Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #276

Nov. 19 – Dec. 2, 2017

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

  1. How Avery Marz overcame a devastating stroke to achieve her dream of playing college basketball
  2. Iran-Iraq earthquake: Olympic champion auctions gold medal for victims
  3. How turkeys — yes, turkeys — helped shape the legend of Iowa’s Josey Jewell
  4. New Series ‘Versus’ Highlights How Girls Stick Together On And Off The Field
  5. The Raptors Remade Their Mind-Set, Not Their Roster. It’s Working.
  6. A Training Camp That Arms Female Broadcasters For The World Of Sports
  7. How One MLS Player Created A Transformational Website That Could Save Athletes From Going Broke
  8. Bryce Love Is More Than a 4.35 40: Stanford Star Crushes Speed Back Stereotype
  9. LeBron James, Morgan Spurlock Teaming on ‘I Promise School’ Documentary
  10. From Homeless to UFC’s Next Big Thing: Francis Ngannou’s Amazing Journey

Celebrating those that safeguard children on Universal Children’s Day (Beyond Sport)
First Step: Brandon Ingram (The Players’ Tribune)
Top 5 Benefits of Mental Preparation for Youth Athletes (TrueSport)
Reflecting on a decade of promoting peace through sport (Sport and Dev/Peace and Sport)
First ever football tournament for Saudi Women (Beyond Sport)

Like many others, we were caught a bit off-guard when it came to the dozens of stories of sexual harassment that were coming out in the news. That sexual harassment happens was not the surprise. What was startling was the number of cases coming out in the popular media. These high-profile situations were not an anomaly but instead an unfortunate indication of a society-wide problem.

Mistreatment of women (and sometimes men) in the workplace is not happening out of thin air. Many see this as a continuation of adolescent behavior that has gone unchecked, even enabled by individuals and groups in society. This is bullying, plain and simple. Forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do, threatening them with physical, economic or professional harm if they don’t, is bullying. It is harassment. Taking advantage of a position of power to dominate another person, that’s also bullying. That is, once again, harassment.

Why bring this up at Sports Doing Good? Because we have seen the other side of this. We have seen stories highlighting incredible feats by women young and old. We also have read stories of men, and women, serving as mentors to young girls and women as they develop athletically, academically, and professionally. By highlighting these stories, we want to help get the word out that there are good people out there, there are a plethora of organizations encouraging advancements by girls and women. We have a story this week that evokes that feeling of sisterhood and support.

Galvanize is a boot-camp of sorts for women interested in getting into and advancing in the world of sports broadcasting. (Talk about a male-dominated field.) Started by Fox Sports’ Laura Okmin, the organization serves as both a learning ground and networking cohort for women, many of whom who don’t have their own network of professional mentors in the field. Laura’s work, her “giving back” is a tremendous effort that will hopefully spur further acts of support and guidance going forward. (WISE, Women in Sports and Events and AWSM, Association for Women in Sports Media are other strong groups.) We applaud Laura’s efforts and look forward to featuring these and other women in upcoming newsletters.

The other stories we are featuring this week include: college basketball player Avery Marz and her amazing battle back from a stroke; Kianoush Rostami, an Iranian weightlifter who is selling his Rio 2016 gold medal to support the people of Iran dealing with another devastating earthquake; the growing legend of University of Iowa football star Josey Jewell; “Versus,” a new TV show that highlights the challenges teen female athletes face on and off the field; how the NBA’s Toronto Raptors are changing things up as they pursue their first NBA championship; an effort by MLS player Amobi Okugo to help other professional athletes be smart with their money; star student-athlete Bryce Love from Stanford University; LeBron James’ deal to bring the story of his “I Promise School’ to the big, and small, screen; and emerging MMA star Francis Ngannou.

Finally, we would like to make you aware of a new opportunity with one of our favorite organizations, The Grassroot Project, led by Tyler Spencer. Grassroot is poised to make its next big leap, expanding into the areas of mental and physical health (in addition to its existing sexual health program). It is looking to add a member to its strong team. For more information, please visit (

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.

How Avery Marz overcame a devastating stroke to achieve her dream of playing college basketball
“I was very, very scared to sleep that night because I knew there was a chance I could die,” Marz said. “I had the shakes the whole night. I couldn’t move my left side. It was paralyzed at that point. And then all of a sudden my whole left side would spasm and it was uncontrollable to me. It was really rough.” For the next few weeks, Marz focused on relearning to do basic tasks that once came easily to her, from dressing herself, to walking short distances, to picking up objects with her left hand. Basketball didn’t even enter her mind very often until one of her doctors encouraged her to write down a list of goals for her recovery. Marz wrote that she wanted to play Division I basketball again. When the doctor told her that was unrealistic, it only made her more determined. “I don’t know if he meant it as tough love, but I just took it as motivation,” she said. “If somebody tells me I can’t do something, I want to show them I can.”

Iran-Iraq earthquake: Olympic champion auctions gold medal for victims
An Iranian weightlifter has put his Rio 2016 gold medal up for auction to raise money for the victims of last week’s deadly 7.3-magnitude earthquake near the Iran-Iraq border. Kianoush Rostami, 26, announced the news on his Instagram page. More than 400 people were killed and close to 10,000 injured in the quake. The western Kermanshah province is the worst-affected area, with hundreds of homes destroyed and some residents sleeping outdoors in the cold. Mr Rostami, himself from Kermanshah, said he was “taking a step, however small” to help those devastated by the tremor. “I am returning my Rio 2016 Olympics gold medal – which actually belongs to them – to my people,” he wrote in a widely-shared Instagram post yesterday, adding that he had not slept since the incident. “I will put my medal up for auction. All the proceedings will go to those hit by the earthquake.” Mr Rostami, who is of Kurdish ethnicity, also said he was teaming up with several other athletes to collect aid for the victims, posting a picture of himself in front of duvets, warm clothes and water bottles.

How turkeys — yes, turkeys — helped shape the legend of Iowa’s Josey Jewell
Motivation for Jewell as a kid usually involved the promise of finishing his chores with enough time left in the day to enjoy seemingly endless methods of recreation on the farm. And always, there was trouble to find. Young Josey accidentally shoved a kayak through the back window of the farm pickup. He underestimated his strength another time and rolled the door on the turkey shed so far up into the housing that it was stuck for months. Mostly, he learned about life. “Day after day, repetition after repetition,” Jewell said, “it provided me with knowledge about how important the details are in life, the importance of the fundamentals. There’s an honesty about going out and working every day. It instilled values in me. Not wanting to do something every day — but you’ve got to do it — when it’s hard work, there’s a resiliency that comes from that. “In your daily job, you have to go to work. You can’t skip days. If you skip days on the farm, animals die. I think that translated into what happens when I play football.” Jewell, in fact, has parlayed the farm experiences into a lifestyle.

Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell grew up on his family’s 1,200 acre farm helping raise turkeys as well as harvesting crops. “There’s an honesty about going out and working every day. It instilled values in me,” he said. Courtesy of the Jewell family

New Series ‘Versus’ Highlights How Girls Stick Together On And Off The Field
“It really was like being on a team,” McCormick told GOOD. “I’ve been very lucky that I left with some really amazing friendships. I think it was surprising to me, at least as someone who hadn’t played sports, how picking up something like this could be so rewarding. It was more rewarding than I ever thought it would be.” The series is being produced in partnership with Gatorade and launched in tandem with the company’s new campaign, “Sisters in Sweat,” featuring tennis star and new mom Serena Williams, which aims to shed light on the growing problem of girls dropping out of sports. In the moving clip shared on social media earlier this week, Williams is talking to a baby and also to all girls around the world, encouraging them to stay in the game and celebrate the lessons learned beyond sports. “Sports will teach you the strength of your allies, whether your bond is by blood or by ball,” Williams says in the ad. “Whether she shares the color of your skin or the color of your jersey. You’ll find your sisters in sweat.”

The cast of “Versus.” Photo by Alex Lombardi/AwesomnessTV.

The Raptors Remade Their Mind-Set, Not Their Roster. It’s Working.
Masai Ujiri, the president of the Toronto Raptors, had seen enough high-powered offenses to recognize that the N.B.A. had turned into the autobahn. The problem was that his players were still chugging along in a Studebaker. But that was all about to change. The Raptors would finally embrace ball movement and the art of spacing. They would rid themselves of their propensity for one-on-one play, which had constipated their half-court sets. They would launch 3-pointers and run the floor while cleansing themselves of their fanatical devotion to midrange jumpers, the low-percentage shots that pain the sport’s growing collection of analytics acolytes as much as the bunt vexes their baseball cousins. And the Raptors would do it with essentially the same roster that had been gassing up the Studebaker. “You have to adapt,” Ujiri said in a recent interview. Toronto is the site of the N.B.A.’s boldest experiment this season. Without shuffling any of their core personnel, the Raptors have sought to reinvent themselves by adopting a free-flowing offense that emphasizes passing, cutting and 3-point shooting. It might not sound like a novel approach — by now, nearly all of the league’s top teams live by these principles — but the Raptors had been one of the few holdouts. After a string of postseason disappointments, it was time to try something new. It was time to join the modern N.B.A.

The personnel is pretty much the same, including DeMar DeRozan, but the Raptors’ style of play has changed dramatically. Credit Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

A Training Camp That Arms Female Broadcasters For The World Of Sports
Fueled by her own personal experiences of sexism and ageism in the industry, Okmin saw where she could use her own journey to help others. Since founding Galvanize in 2012, she has poured herself into it, building a community of young women eager to make their mark in the sports world. Growing up in Chicago, where everyone is arguably a sports fan, Okmin never saw her love of sports as gendered. She received her journalism degree from the University of Kansas and began working her way up the ranks as a sports reporter in Montgomery, Alabama. Eventually, she landed with Fox Sports, where she has served as a sideline reporter, anchor, and host. As one of the few women in sports journalism at the time, Okmin admitted to feeling as though it was her versus the other women. Then, her boss sat her down and said, “I don’t compare you to the other women sports broadcasters or other men sports broadcasters. You’re terrific on your own.” This conversation transformed how she would move forward in her career. “I don’t want to be considered good for a woman. I just want to be good,” she says.

Galvanize attendees at the Atlanta Falcons training facility. Photo courtesy of Galvanize.

How One MLS Player Created A Transformational Website That Could Save Athletes From Going Broke
Okugo is an eight-year veteran of MLS, and in many ways is the best example of the larger majority of professional athletes around the globe; a steady rank-and-file player that doesn’t consume the spotlight. While he isn’t a super star, his position makes his website all the more powerful. As Okugo says on the site’s welcome page, “My goal is to share insight from athletes on all levels financially and increase financial literacy amongst the audience.” A Frugal Athlete might best be called The Players Tribune for athletes to give advice on wealth management. Where stars may garner enough career salary to retire comfortably, for most, the end of their professional sports career means not having enough to sustain them through the rest of their lives. When sports ends, a second career has to emerge. “I got the idea shortly after watching ESPN’s 30 for 30, ‘Broke’,” said Okugo, “Between that and reading a few articles highlighting athletes who had lost much of their career earnings, I began looking for other athletes that were smart with their money.”

MLS midfielder Amobi Okugo’s “A Frugal Athlete” might best be called The Players Tribune of wealth management sites. With fellow athletes telling their stories, it might help save some from going broke after their pro sports playing careers are over.

Bryce Love Is More Than a 4.35 40: Stanford Star Crushes Speed Back Stereotype
There are many things about Love that can be classified as abnormal, his uncanny Olympic-caliber speed foremost among them. But on a campus rife with overachievers, Love is just another prodigy, an aspiring pediatrician who spends what little spare time he has working alongside Ph.D. candidates in a stem-cell laboratory—many of whom, like the other students he swerves past on that bicycle, have no idea he plays football. That anonymity is a large part of why Love, like the Stanford stars who came before him, chose to play running back here in the first place. It’s also why he appears vaguely uncomfortable with the school’s last-minute campaign to promote him for the Heisman Trophy in the midst of a remarkable season slowed only by an ankle injury that has limited his workload over the second half of the year. Yet what makes Love unique even on this campus is that, over the course of his three football seasons at Stanford, he has utilized his analytical mind both to work his way through a challenging curriculum as a human biology major and to transform himself from one of the fastest running backs in the country into one of the best running backs in the country heading into this weekend’s Pac-12 Championship Game against USC.

Bryce Love has worked on becoming a back who not only is fast, but is also elusive. David Zalubowski/Associated Press

LeBron James, Morgan Spurlock Teaming on ‘I Promise School’ Documentary
Morgan Spurlock’s Warrior Poets and LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment are partnering on a documentary series that chronicles James’ launch of a public school for at-risk children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The series, which will begin shooting soon in Akron, will explore the challenges, triumphs and impact of the LeBron James Family Foundation’s efforts to open the “I Promise School,” as well as the first-year trials of working within a local public school system aimed at children who are fighting uphill battles every day. The series will also highlight the educators, mentors, and community partners committed to establishing a new approach to education from an early stage. “Being able to create this school to specifically meet the needs of these kids and their families means everything to me,” James said. “There are so many kids and families struggling, and we want this school to be a safe, positive place that helps them stay on the right track to earning their educations. Having Spring Hill Entertainment and an amazing filmmaker like Morgan Spurlock here to document this process is huge.”

From Homeless to UFC’s Next Big Thing: Francis Ngannou’s Amazing Journey
Watching his mom struggle to support him and his siblings was one of his earliest motivations to become a professional fighter, Ngannou says. Even today, when he starts to feel the grind of a training camp, he imagines his mom sick and unable to afford medical care in Cameroon. He reminds himself he’s not just fighting for himself, but for the lives of the family he left behind. As a kid, however, nobody took Ngannou’s dreams seriously. He grew up idolizing Mike Tyson, but in Batie there was no place to learn to box. The people there had never heard of someone from their village becoming a professional athlete. When Ngannou would talk about it, they would laugh at him. “It just sounded crazy,” he says. “People were like, ‘Calm down, man, you dream too big.'” Frequently unable to afford the cost of school, Ngannou says he started working in the sand mines at age 12. It was grueling and dangerous work, spending hours shoveling sand into the backs of trucks so it could be shipped to big cities for use in construction. Sometimes he would stand all day in water up to his shins, scooping sand out of the riverbed. Other days would be spent at the bottom of a steep quarry, where large chunks of earth often broke free from the high cliffs and tumbled down onto workers.

Ngannou works out with Fernand Lopez. FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

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Our goal is to have Sports Doing Good be a portal housing original content and excerpts from and links to the increasing number of articles, websites, video, and other media that showcase the good in sports and society. We aim to celebrate those concepts, activities, events, and individuals by highlighting them for a wider audience. Much of the news today, whether sports- related or not, is incredibly negative and increasingly polarizing, biased, and quite annoying. We are trying to refocus some of the discussion on the good, with a focus on sports.

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