Bond Between Two Teenage Swimming Stars, Decades Apart
Ledecky, 20, and Olmstead, 73, are not technically related, but they are both swimming blue bloods. Few people can relate to the shared experience of teenage stardom that bonds them. Olmstead, the first American woman to break five minutes in the 400-meter freestyle, looks at Ledecky, the first American woman to break four minutes, and it is like seeing an old home movie that has been colorized and digitized. “I identify with her,” said Olmstead, who held four world records and 32 American records. At just 14 years old, she was described in a 1958 Sports Illustrated cover story as “the best freestyle swimmer ever developed in America.” The distinction once held by Olmstead has been passed down like a royal title to Ledecky, who has set 13 world records in the 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyles and is the reigning world and Olympic champion in the 200 meters. In Indianapolis this week, Ledecky extended her range to include the 100-meter freestyle, in which she finished sixth. “There is a vicarious aspect to my relationship with Katie,” Olmstead said. “It takes me back to all the exciting and memorable aspects of my swimming life.” Like Ledecky, a five-time medalist in the 2016 Rio Games, Olmstead emerged from the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome as the outstanding female teenage swimmer, with four medals, including three golds. Only two freestyle events were on the women’s program, and Olmstead, then competing under her maiden name, von Saltza, raced in both.

Left, Chris Olmstead, then known as von Saltza, at Santa Clara High School, circa 1960. Right, Katie Ledecky before she won the women’s 200-meter freestyle at the Rio Olympics. Left, Getty Images; Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

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