Sports Doing Good Newsletter, 274

Oct. 22 – Nov. 4, 2017

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

  1. The Track Phenom Who Chose College Over Riches
  2. The Psychology Of The Clutch Athlete
  3. Football: the great mobiliser
  4. In D.C., a small step toward tackling U.S. youth soccer’s accessibility problem
  5. Bullies told this boy Irish dancing was ‘for girls.’ An NFL player disagreed.
  6. Patrick Ewing Has The Floor
  7. Four Ways To Fix Youth Sports Right Now
  8. ESPN Dedicates Multifunctional Sports Space in Bangalore, India
  9. Street Soccer USA Blue Card Concept Spreads
  10. Under Armour Finds a Remarkable New Ad Star in Teenage Refugee Olympian Yusra Mardini

13 Ways To Develop Leadership Skills In Youth Athletes (TrueSport)
Football: Premier League players join Mata in charity pledge (Peace and Sport)
First Step: Charles Tillman (The Players’ Tribune)
Cricket introduced as a tool for hope and reconciliation in Rwanda (Beyond Sport)
It Started With VISTA: How I Grew to Manage 35 Coaches (Up2Us Sports)

Most of the stories that we feature – the ones that you read – involve people, organizations, or companies that we are not directly connected with, and that is okay. We can admire them, and root for them and get to learn about them all at the same time. However, there is the rare occasion when a story has a personal connection, and this week we have that in the story involving NBA Hall of Famer, and new Georgetown University men’s basketball coach, Patrick Ewing.

There were a lot of stories recently about how Ewing, Georgetown’s all-time best player, was returning to his alma mater to lead a program that unfortunately was struggling. Much was made about the challenges Ewing faced, whether he was the best choice for the job, and whether the “coming home” story would have a happy ending.

I also really care about Ewing’s story because I am a Georgetown alum. I have also been a fan of Ewing’s since 1982, a big fan since 1985, and a die-hard fan since 1988. Going to the same school as my favorite athlete really should not mean that much, but it does. Because with this athlete, he made my school into a national power, one whose popularity was a big reason I even applied to the school. Sure, that is an immature reason to pick a college to go to – hey, I was 17 – but for me it was a big reason. Of course, Georgetown was a good school back then (and a great school today). But Ewing put it on the map, gave it “juice.” I know many other alums who credit Ewing and the basketball program with making them aware of Georgetown.

So, as he is about to start his first season as coach, we feature a compelling profile of Ewing by Ian O’Connor of ESPN. You get to learn about a young Ewing and a grown-up Ewing, and will no doubt become a fan of the man. You just won’t be a bigger fan than me. ????

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: track phenom, and college student, Sydney McLaughlin; the science behind being “clutch” in a pressure situation; the power of the “beautiful game” to mobilize a community, this time in Kenya; a plan by two guys who knew that many disenfranchised kids could benefit from getting a chance to play in youth soccer programs and therefore started the Open Goal Project; how an NFL player helped a mom give her son the confidence to continue with his chosen passion, Irish dancing; a plan to fix youth sports; a joint effort by ESPN,, and Magic Bus to bring a “safe sports space” for kids and others in Bangalore, India; a program by our friends at Street Soccer USA to promote sportsmanship and fair play; and how Under Armour found its latest endorser, a Syrian Olympian who has overcome so much.

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So, enjoy. And have a good week.

The Track Phenom Who Chose College Over Riches
If you’ve followed Sydney for the last two years, you know she’s good at creating moments—history-making moments. In 2016, at the age of 16, she became the youngest track and field athlete to make the U.S. Olympic team since 1980 (she turned 17 during the Rio Games). She lit up social media when she ran a national high school record 49.85-second 400-meter relay split in June. And while many teen track and field runners on the rise with credentials less impressive than Sydney’s have gone pro in recent years, the New Jersey native decided to pass up what could have been seven figures annually as a pro. That’s why she’s here, in Lexington, with her UK team—Snapchatting and dancing on a sunny Saturday morning in September, one week before track practice begins. While UK’s men’s basketball team has brought in recruits-turned-NBA-All-Stars like John Wall and Karl-Anthony Towns under the tutelage of coach John Calipari, the highest-profile recruit to land on campus this year isn’t hooping. She’s running.

Photograph by Luke Sharrett

The Psychology Of The Clutch Athlete
We define a clutch performance as any better-than-usual performance that occurs under pressure. Our research suggests that anyone can be clutch — provided they’re in the right mental state. For example, feeling like you’re in control of the situation — in sports or anything else — can help a lot. In our lab, we tested hundreds of basketball free-throw shooters, both novices and experts. After they warmed up, we asked them to take 15 shots while we videotaped them to simulate pressure. Afterward, we gave them a questionnaire. Those who indicated that they had felt in control were the most likely to succeed under pressure. In Hernandez’s case, perhaps he expected Cubs pitcher José Quintana to throw a low fastball before he hit his first home run. He had read the scouting report and knew what to look for, so he would have felt like he had a better handle on the situation. Confidence also helps. Before the study began, we asked the basketball players about their free-throw shooting abilities. Those who expressed the most confidence also tended to be more clutch, regardless of experience level.

Football: the great mobiliser
The pilot showed us how readily young people accessed VCT services if provided in a place they felt comfortable, connected with a sport they love and around people they trusted. Beatrice in her current role conducts many of the testing and counseling sessions for DREAMS-IC and she spoke to us about what she’s seen as a result of the programme. “With the pitchside testing the players have been great, and to reach them where they are is the biggest achievement we have made. Often players can’t afford to come here [MYSA], and they’re young – they’re busy playing football! But they have those myths and misconceptions about HIV and they’re indulging in so many things that they really need testing. I think going to them is the best idea.” On top of the cost of reaching a test centre, and the unpredictable lives of young people who would really rather play football, another hurdle for programme implementers is mobilising young people to test. But Beatrice said with this programme, that hasn’t been an issue. She explains, “The turn out is so big. The players have time to contemplate testing during training sessions where their other peers motivate them. Peer encouragement works very well. Normally we need to take mobilisers when we test in the community to speak to the young people and tell them the importance of testing. But with pitchside testing, we don’t need mobilisers. Players encourage one another, they talk to each other. Being in a football team means they mobilise each other.”

Football is a great mobiliser for youth, seen here at a recent MYSA tournament

In D.C., a small step toward tackling U.S. youth soccer’s accessibility problem
Youth soccer, for the most part, is a pay-to-play operation that typically costs between $1,500 and $5,000 per player annually. Scholarships are often available, but many kids from families without the means are left behind, a sad fact that hurts the general well-being of the sport in this country. “They are just out there and they are not playing anywhere,” Landau said, “which is unbelievably frustrating.” Open Goal Project isn’t a team or league; rather, it’s a facilitator for kids in need of opportunity, particularly those from immigrant households where the sport is popular but not played in a structured environment. Lowery and Landau have aimed to find overlooked kids and arrange tryouts with established travel teams in the area. Through fundraising efforts, which include a line of soccer-tinged clothing and Lowery’s artwork and photography, they pay for transportation to and from practices and matches; offset the expense of uniforms, equipment and registration; and underwrite the cost of trips around the country and abroad.

Amir Lowery, executive director, and Simon Landau, development director of the Washington-based Open Goal Project. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Bullies told this boy Irish dancing was ‘for girls.’ An NFL player disagreed.
It all started with a mother desperate to help her son. Carl Tubbs, 12, of Des Moines, Iowa, has been taking Irish dancing lessons for four years — and he’s really good at it. According to ABC News, Carl spends extra time practicing during recess at school to help him get ready for competitions. But there’s one big problem. Carl’s choice of hobby has made him a target for school bullies. Dancing is “for girls,” they tell him, and he’s often teased mercilessly. Feeling powerless as her son was being tormented, Carl’s mom, Joanne, did what any loving parent would do. She … reached out to an NFL star on Twitter? Recent profiles of Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins revealed a surprising aspect of his training: He, too, was a fan of the Irish jig. The quick-moving, foot-focused dance style helps Collins stay light on his feet while avoiding crushing blows from opposing linebackers, and with Collins emerging as a top player at his position this year, his unique training style has garnered a lot of attention. Joanne Tubbs reached out, hoping there was some way Collins could help her son.

Carl meets his NFL hero. Photo via Chad Steele/Baltimore Ravens.

Patrick Ewing Has The Floor
Ewing’s own college story was a compelling one. His mother died of a massive heart attack in the middle of his Georgetown career, and he was so devastated he thought about leaving school for keeps. He stayed because he’d promised her he’d complete his education. Once demeaned over his academic shortcomings in his second country, Ewing earned a degree in fine arts from the same elite university that just gave him a rare six-year contract to restore its basketball glory. Now he promises an up-tempo style of offense and the same work ethic as a coach that left him, in his words, “encased in ice” after nearly every NBA game he played. Ewing says he’ll represent a “big gumbo” of all those who taught him the game, from Steve Jenkins to Steve Clifford. Ewing also told some of his mentors that he wants to develop into a good, strong branch on their coaching trees. “Dude,” Van Gundy has told him, “you’re the tree and we’re the branches.” The most accomplished coach Ewing ever played for, Pat Riley, says his former franchise player will command the attention and respect of teenage blue-chippers by “telling a story that’s truthful.” The Miami Heat president loved Ewing’s grinder mentality when they were together in New York and now envisions Patrick imposing his competitive will on the Hoyas.

Photograph by Walter Iooss for ESPN

Four Ways To Fix Youth Sports Right Now
The resounding message from advocates is that physical education in schools is the first place to start in terms of restoring access for all kids to sports, and, given the numerous physical and mental benefits of structured play, it’s “a social justice issue” when the opportunity to participate is limited only to those who come from advantaged backgrounds. Two-time NBA All-Star and activist Baron Davis spoke about the “Beyond The Bell” program, in which the Los Angeles Unified School District offers free afterschool sports programs at its middle schools. It simply gives kids, many of whom would be unable to otherwise, a chance to play. Program participants are active for 45 minutes per day, five days a week. The impact has been significant. Regular participants see improvement in math pass rates and aptitude and higher GPAs when they move on to high school, and the program actually sees more students taking part in sports as they get older. Nearly 43% of kids play more than one sport; this “sport sampling” has advantages over specializing in one sport from an early age, which studies suggest may increase the risk of injury and burnout.

Olympic gold medal winners Julie Foudy and Kerri Walsh discuss athlete burnout. Image courtesy of LA84 Foundation.

ESPN Dedicates Multifunctional Sports Space in Bangalore, India
Community leaders, local residents, and youth gathered in Bandepalya, Bangalore, today to participate in the opening of a new multifunctional sports court dedicated to the local community and its residents. The global project, led by ESPN, has seen community spaces created across Latin America. Bangalore is the first city in Asia to benefit from ESPN’s safe spaces initiative. The court and surrounding area was refurbished with the help of community members along with ESPN and Disney employees. It will be home to ongoing development programs for young people in the community aimed at teaching life-skills and empowering them to fulfil their potential, all through the power of sports. The program will be delivered by Magic Bus, a non-profit organization with its roots firmly set in India. Magic Bus will strive to equip children and young people of Bandepalya with the essential skills and knowledge to be able to break the cycle of poverty, take control of their lives and become active members of their community. These life skills – ranging from education and gender equality to health and employability – will be taught by youth leaders from within the community, with support and training from Magic Bus’ unique mentorship program.

Street Soccer USA Blue Card Concept Spreads
Street Soccer USA has been a leader in developing program techniques that make soccer more accessible and set a culture of personal development. Whether it was creating the first SSUSA Park concept back in 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina or our social enterprise soccer leagues that generate revenue for our programs, Street Soccer USA continues to be at the forefront. One of our concepts initiated in 2012 at the Street Soccer USA Cup in NYC was the Green Card given for sportsmanship and fairplay. The Green Card surfaced in the Italian Serie B in 2016 (see article) about four years after we initially started using the card. We have since changed it from a Green Card to a Blue Card to be more culturally sensitive. The Blue Card in Street Soccer is a coaches go-to tool for positive recognition on the soccer field . Rather than using yellow or red cards, which are for foul play and punishment, the Blue Card is awarded to players who are demonstrating Street Soccer skills, playing fair, helping others and keeping practice safe. The Blue Card is also used at our major competitions, The Street Soccer USA Cup, as a tie-breaker. The team with the most blue cards advances in case of a tie in the standings. This month Street Soccer USA is proud to announce the adoption of the Blue Card from America SCORES New York and Play Rugby USA! As evidence the Blue Card message is really taking off, we asked America SCORES why they decided to add the Blue Card to their program.

Under Armour Finds a Remarkable New Ad Star in Teenage Refugee Olympian Yusra Mardini
She didn’t take home any medals, but her story was perhaps the most inspiring of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Now, 19-year-old Yusra Mardini can add Under Armour brand ambassador to her impressive list of accomplishments. The sportswear maker has announced that the freestyle and butterfly swimmer is the latest addition to its team of international athlete endorsers, representing UA Women alongside Misty Copeland and Lindsey Vonn. Mardini, a Syrian refugee, represented the Refugee Olympic Team at the Rio Games, after facing an unimaginably perilous journey to make it there. Since then, she has become the youngest-ever Goodwill Ambassador for UN Refugee Agency UNHCR and was named to Time magazine’s 30 Most influential Teens of 2016 and People magazine’s 25 Women Changing the World lists. “We are inspired by her drive and accomplishments, both as a person and as an athlete,” Chris Bate, Under Armour’s managing director for Europe, said in a statement. “The way in which she is dealing with life’s challenges, both past and present, shows a tremendous amount of character.”

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