Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #280

Jan. 28 – Feb. 10, 2018

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

  1. Olympic speed skater Maame Biney wants to win gold. She’s already won hearts
  2. NFL Foundation And Minnesota Vikings Refurbish Youth Fields In Minneapolis Before Hosting The Super Bowl
  3. SportsEngine, USOC Team Up To Help Future Winter Olympians Pursue Their Passion
  4. Va. Tech Recruit Quincy Patterson a Cross Between ‘Cam Newton and Andrew Luck’
  5. How a thrill-seeking personality helps Olympic athletes
  6. Olympics Open With Koreas Marching Together, Offering Hope for Peace
  7. Arsenal’s Lisa Evans launches scheme to get more women playing football
  8. VIKTRE & pro athletes from around the world to launch power for Puerto Rico
  9. All-American candidate Megan Gustafson plays for two at Iowa
  10. Bleacher Report’s Secret Weapon Is A 23-Year-Old Instagram Savant

NFL Players and Owners Take the Next Step in Cooperating on Social Justice Initiatives (Beyond Sport)
What Must Change in U.S. Soccer (Geoff Cameron) (The Players’ Tribune)
Coaches Across Continents Train Community Leaders with GOALS Haiti.
Feeling Good Again (by Angel McCoughtry) (The Players Tribune)
Playlab Incubator. Sport and refugees (Sport and Dev)

We were witness to the launch of the Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang, South Korea this past week. The are, of course, a number of sport-related storylines tied to the Games. There was, however, the overriding spectacle of the two Koreas, North and South, walking in together at the Opening Ceremonies. While there is some skepticism about the sincerity of North Korea when it comes to genuine hopes for peace, there was no denying the power of the moment for the athletes involved and certainly those in the stands. There was a noticeable roar from the crowd that got everyone’s attention. Here is to the possibility of progress during and especially after the Games when it comes to the geopolitical issues between the two countries and their allies.

There were several stories tied to the Games this week in addition to that very special Opening Ceremony, including the joyful story of young speedskater Maame Biney; the use of technology to hopefully identify more Winter Olympic athletes like Maame; and an analysis of the psychology of these thrill-seeking athletes.

Our non-Olympic stories include: the great work done by the NFL and Minnesota Vikings to make more fields available to play; the incredible potential, academic and athletic, of Va Tech football recruit Quincy Patterson; an effort to grow women’s football/soccer in the U.K.; the coordinated effort amongst athletes to help those in desperate need in Puerto Rico; the special bond between star collegiate student-athlete Megan Gustafson and her sister; and a young man, Omar Raja, who is helping to change the way technology impacts our connection to sports video.

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So, enjoy. And have a good week.

Olympic speed skater Maame Biney wants to win gold. She’s already won hearts
Kweku thanks God for guiding him past that SkateQuest sign in 2005, and he thanks the United States for making Maame’s story possible. “Only in America, nowhere else,” he said. Asked how he feels about the political climate surrounding immigration, considering his immigrant daughter is set to proudly wear the red, white and blue in PyeongChang, he bristled. He doesn’t want Maame to be a pawn in anyone’s politics. They both love America. That’s all you need to know. “I told her to never get into politics. It’s a dirty business,” he said. “Sports, school, God — that’s it. No politics.” Ask Maame about her aspirations and, as nonchalantly as some high schoolers might speak of being a doctor one day, she’ll say she wants to be a chemical engineer, world speed skating champion and Olympic gold medalist. No big deal. “I really have an interest in making things explode, and I guess my dad, he told me a few years ago that he was into chemistry when he was a little kid, so I guess chemistry runs in the family,” she said.

Maame’s coach says her laugh and smile can uplift the entire team.

NFL Foundation And Minnesota Vikings Refurbish Youth Fields In Minneapolis Before Hosting The Super Bowl
Safe spaces to play are not only good for kids, they’re good for communities. A report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concludes that activity-focused spaces in neighborhoods have a significant impact on mental health, and violence prevention, lowering the risk factors for chronic disease, higher graduation rates, more cooperation among neighbors, and other benefits. The Vikings have contributed $1.6 million toward the most recent local efforts in Minnesota in advance of this year’s Super Bowl, helping to refurbish athletic fields and recreational areas such as the Jimmy Lee field where St. Paul’s new mayor, Mayor Melvin Carter, used to play as a child. The much-used field, built in the 1960s, had fallen into disrepair, but was renovated in 2012 with astroturf, lighting, landscaping, additional fields, and even a play area for smaller children. Today, Mayor Carter has had the opportunity to see his own children play on the very same field. In another local neighborhood, students at Como Park Senior High had never been able to host a varsity football game. Now they have a field where they can host home games for the first time ever. The positive change in not just the facilities — but in the players and community — could be felt almost immediately.

High school football players warm up at a newly refurbished field in Minneapolis. Photo courtesy of the NFL Foundation/

SportsEngine, USOC Team Up To Help Future Winter Olympians Pursue Their Passion
Now, with SportsEngine’s launch of a new youth sports directory, finding a way to convert a child’s newfound interest into action is easier than ever. The NBC-owned youth sports property  has teamed up with the U.S. Olympic Committee to increase participation in sports that kids (and adults) are just discovering during the Olympic season. “The Olympic movement inspires millions of people, and there is no better time for the youth of America to start their Olympic journey than during the Games,” said Gary Zenkel, President, NBC Olympics. “Our Gold Map initiative has connected thousands of kids with sports organizations in their local communities for the past two Games, and with the power of, we’re confident that we will generate greater interest in Winter Olympic sports by providing parents and kids with a more seamless search experience.” SportsEngine’s youth sports directory is not only for those with an eye toward a gold medal, but also for casual newcomers looking for fun in a sport they’ve only just discovered, as winter sports can be some of the hardest for which to find an introduction.

2018 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES — Season: 2018 — Pictured: Gus Kenworthy — (Photo by: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC)

Va. Tech Recruit Quincy Patterson a Cross Between ‘Cam Newton and Andrew Luck’
But for the player 247Sports has as the No. 12 dual-threat quarterback in the nation, football is merely a part of his story. It’s why he’s suddenly recognized and stopped in malls and throughout the Windy City, but it will never be what solely defines him. As he’s taking a slew of AP courses, his current GPA hovers around a 4.4 on a 4.0 scale. The second semester of his junior year, his GPA was 4.7. Patterson’s father, Quincy Patterson Sr., beams with pride as his son talks about his passion for engineering, his major in college. At a time when his father needs inspiration, Quincy’s accomplishments have provided it. Patterson Sr. has spent much of the past few years undergoing dialysis to treat his end-stage renal failure. As he waits for a new kidney that they hope is coming soon, Patterson Sr. undergoes more than 13 hours of dialysis each week. Both father and son wear “Gift of Hope” bracelets around their wrists—an acknowledgement of their connection to an organ donor and tissue bank in Illinois. Quincy plays for his father. He plays for the free education it will bring him—one of the reasons he started playing football in the first place. And he plays for Chicago, a city that has broken so many young people before him. While he possesses more physical talent than perhaps any high school quarterback in the country, one can’t help but wonder if he’s destined for something more.

How a thrill-seeking personality helps Olympic athletes
To some extent, we all crave complex and new experiences – that is, we all seek new sensations. Whether it’s our attraction to the latest shiny gadget or the newest fashion trend, novelty tugs at us. But even though we all share an interest in new sensations, what sets high sensation-seeking personalities apart is that they crave these exotic and intense experiences to an extent that they’re willing to risk their health. What’s amazing is that some high sensation-seeking individuals experience less stress and are fearless and calm in the face of danger. For example, 2014 Olympic slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin tears down mountains at speeds of 80 mph. But she recently told Sky Magazine that the experience can feel like it unfolds in slow motion while she’s “finding a way to control the controllable.” There’s neurological evidence to back up the sense of calm that athletes like Shiffrin feel in midst of chaos and danger. You may have heard of cortisol – it’s the “fight or flight” hormone, and it can make us feel stressed and overwhelmed. However, when people with high sensation-seeking personalities have intense experiences, they don’t produce that much cortisol. On top of that, they produce higher levels of “pleasure” chemicals like dopamine.

It takes a certain type of person to even attempt the skeleton. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Olympics Open With Koreas Marching Together, Offering Hope for Peace
But South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, seems to see the Games as central to his effort to proactively engage North Korea and persuade the reclusive country to enter into negotiations to scale back its nuclear and ballistic missile program. “Many considered it an impossible dream to have an Olympics of peace, in which North Korea would participate and the two Koreas would form a joint team,” Mr. Moon said in an address to the International Olympic Committee this week. Friday’s opening ceremony, directed by Song Seung-whan, a South Korean actor and popular theatrical creator, sought to project a vision of unification and peace on the long-divided peninsula. “As a starting point, Korea is the only divided country in the world,” Mr. Song said in an interview hours before the ceremony began. He said that even though North Korea was not expected to attend when he began planning the ceremony’s themes, “we started with peace in mind.” “Of course it was a surprise,” he said of the North’s decision to join the Games. “It will be an opportunity for the peace we were thinking of to be shown to the world in a more deep way.”

Arsenal’s Lisa Evans launches scheme to get more women playing football
Coinciding with the celebration of 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the UK, Scotland’s Lisa Evans and three other top European internationals are using social media to spread the word about Women’s football. The Football Association have invested in a number of campaigns in recent years aimed at increasing girls’ participation in sports. Initiatives like Gameplan for Growth, Together #WePlayStrong, Girls Active, and This Girl Can have marked a growing interest and focus on this particular social issue. The latest Office for National Statistics research shows girls still spend almost half the time boys do taking part in sport and are less likely to be involved in sport at all, with 38.8% of boys doing sport daily, compared with 26.4% of girls. The Arsenal and Scotland player Lisa Evans believes using new technology to target teenagers is vital to increasing the profile of women in sport: “Social media is taking over and is the biggest thing out there for attracting people to anything – be it news, sport or entertainment. Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, they’re the growth markets for teenagers. So using them is one way we get to the age group we are targeting and hopefully can encourage them to play football.”

VIKTRE & pro athletes from around the world to launch power for Puerto Rico
VIKTRE, the world’s largest online platform for pro athletes is working to connect, collaborate, and use itsinfluence to raise awareness and drive action around their personal interests and goals beyond sports. The organisation is joining forces with a diverse roster of athletes from across the globe for the VIKTRE Challenge – Power for Puerto Rico, the social network’s first ever crowdfunding campaign. This initiative is part of a comprehensive project to restore energy to Puerto Rico, where only half the island has access to electrical power. Proof points are needed across the country to respond to the devastation of Hurricane Maria which took place in September. Such points already exist on a smaller scale, such as the 475 kWh Del Niño Children’s Hospital which uses Tesla solar power. The campaign is running from 22 January to 22 February, in collaboration with VIKTRE and the local Puerto Rico-based nonprofit, the Foundation for Puerto Rico. In addition, eight athletes are contributing to the cause by rallying their fans and other fellow athletes to crowdfund for more solar energy solutions, such as Tesla Powerpack, to be installed in Puerto Rico.

Copyrights: Eric Pancer- Wiki Commons

All-American candidate Megan Gustafson plays for two at Iowa
Basketball was always going to set the sisters on different paths. It just wasn’t supposed to happen the way it did, Emily’s college career was curtailed prematurely by repeated head injuries. But it turns out Megan is good enough to play for two. An emerging star, she can play for the sister she still looks up to. “I know that my sister also looks to me,” Megan said. “So I kind of want to play for her as well. That’s something I want to do here at Iowa.”… Anything Megan and Emily did growing up, they were likely to do together. With parents who both played the sport in college and a dad who was also a coach when they were young, basketball was what they most often did. When Megan was a sophomore and Emily a senior at South Shore, playing for their dad, they reached the semifinals of the state tournament. “The town that we lived in, there wasn’t a whole lot of people our age,” Emily said. “She was my best friend growing up. Playing with her was a dream, it was really fun. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was like we could read each other’s minds. I especially liked passing to her. As a post player myself, I knew how to pass to her.”

Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire

Bleacher Report’s Secret Weapon Is A 23-Year-Old Instagram Savant
The magic began when Raja was a sophomore at the University of Central Florida back in 2014. He was kind of aimless, and feeling depressed. Why? Because “Lebron [James] had just left the Heat”—his favorite team. In his despondency, Raja surfed YouTube to find clips from games, “trying to find moments that I remember, and that I really associated with that team,” he says. “These are clips I would share with my friends back in the day,” such as Lebron dunking on an opponent, a funny interaction between two players on the court during a timeout, or an athlete making a funny face into the camera. Convivial moments—funny, relatable—that punctuate the flow of games. These forgotten yet essential seconds are the reason why so many people idolize athletes. It’s a reminder that they’re human. They’re playing to have fun. The problem was, YouTube didn’t have these clips. Raja spent a few weeks trying to find any online outlet for these videos, but nothing existed. “I said to myself, Why not try to do it myself?” Raja adds that he did perform a bit of legal due diligence. He says he talked to someone, who wasn’t necessarily at the NBA but was “familiar with the situation,” who told Raja that “as long as it’s not a fight or something else that makes the NBA look bad, they won’t go after you.” (NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said that highlights are marketing.) Thus began House of Highlights, where you’re equally likely to find a moment from last night’s Celtics game or a user-shot video of an average joe doing something sports-related.
(video, Caption: Omar Raja was 20 years old when he started an account on Instagram that was focused on posting the best highlights and moments from the NBA. He’s grown @HouseofHighlights to have more than seven million followers in just three years.

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