Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #281

Feb. 11 – Feb. 24, 2018

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

  1. America’s Basketball Heaven: How Kinston, North Carolina became the greatest producer of NBA talent
  2. The Guy Who Finished Last In The Olympic Cross-Country Event Got A Hero’s Welcome
  3. Why Is Tiny Norway Totally Dominating the Winter Olympics?
  4. Fifty-Eight Years After Making History, Kyung Soon Yim Discusses His Unlikely Olympic Past
  5. With Sports Support, Cause Marketing Tops Mark With Record $2B In Donations
  6. A Family Dream Come True and a Limitless Future: US Teen Chloe Kim Wins Gold
  7. No American had done it in 42 years. Leave it to the only mom on Team USA to pull it off.
  8. ‘It’s the Olympics. Who is Going to Give Up Hope?’: USA Curling is the Cinderella Story of the ’18 Games
  9. U.S. Women Break Canada’s Grip on Hockey Gold
  10. In Kobe Bryant’s Youth League, Everyone Learns ‘Mamba Mentality’

We Are in This Together (by Steve Nash) (The Players’ Tribune)
UEFA launch #EqualGame to promote inclusion, diversity and accessibility (Beyond Sport)
Fijian friendship fuels powerhouse para-athletics performances (Sport and Dev)
The State of Sport for Good 2017 (Laureus)
Peace and Sport and IIHF Bring the Unified Korean Women’s Ice Hockey Team for a Historical #WHITECARD Photo (Peace and Sport)

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Oftentimes we see a quote or famous saying that really captures our attention and makes us think a bit more deeply about a particular moment or life in general. We heard two this week that came from the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

One came from the gold medal-winning curling team from the U.S. When speaking about the team’s precarious position in the standings earlier in the competition, team captain John Shuster gave us this gem: ‘It’s the Olympics. Who is going to give up hope?’ John was right, and not just because the team eventually won the gold medal. H was right because we should not give up hope, Olympics or otherwise. Substitute “life” for “Olympics” and you have advice that we should pay heed to every day, especially those tough days.

The other quote that got our attention came from U.S. women’s hockey coach Robb Stauber. Upon seeing his team capture gold by beating archrival Canada, Stauber said, “This is a very classic example of how hard it should be.” Success for anyone, individual or team, often comes up great effort and challenge. Life in general and in particular moments is not easy and Coach Stauber reminded us of that. His team traveled a tough road and no matter the result, worked very hard to reach their goal. It was, of course, great to take home gold!

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America’s Basketball Heaven: How Kinston, North Carolina became the greatest producer of NBA talent
At Holloway, adults played on one half of the gym and kids on the other, but at some point, if the kids were good enough, they’d graduate to the opposite end and face men 10, 15, 20 years older. Cedric Maxwell made the transition at 12, and the adults knocked him down on every play, testing his toughness, all but daring him to call a foul. “They make you hard,” Maxwell says. “That was our proving ground,” says ex-NBA star Jerry Stackhouse, another Kinston product, who as a teenager faced a much older sharpshooter named Donald Ingram. And just as Donald roughed up Stackhouse, Stackhouse later did the same with Donald’s son, a kid named Brandon. This decadeslong cycle of the old guard training the new created a reputation that continues today. “If you look at the history of players from Kinston, all these guys are tough,” says Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel, who recruited Brandon and says of the rail-thin forward, “He’s tougher than he looks … because he’s from Kinston.” Talent fueled Rochelle Middle School, which lost just four games in a 14-year stretch under Skeet Davis, then fueled Kinston High, which, entering this season, has posted a 76.4 winning percentage since 1945 (1,444-444), reaching 21 state title games and winning 11, including six in an eight-year span from 2007 to 2015.

Ingram, like so many in Kinston, grew to view basketball as a ticket to college and perhaps a better life. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

The Guy Who Finished Last In The Olympic Cross-Country Event Got A Hero’s Welcome
A cadre of fellow athletes representing warm weather countries—Taufatofua, who trained with Madrazo, as well as Sebastian Uprimny of Colombia, Samir Azzimani of Morocco, and Kequyen Lam of Portugal—were waiting to hoist Madrazo onto their shoulders in a gesture of triumph. The moment was a little silly, sure, but it offered a view of what the Olympics can mean to the hundreds of athletes that arrive knowing they will never sniff the podium. The Olympics are a massive event and it’s easy for the various competitions to blur together until it’s hard to recall even the feats of the medal winners. As for the large percentage of athletes who never had any shot at a all, many of them world-class athletes themselves, few people even knew their names to begin with. But in those moments after Madrazo crossed the finish line, he was the star of the show. Cologna, nearly 26 minutes removed from his gold-medal finish, came back to the finish line to to congratulate the last-place finisher.

Why Is Tiny Norway Totally Dominating the Winter Olympics?
Crucially, from a sports perspective, Norway is rich as shit. Norway was no. 1 in the human development index when Soccernomics was published, and still is today. Wolken mentioned that fact in his story, but it’s not a piece of trivia; it’s the key to Norway’s success. And not only is Norway rich; income inequality isn’t as bad there as it is in other wealthy but more stratified societies like Qatar or even the United States, so a larger pool of people are beneficiaries of the national wealth. That includes national investments in sports and physical fitness. “It’s Norwegian government policy that every farmer, every fisherman, no matter where he lives in the country, has the right to play sports,” Kuper and Szymanski wrote. “Norway will spend what it takes to achieve that. Just as supermarkets have sprouted all over Britain, there are all-weather sports grounds everywhere in Norway. Even in the unlikeliest corners of the country there’s generally one around the corner from your house. Usually the locker rooms are warm, and the coaches have acquired some sort of diploma. A kid can play and train on a proper team for well under $150 a year, really not much for Norwegians.”

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Fifty-Eight Years After Making History, Kyung Soon Yim Discusses His Unlikely Olympic Past
After the Olympics, he became something of a ski legend in Korea—thanks largely to the article. He went back to teaching high school students, as he had been doing before the journey to Squaw Valley, and wrote a book about skiing that Choi Il Hong, the manager of the ski museum, says is the book that Koreans read when they want to start skiing.  After eight years of teaching, Yim was approached by a university with the opportunity to teach aspiring teachers. He says his future bosses had seen the article in SI and were impressed by his sportsmanship and passion. Yim said this week that his job as a professor was the most important thing he’s done in his life, and he believes that the article in SI was the starting point. In the original 1960 article, Yim made clear his interest in helping those who would come after him. “My country is sure this will be of great value in teaching our younger generation,” he said. He then went on to devote his life to teaching, not just in the classroom but on the slopes as well.  He doesn’t get on his old skis very much anymore, but is still the president and manager of a ski school, with a particular interest in helping kids.

The framed 1960 issue of SI in the ski jumping venue’s museum.

With Sports Support, Cause Marketing Tops Mark With Record $2B In Donations
At the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles this month, celebrity players and NBA and WNBA legends in the All-Star Celebrity Game presented by Ruffles will have the chance to compete in the “4-for-4 Challenge.” For every shot made from “The Ridge” four-point line during the second half of the game, Ruffles will make a $4,000 donation to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, with a minimum of $20,000 going to the charity (up to $40,000). Team LeBron James has named After-School All-Stars Los Angeles and Team Stephen Curry has picked Brotherhood Crusade as the community-based organizations they will play for during the All-Star Game on Feb. 18. In addition, the NBA said that All-Star Media Day would be open to fans for the first time (scheduled for Feb. 17 in the Los Angeles Convention Center). Tickets are priced at $10, with all proceeds donated to non-profit journalism organizations. According to the the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, $5.5 million dollars were invested in community organizations across the state during Minnesota Super Bowl Legacy Fund 52 weeks of giving campaign to improve health and wellness for kids. This past NFL season, the league had its second “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend, enabling players to design their own shoes and the auction them to raise awareness and funds for a variety of organizations and causes. Among them: Wounded Warrior Project, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Assn., American Heart Assn. The Jimmy Fund, Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

A Family Dream Come True and a Limitless Future: US Teen Chloe Kim Wins Gold
Like Moon, the American public watched on Tuesday as Chloe’s life of work culminated in gold—her final run, a victory lap in effect, earned her 98.25 points. The story’s been beaten into the ground more than the Crying Jordan meme at this point. Jong Jin gave up his job when Chloe was 10 to help his daughter pursue Olympic glory. She moved to Switzerland to train for two years before returning to the United States and earning prodigious marks, qualifying for the Olympics at 13 years old. When Jong Jin arrived at LAX in 1982 at 26 years old, he had $800 and an English-Korean dictionary. He bought a one-week stay at a hotel, a 1970 Chevy Nova and a carton of Kent cigarettes. On Tuesday, he watched his daughter achieve Olympic immortality. “When I came to the United States, this was my American hope,” Jong Jin said in Korean. “Now, this is my American dream.” By the time she stepped up for her third run, Chloe had already sealed the gold medal, but she was unsatisfied. She thought she could do better than a 93.75. She wanted to go for her hardest run.


No American had done it in 42 years. Leave it to the only mom on Team USA to pull it off.
Especially notable about her is that, in addition to her history-making gold-medal performance, of the 244 athletes on Team USA, Randall is the only mother. There are 20 fathers on the team, but Randall is the only mom in the group. (Team USA doesn’t disclose whether athletes chose adoption or had children pass away, so we recognize that this is a pretty limiting definition of parenthood.) While there’s no official reason given for the mom disparity, it could have a lot to do with pregnancy and childbirth affecting a person’s body and the fact many child-rearing duties are still relegated to women. Balancing the physical, emotional, and mental demands of being a pro-athlete and primary caregiver is a challenge and commitment few among us could even fathom. But it’s one Randall not only accepted — but surmounted. While her toddler son, Breck, stayed with his grandparents in Canada instead of making the trip to South Korea, he was never far from Randall’s mind. “I won’t get to see him for a full month, which is going to be really hard because I’ve just gotten so adapted to life chasing around a toddler,” Randall told The Huffington Post before the competition. “But he is doing great with his grandparents. … I know he’s in a good place, so now I can focus on what I need to do.” And focus she did. All the way to Team USA’s first gold medal in a sport she’s devoted the last 20 years of her life to.

Jessica Diggins  (L) and Kikkan Randall celebrate as they win gold during the Cross Country Ladies’ Team Sprint Free Final. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images.

‘It’s the Olympics. Who is Going to Give Up Hope?’: USA Curling is the Cinderella Story of the ’18 Games
The Americans have won one curling medal, a bronze in Turin in 2006. But Shuster and his guys arrived here believing they could win it all. So much of curling is teamwork, and so much of that teamwork is a result of trusting each other. They proved here that they have that trust. Shuster struggled terribly at the start of these Olympics. He was asked if he ever gave up hope, and he said, “Our team has had our backs against the walls plenty of times, but come on. It’s the Olympics. Who is going to give up hope?” The American victory over Canada here was masterful. The game was tied entering the eighth end (or inning, or frame—call it whatever you want, but there are 10 of them), and then the Americans picked up two points in the eighth. The U.S. outwitted the Canadians (or perhaps the Canadians outwitted themselves) in the ninth end, giving Americans a 4–3 lead and the hammer (or last licks, if this were baseball) in the 10th. It ended with Shuster basically needing to execute one of the simplest throws in the sport to clinch it. The throw was only slightly harder than a quarterback taking a knee. Shuster said he thought “this looks like a practice shot that I throw in league, when I’m with my friends and there’s nobody around. Let’s enjoy this.”

Getty Images

U.S. Women Break Canada’s Grip on Hockey Gold
The win was especially poignant for this group of American women. A year ago, they battled U.S.A. Hockey for better pay and work conditions, including by threatening to boycott a world championship tournament. Only a last-minute settlement that included hefty pay raises got them back onto the ice. The Lamoureux sisters were two of the leaders of that fight. This year’s gold medal game had it all — lead changes, slick passing, game-saving goaltending, a healthy dose of contact and a raucous crowd that traded dueling chants of “Canada” and “U.S.A.” all afternoon. “This is a very classic example of how hard it should be,” Robb Stauber, the American women’s coach, said. The Canadian women played a classic Canadian-style game, using their skill and physicality to bully the Americans around the ice, raising their elbows and even a fist or two.

The United States celebrating after it beat Canada, 3-2, in a shootout to win the gold medal. “This is a very classic example of how hard it should be,” said Robb Stauber, the American coach. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

In Kobe Bryant’s Youth League, Everyone Learns ‘Mamba Mentality’
Los Angeles hosted the 2018 NBA All-Star Game at the Staples Center downtown last weekend, but basketball’s future stars were quietly practicing drills mere miles down the road on the USC campus. Well, maybe not quietly. Nearly 600 boys and girls aged 8 to 10 excitedly crowded into the Lyon Center’s gymnasium with their Mamba League jerseys on and their sneakers laced up, ready to play. This wasn’t just any recreational basketball league in any city — this is Kobe Bryant’s league in L.A., home of his legendary five-time championship-winning Lakers basketball team. It’s that exuberance found in youthful play and magical love of the game that Bryant wanted to capture when he conceptualized the league last year with Nike and Boys & Girls Clubs across Los Angeles. The organizations have partnered together to bring the 8-week program to kids free of charge. Guided by the mission to help kids “Play, Learn, Grow,” Mamba League launched in 2017 and is currently empowering kids from five L.A.-area neighborhoods to build life skills and self-confidence while learning the fundamentals of basketball.

Kobe Bryant joins Mamba League participants at the first Mamba Challenge tournament in 2017. This year’s tournament will take place on March 15. Image via Nike.

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