Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #277

Dec. 3 – Dec. 16, 2017

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

  1. Billionaire Ken Griffin, Chicago Fire lead effort to build 50 new mini soccer fields
  2. It started with lunch money: Why Hornets’ Kidd-Gilchrist feels the call for empathy
  3. Purdue players make a uniform statement
  4. From an Arrest to Iraq: Former U.S. Star Finds Basketball Peace in Middle East
  5. Why J.J. Watt and José Altuve are SI’s 2017 Sportsperson of the Year Honorees
  6. Miami Dolphins’ Kenny Stills blossoms as player; team and community leader
  7. Accomplishing goals and transforming lives through Ready, Set, RUN!
  8. Toronto Wins First MLS Championship And Builds Opportunity for Youth in Toronto
  9. Ending Violence against Women and Girls through sport
  10. Angels Unveil Shohei Ohtani, Who Exudes Promise and Prudence

How Borussia Dortmund are helping to give refugees hope through football (Beyond Sport)
This Is Survival (by Aly Raisman) (The Players’ Tribune)
Peace and Sport launches major social business partnership with professor Muhammad Yuns (Peace and Sport/Sport and Dev)
Vamos, Chape! (Laureus)
Coaching Conversations: The power to influence young lives (National Alliance for Youth Sports)

Many of the stories we feature involve incredible efforts by people, organizations, and companies. Their efforts are etched in our minds, giving us memories to cherish for a long time. The small down side in many situations is that those moments can be somewhat fleeting. And we need to trust our memories and those of the people we may have experienced the moment with.

Efforts that are more permanent have taken on added importance as we seek to create legacies for good works. A leader in this space is, which has built a model of development that involves people benefitting from the soccer pitches they help build. (A recent effort with ESPN had a new multipurpose sports area being built in Bangalore, India). And we are seeing more examples like this, e.g. in Atlanta, a first-of-its kind soccer pitch at a commuter rail station.

What these fields and other sports facilities give us are tangible “good works.” They serve to remind the community that there is good in society, and it can be on display every single day. The more we see it, the more we expect it. Facilities for the community built by a combination of private, public and non-profit organizations are helping to give us “safe spaces,” something that we can all use in times of great change and challenge.

The first story we highlight this week includes a major step in a new campaign undertaken by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, “It’s Everyone’s Game,” is a national effort to increase access to soccer. The Foundation aims to reach one million children annually and build 1,000 soccer play spaces by 2026. To get the program going, we had a major announcement this week out of Chicago where a commitment to build 50 pitches was made by philanthropist Ken Griffin in partnership with the MLS’s Chicago Fire and the city of Chicago.

The other stories we highlight this week include: NBA player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; the men’s basketball team at Purdue University; professional basketball player Demario Mayfield; Houston pros J.J. Watt and José Altuve; the Miami Dolphins’s Kenny Stills; the “Ready, Set, RUN! program; MLS soccer franchise Toronto FC; an anti-violence campaign executed via sport; and new MLB player Shohei Ohtani of Japan.

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So, enjoy. And have a good week.

Billionaire Ken Griffin, Chicago Fire lead effort to build 50 new mini soccer fields
“I’ve played soccer pretty much my entire life,” said Griffin, the richest person in Illinois. “I’m a huge fan. I’ve been coaching my son for several years. My girls play. … Soccer is a team sport. That’s really important.” Griffin, along with the Chicago Fire, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and the city of Chicago, have joined forces to build 50 mini-fields in underserved neighborhoods in Chicago over the next five years. The official announcement was made Wednesday afternoon at Gage Park on the Southwest Side, where two of the tennis court-sized fields were built this summer. “It’s another investment in our neighborhoods,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday. “It’s what parents want to see for their kids, which is a great sport, safe sport in a safe space.” These court-sized fields will have an asphalt surface, soccer lines, small goals and a surrounding fence to keep the ball contained. Each will cost roughly $60,000 to build. In addition to the fields, the Soccer Foundation plans to offer after-school soccer programs, training and leagues.

Area children demonstrate soccer drills during the event. John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

It started with lunch money: Why Hornets’ Kidd-Gilchrist feels the call for empathy
One of the Hornets’ strengths in recent seasons is the camaraderie in that locker room. Professional athletes tend to be at least a little selfish and self-centered. It comes with the demands and the adulation. The Hornets’ locker room is defined by Kidd-Gilchrist, forward Marvin Williams and point guard Kemba Walker – three players with a strong sense of team. “He so genuinely cares about others,” Walker said of Kidd-Gilchrist. “You don’t find guys like that a lot. He’s all for the team, he’ll do anything for the team. Just a great kid from Day 1. “That’s the very first thing I learned about him: how much he cares about other people. We all get paid well. It’s also about how you spread it out and help people. He’s one of the best at it.” Kidd-Gilchrist arrived in Charlotte with a stuttering problem. With help from a communications specialist, he’s more comfortable each season speaking to large groups. The positive in that? It further strengthened his empathy. “It’s hard thinking about families who are hurting or struggling – whether they are sick, or don’t have enough money, or don’t have family,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “Or whether you stutter. Just how I feel.”

Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist shops with 10 children from Partners for Parks on Tuesday at Dick’s Sporting Goods at Southpark. RICK BONNELL

Purdue players make a uniform statement
Each of Purdue’s 14 players will wear a shirt containing a word, selected by either himself or a teammate, that they hope will help to mend a splintering country. It’s not as divisive as an anthem protest, but the Boilermakers are choosing not to stick to sports, while using their sporting platform to push values they believe make the world a bit better. Compassion. Empathy. Equality. Forgiveness. Friendship. Humility. Justice. Love. Loyalty. Peace. Respect. Togetherness. Tolerance. Unity. Those words will be displayed on shooting shirts before Purdue games this season. “The shirts pretty much stand for everything we need in this world right now,” senior forward Vincent Edwards said. “We just wanted to give the message. All the words make you think when you see 14 different players run out with 14 different words on their chest. We don’t want to be people that just keep the world going in this cycle because right now, it seems like we’re reverting back. “Our generation wants to change the world, and I think it starts with us.”

From an Arrest to Iraq: Former U.S. Star Finds Basketball Peace in Middle East
The cliché “Rome wasn’t built in one day” has become a mantra for Mayfield. He says it out loud, he texts it to friends and he even uses it as a hashtag on social media posts celebrating his achievements. A few years ago, his big mistake almost caused his life to crumble. He nearly lost basketball. He nearly lost Jasmine. He nearly lost his life. “That arrest got him to where he is today,” Jackson says. “It continues making him successful. He remembers losing all he loved because of a stupid mistake. He did a complete 180 after that. You hate to say it, but it might have been exactly what he needed.” “It helped him to refocus and realize who was there for him, and who was just along for the ride,” Jasmine says. “He’s been the man on campus ever since he was in high school, and you get to the big stage of college, and it’s easy to lose focus. It helped him refocus. It kept him away from the distractions. And also it helped him to mature a little bit. Now he’s learned his lesson. He’s on the big stage again.” “I’ll forever be fighting that incident, but I have no problem with continuing to prove myself to people,” Mayfield says. “I made a lot of mistakes, but I want my opportunity to play at the highest level. I know I can.”

Why J.J. Watt and José Altuve are SI’s 2017 Sportsperson of the Year Honorees
Even in a year of sublime individual performances—Brady and KD, Deshaun and Fed, all of them considered for this award—athletes spoke loudest in their actions and words off the field. Amid the tribal, black-and-white conversations that polarized the country this year, athletes used their platforms to encourage a search for truth in the gray spaces. Not just Colin Kaepernick, the recipient of the third SI Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, but also Maya Moore, the WNBA star who won her 21st championship while lending her voice and face to the activist movement that swept through the nation’s stadiums and arenas in the late summer and early fall. They, too, demanded—and received—serious consideration for Sportsperson of the Year. This issue is intended to celebrate a new generation of athletes who care, in all senses of the word: caring about humanitarian efforts, about social and political justice, about their communities and about their crafts. Which brings us to the 2017 Sportsperson of the Year honorees, J.J. Watt and José Altuve.

Getty Images

Miami Dolphins’ Kenny Stills blossoms as player; team and community leader
Stills has especially tried to help youngsters such as DeVante Parker and Leonte Carroo, though he can’t force Parker to fight harder for balls, as Stills does. With their failure to emerge, it has made the Stills deal appear even more favorable. Very good player. Very good leader. Very good in the community. “We’re dying for guys who you can say ‘Hey, do it like him. Work like him. Act like him,’” Christensen said. “That’s what we’re dying for leadership-wise offensively. Just some guy that (you say) ‘Hey, he’s turning into a heck of pro,’ and where you say, ‘Hey, do you want to get better? Watch Kenny Stills. Watch how he works. Watch how he takes care of his body. Watch what he does on Tuesday on off days. Watch what he does after practice. Watch him during practice.’ He’s becoming that kind of guy, so that’s been great. It’s been fun to watch and he’s turning into a really, really fine receiver.” Stills has been consistent, on and off the field. When can he be seen smiling broadest? That’s easy. During a charity event. “I think just seeing the faces on the kids, the expression, the happiness that they get from us being around,” Stills said. “It’s just a good feeling to serve others. I encourage other people to get out and do some community service. There’s so many people that need help and that could use it, so I really encourage people to get out in the community and serve others.”

Dolphins players Kenny Stills (and Michael Thomas discuss social issues with students at their town hall meeting at Nova Southeastern University. (Hal Habib / The Palm Beach Post)

Accomplishing goals and transforming lives through Ready, Set, RUN!
Ready, Set, Run!, a program of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), prepares children ages 8-13 to run a 5k in 12 weeks. While they build endurance and stamina, the children also go through a character development curriculum that equips them with the goal-setting mentality needed to accomplish their running goals. Topics covered include enhancing confidence and self-esteem, respecting authority, dealing with peer pressure and fueling their bodies with proper nutrition. “Running is difficult: a million people take on the goal of becoming a better runner, but everyone hates it,” says Hana. “I chose the Ready, Set, RUN! program because I felt it would help the kids create a healthy lifestyle and they could use it anywhere. The curriculum is very easy to use, turnkey and I really appreciate the fact that the kids could write reflection pieces in their journal so in the end they could look back and reflect on what they like and also what they need to work on.” After Hana was able to get the program started at different schools, it took no time for the kids to take interest and get involved. The kids were motivated and transformations took place right before their very eyes.

Toronto Wins First MLS Championship and Builds Opportunity for Youth in Toronto
Through the league’s MLS Works program, which strives to improve the lives of people through sport, Toronto FC players and MLS executives unveiled a new Toronto FC-branded multipurpose room at the WoodGreen community facility in Toronto. WoodGreen is a founding United Way of Toronto member agency and is one of the largest social service agencies in Toronto, offering more than 75 innovative programs to some 36,000 families and residents of Toronto’s most marginalized communities. The new multipurpose room, which includes a reading and lounge area, furniture, computers, and multimedia equipment, will benefit hundreds of teens and young adults associated with WoodGreen’s “Newcomer Youth Services” program, and the renovation will enhance the free programs WoodGreen provides to youth new to Canada; programs include sports, counseling, workshops, health and wellness, homework, and arts clubs. MLS Works and Toronto FC is also providing financial support for WoodGreen Community Services’ Youth Soccer League. Toronto FC’s Soccer Development team will conduct youth programming and clinics, while the financial support will provide new equipment and apparel for year-long programming, including access to indoor facilities during the winter.

Ashtone Morgan, front right and other Toronto FC players along with Toronto FC president Bill Manning. Photo by German Alegria, courtesy of MLS.

Ending Violence against Women and Girls through sport
In 2016, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka made a speech at the event ‘Women and Sports: 2030 Agenda—the contribution of sport to achieve gender equality and end violence against women and girls’ in New York. She said: “The work that we do for and about women and girls is often about the things women are fighting against. Sports gives us an opportunity to do something that puts girls and women in the best, positive light. It shows off their strength and their capacity to be winners. In thinking about Agenda 2030 and in thinking about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we see sports as one of the important building blocks to take us there, because women themselves address the stereotypes. You cannot take away good talent. So once you put in place someone who has talent and they do their thing, you trash the stereotype of what girls can do.” Beyond Sport has funded and supported a number of programs for many years that are using sport as a tool to end violence against women and young girls. In countries around the world, we have celebrated projects that are combatting this issue but also using sport to empower women in communities where they are most marginalised.

Draw a Line

Angels Unveil Shohei Ohtani, Who Exudes Promise and Prudence
The general manager, Billy Eppler, has known for a while that Ohtani, 23, could handle the glare. He said he had watched Ohtani play 10 times since 2013, when he debuted for the Nippon-Ham Fighters, showcasing the two-way talent that captivated suitors overseas. As he listened to Ohtani respond to questions with modesty and flashes of humor on Saturday, at an event that with its cheering and chanting fans resembled a pep rally more than an introductory news conference, Eppler observed how Ohtani seemed to slow down the moment. “That’s usually a sign of somebody with a high degree of concentration and a high degree of focus,” Eppler said. “And that’s what we’ve seen from him when he pitches, and that’s what we’ve seen from him when he hits.” Ohtani hits as well as he pitches — or is it the other way around? — and is eager to do both in the major leagues. The Angels will gladly let him. “We definitely plan on him being a two-way player,” said Manager Mike Scioscia, who was otherwise vague about the team’s intentions. “There’s no doubt about that.” During their presentations to Ohtani, the Angels discussed a detailed plan for his usage, going so far as outlining every day of the season he would pitch or serve as the designated hitter. The Angels expect Albert Pujols to play more first base, freeing up at-bats for Ohtani.

Shohei Ohtani outside Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday. The Los Angeles Angels, who have not won a playoff game since 2009, held a news conference to welcome Ohtani, a talented pitcher and power hitter from Japan. Credit Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

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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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