Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #266

July 2 – July 15, 2017

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

  1. The Battle For Girls’ Sports
  2. ‘Books before boxing’ credo helps trainer change lives
  3. Maya Weave Their Identity Into Their Soccer Team
  4. Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedez-Benz Stadium Menu to Feature $2 Soft Drinks, $5 Beer
  5. Pro Flag Football—Just Like the NFL, But Exciting!
  6. Adidas Got Women Artists to Design One-of-a-Kind Sneakers for All 50 States
  7. Premier League and BT celebrate disability programme with ‘Festival of Sport’
  8. Meet Paul Rabil, lacrosse’s first $1 million man
  9. Relentless and Tough, Venus Graces a Spotlight All Her Own After Wimbledon Run
  10. Athlete gets cancer. Athlete fights cancer. Repeat, again and again…

ESPN builds and dedicates multifunctional sports court in São Paulo (Sport and Dev)
Thank You, Utah (by Gordon Hayward) (The Players’ Tribune)
Developing people-to-people approaches through sport (Peace and Sport)
History Maker: Olympic champion Simone Manuel (NAYS)
Saudi Arabia to introduce Sports Programs to Girls’ State Schools (Beyond Sport)

11. Crowdfunding effort of the week – Adam Wainwright is Striking Out Poverty,, (Pledge It)

I want to use this week’s introduction to highlight a project that I have been fortunate to be a part of for the past three years. The ESPN Humanitarian Awards is a brainchild of the sports media giant, specifically its Corporate Citizenship division headed by Kevin Martinez. This past Tuesday the third annual event was held again in Los Angeles. The winners were: Team of the Year – San Francisco 49ers, League of the Year – USTA, and the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year was Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames. (For a further breakdown of the categories and the nominees in each, please click here.

Due to its growth, the event was held in a bigger venue this year but still held on to its intimate feeling, where one could easily be sitting next to an Olympic champion, corporate executive, NBA player, NFL team owner, or a leader from the non-profit sector, all the while television, movie and music stars graced the stage to give out the awards. Credit goes to Kevin and his amazing team for creating an event that balanced the big and the small.

The attention brought forth for this event and others like it has been an important development in the sport for good space. We have to admit it, we are a society that likes awards and award shows. But beyond giving out trophies and checks (ESPN did both), getting to learn about great efforts by individuals, teams, leagues, corporations and non-profits helps us create a valuable measuring stick for other such efforts. While not everyone wins an award, everyone can learn and better their efforts to have greater and greater impact. The fact you have the “Worldwide Leader in Sport” in this space makes it all even more possible.

Speaking of worthwhile events, we want to remind you of Beyond Sport United 2017, taking place in New York: 26 – 27 July 2017. For more information, please click here.

Please continue to send along your stories. You are both our audience and our best source of stories. Our Twitter handle is @sportsdoinggood, and you can find us at

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So, enjoy. And have a good week.

The Battle For Girls’ Sports
Now headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, Play Like a Girl offers programs throughout the nation that encourage girls to get off the sidelines through after-school programs and Pop-Up Play Days, incorporating sports clinics, fitness classes, and old-school classics like double Dutch, hopscotch, and hula hooping. Participation in any of the programs is completely free. Clay is not alone in her efforts: Girls on the Run, the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Foundation, Girls Inc., and Wrestle Like a Girl are just some of the organizations providing free or low-cost access to sports for girls. Each of these organizations were founded after Title IX because it was clear that despite the law’s good intentions, enforcing every single school to meet the guidelines of equal access was an impossible task. Better yet, these groups also focused on bringing sports programs to schools with low budgets. Deborah Antoine, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, thinks organizations like Clay’s are essential in the growth and retainment of girls in sports. “It is imperative, quite frankly,” she said, “because over the years the foundation and others have done research that show the significant benefits of boosting education, of improving health, and teaching leadership skills that girls especially get when they play sports.”

‘Books before boxing’ credo helps trainer change lives
Sweeney had fallen in love with boxing when he was young and learned all he could. When he realized he wanted to help kids in his neighborhood, he knew it was one way he could reach them. So, he started by teaching a few kids in a nearby park. In 2007, Sweeney started the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program. Five days a week, around 100 children are picked up from school and brought to his gym. Boxing, Sweeney says, “teaches you to be focused.” He and his coaches become mentors, folding in lessons about accountability, sportsmanship and perseverance. The gym also has a tutoring center. Sweeney considers that the most important aspect of his program. “Education is key,” he said. “Books before boxing has always been our motto.” For Sweeney — who’s poured everything he owns into the program — his purpose is to give these children the thing he always wanted. “We treat everyone here like family,” he said. “We motivate each other.” So far, 267 students have completed the program. All of them, he says, have graduated high school, and 98% have gone on to college.

CNN Hero Khali Sweeney

Maya Weave Their Identity Into Their Soccer Team
“The costume is a symbol, and we, the team, carry it with great responsibility,” he said. “It stands for all the indigenous peoples of the country, and for Guatemala as a whole.” The women in Xejuyup weave the shirts for the men in their families, a task that usually takes two months. The skirt is made of wool and bought in the region. A full uniform is worth about 2,000 quetzales (about $270), far more than the replica jerseys of the “new heroes” — players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — that are cheap and ubiquitous. But to the men of C.S.D. Xejuyup, it is also why the mission undertaken by Antonio Perechú is so ambitious, and so important. And in small ways, it might be succeeding. Beyond being an example for youngsters in their small town, the team’s influence and message is evident each time it leaves Xejuyup. The club is not registered in any official league, but it frequently plays against amateur teams around the country. Most times, Miguel Perechú said, the players are supported, applauded and encouraged by their rivals’ fans.

C.S.D. Xejuyup players wearing uniforms that incorporate traditional K’iche’ Maya clothing. Antonio Perechú, the founder of C.S.D. Xejuyup, wanted his team to reflect its community.

Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedez-Benz Stadium Menu to Feature $2 Soft Drinks, $5 Beer
“We have listened to the concerns of the fans on the food and beverage experience and have responded to those concerns in a way that honors our commitment to providing the best possible fan experience at our events.” The team estimates that an average family of four can buy food and drink at the stadium for $28 or less. “To truly reimagine the food and beverage experience, we needed to first and foremost offer fans the best value possible,” Falcons senior vice president of fan experience Mike Gomes said. “Value starts with pricing but also includes improved quality and freshness, a variety of options that can appeal to all fans and the best speed of service—all of which we have delivered on through Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s innovative approach to the food and beverage program.” The Falcons have no other reason to do this other than to create an atmosphere where families and lower-income fans can afford to attend games. It appears to be a smart way to further excite fans for the opening of a new stadium—especially for a team that has a lot of goodwill after reaching the Super Bowl last season.

John Bazemore/Associated Press

Pro Flag Football—Just Like the NFL, But Exciting!
The way Lewis tells it, the AFFL started on the sidelines of his son Hayden’s flag football game. He’d coached the game for a few years, and found the sport surprisingly entertaining. “It just made me say to myself, ‘I wonder what this game would look like if it was played by the greatest players in the world?'” he says. He figured he could tap the pool of skilled players who aren’t in the NFL for one reason or another and create a league just as exciting. The game riffs on the one you probably played as a kid. Players spend 60 minutes working their way up and down a standard football field delineated by four 25-yard zones. Each team features a dozen players and fields seven at a time. Everyone plays offense and defense. Games start with a throw-off, with a player of the coach’s choice hurling the ball as far as possible. The receiving team has four plays to reach the next 25-yard zone, then the next, and so on until it scores or throw-punts (no kicking, remember?). The game moves quickly—the quarterback has just four seconds to heave the ball or start running, and the defense can rush the backfield after two seconds. Someone pulls your flag? You’re down.

Adidas Got Women Artists to Design One-of-a-Kind Sneakers for All 50 States
Adidas and Refinery29 get geographical in a fun project for the UltraBOOST X sneaker, getting women artists to design a “BOOST the Nation” collection, featuring one-of-kind sneakers that are being auctioned off for charity. Refinery29 chose the artists—including Meagan Morrison, Maria “Too Fly” Castillo, Bree Poort, Lizzie Darden, Jenny Kiker, Sophia Chang, Mari Orr, Jen Mussari, Carrie Chan, Jordana Schrager and Refinery29 fashion editor Alyssa Coscarelli. The designs are inspired by state cultures, landscapes and landmarks, and range from subtle (Connecticut) to playfully outlandish (Kentucky). The sneakers are available via auction through Tuesday only, with all funds donated to Women Win, an organization that empowers girls to build leadership skills and address gender equity through sport. See the sneakers below.

Premier League and BT celebrate disability programme with ‘Festival of Sport’
The ‘Festival of Sport’ was hosted by BT presenters Abi Griffiths and Jake Humphrey, and saw participants from 20 clubs, who run the Premier League and BT Disability programme, take part in a range of different sports, including athletics, boccia and basketball, each developing their own skills throughout the event by recording their best times and results at each sports station. The three-year Premier League and BT Disability programme aims to inspire disabled people through sport and will see the organisations work together to provide funding to Premier League clubs to create more opportunities for disabled people across England and Wales. Since the Premier League and BT Disability programme was launched at the London Stadium last September, clubs have engaged over 10,000 disabled people and 27% of those taking part in club sessions have been female. The programme looks to encourage disabled people to be more physically active and to help access talent pathways and more mainstream opportunities. Other supportive work has been done in partnership with the clubs, The Shippey Campaign and The Lord Taverners to implement sensory rooms at stadiums, following successful introductions at Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Watford.

Meet Paul Rabil, lacrosse’s first $1 million man
“He’s making the most of what he can do in that kind of sport, and it’s pretty amazing what he’s accomplished,” said Bob Dorfman, creative director at Baker Street Advertising. “It’s extremely difficult. You’ve got a limited fan base, not any kind of a TV audience, it’s not extremely national, [but] he’s got a lot of things going for him. Number 1, he’s one of the best players in the country. He’s good-looking. He’s very articulate and very smart. “He’s kind of following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and LeBron James, the big guys in the big sports who have kind of gone from just being shills for another company to being the guy who is an equity owner, building their own brands around businesses, and becoming strategists in those businesses, as opposed to someone who is just taking $1 million to hawk a Coke can.” Rabil has seen numerous avenues open after being traded from the Boston Cannons to New York in 2015, though he credits much of his success to social media, which has allowed him to connect with the under-served audience of one of the nation’s fastest growing sports. He has more than 72,000 followers on Twitter and 82,000 on Facebook, and has his own YouTube channel.

Leonard Elmer/New York Lizards

Relentless and Tough, Venus Graces a Spotlight All Her Own After Wimbledon Run
She’s never been one to seek the spotlight. Venus has talked so rarely through the years about what it was like being an African-American in the sport. Her father once said she came from a “ghetto,” and that shocked people. She fought for equal pay for women’s players—behind the scenes. And so the only time she let us in during this Wimbledon was on the court. She won a match, jumped as high as she could, kicked her feet behind her and smiled. She did her signature twirl. She might not do a lot of talking, but she has certainly lived her life in public. Everyone is always trying to find the bigger meaning in Venus because there is plenty more than what she’s done on the court. She changed the face of the sport. She stood so importantly as a symbol of grace and manners and meaning for women’s sports, for fighting through a disease. And now maybe she’s a symbol, too, for what athletes can do as they get older. This moment can be about her standing for herself for once.

Williams congratulates Garbine Muguruza after Saturday’s final point. Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Athlete gets cancer. Athlete fights cancer. Repeat, again and again…
Since that morning in Tempe, cancer had come back three times. First there was thyroid cancer in 2010, just a year after her initial diagnosis. This was an entirely different kind of cancer, which at first confused everybody (but which now seems like a footnote). In the days between those first two cancers, Gabe, now 31, had lived—and run—voraciously. She learned that ACC five-year survival rates are very high (approximately 89%), and she attacked those five years. “Just fit in everything I can,” Gabe says. She procured that extra year of eligibility and took a whopping 10 seconds off her 1,500-meter PR, down to 4:12.06. She finished second at the Big Ten championship, second at the NCAAs and scored a modest pro contract with Brooks. Justin was away at medical school, in Duluth, so she also stayed out a little later, drank a little more beer and a little more red wine, escaping and experiencing a life she’d avoided in her past. “Sometimes those nights ended in tears and drama,” she says, “because I would get emotional about everything.” She had surgery on the thyroid cancer that fall, followed by one treatment with radioactive iodine, and then she bounced back quickly. The big cancer, ACC, stayed away for seven years, and in that time Gabe carved out a career as a solid professional middle-distance runner. She finished fourth in the 1,500 meters at the 2012 Olympic trials, ran a personal best in the same event in ‘13 (4:01.48; only 10 American women have ever run faster) and won the indoor 3,000-meter national title in ‘14.

Grunewald’s last-place finish in the 1,500 national championship in June can less than a week after she spent four hours in the ER with a fever. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

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