Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #285

April 8 – April 21, 2018

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

  1. Andre Ingram Is The NBA’s Best Story
  2. Seeking Solace, and Finding Strength, in Shared Soccer Memories
  3. From the Ring to OBEY: The Outsized Life of Andre the Giant
  4. How Athletes Use Mindfulness To Achieve Greatness (And You Can, Too)
  5. The Sport World Unites for the 5th Annual International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
  6. The Beljulji Brothers & Fargo’s Fusion
  7. In the year 2028: How sports will change in the next 10 years
  8. The cycling club helping homeless women regain independence
  9. Dallas Goedert Leaps from Small-Town Hero to the Top of the Tight End Class
  10. Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer give Make-A-Wish recipient day to remember

ESPN Dedicates Multifunctional Sports Space in Bogota, Colombia (Beyond Sport)
Former Up2Us Coach is Helping Break Down Barriers at Skate Like a Girl (Up2Us Sports)
Made for Saves (by Malcolm Subban) (The Players’ Tribune)
Namaste! Freestyling innovation from India to the world
Gold Coast Delivers ‘A Game of Firsts’ (Beyond Sport)

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Andre Ingram Is The NBA’s Best Story
It took Andre Ingram 10 years and 384 games in the minors and overseas—in Orem, Utah; El Segundo, California; Perth, Australia; back to El Segundo—never making more than $30,000 a year, and working as a math tutor to make ends meet. Last night, finally, after all of that, in a game that didn’t matter yet ended up mattering very much to him and to anyone with a heart, Andre Ingram played in an NBA game. And he fired away. “Everyone was like, ‘Man, when you get it, just let it go,’” Ingram said. Ingram, a 32-year-old 6-foot-3 guard, scored 19 points while shooting 6-of-8 from the field, including 4-of-5 on threes. He didn’t miss a shot until more than halfway through the fourth. And “the only [two] he missed,” Lakers coach Luke Walton observed, “he got fouled on.” Forget his age for a second. This was the fourth highest scoring NBA debut for any Laker, ever. It was the highest scoring post-All-Star break debut in the entire NBA since 1953. And just listen to the crowd every time Ingram put up a shot—and listen to it when he drained it down. In between were “M-V-P” chants. This was for my money the most exhilarating night of the NBA season. It’s certainly the best story.

Photo: Mark J. Terrill (AP Photo)

Seeking Solace, and Finding Strength, in Shared Soccer Memories
Each group consists of a handful of West Brom fans, all of them suffering from some form of dementia, as well as some partners and caregivers. One or two wear West Brom scarves, gently draping them over their chairs, or knitted hats embroidered with the club’s crest. They come to meet and to talk — “to get out of the house,” as Heather put it. But mainly, they come to remember. “We want to energize their memories, to get them talking again,” said Paul Glover, the foundation’s head of disability. The best way to do that, he believes, is through soccer, through West Brom, tapping into the vast reservoir of memories built up through a lifetime of being a fan, its hold so strong that it remains untouched even as dementia starts to take a toll in other ways. “Their memory is often very good, even if they cannot recall what they had for dinner last night,” said Jan Liddell, a senior health care support worker at Edward Street mental health hospital. All of the members of the group are patients at Edward Street; all have expressed an interest in soccer, and all, as part of their treatment, have been offered the chance to join the Albion Memories program. “With memory, there is an element of use it or lose it,” Liddell said. They come here to use it.

The former West Brom player Graham Lovett, right, talked a guest through an old newspaper from his playing days. When Lovett lost the thread on one anecdote, a former teammate at the session suggested with a smile that perhaps he should be in the audience, not on the stage. Credit José Sarmento Matos for The New York Times

From the Ring to OBEY: The Outsized Life of Andre the Giant
When done properly, professional wrestling is a story told with few words. The moments leading up to a match might be defined by sweaty soliloquies and icy threats, but the true beating heart of the wrestling business is wrestling: two (or more) human beings conveying drama through facial expressions, body positioning and back-breaking falls, with no dialogue to fall back on, no shortcuts to take. Andre’s body was both his gift and his curse. He was able to shock and amaze fans just with his mere presence. But he also had the ability to charm them with a smile, a wink or a throaty laugh, often forced through the agony of a body out of control. And that’s why we’ll remember him for what he was that night in Detroit—so much more so than for the OBEY stickers or the Princess Bride reruns or the award they now give out in his honor to the winner of a Battle Royal at WrestleMania. Andre’s enduring legacy is the man who could entertain millions while enduring the kind of suffering none of them could begin to imagine.

Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

How Athletes Use Mindfulness To Achieve Greatness (And You Can, Too)
How do athletes train themselves to maintain a rugged mindset in the face of challenge? Staying connected to the present moment — or mindfulness — is a key component of performance science research. Numerous top athletes and coaches, such as NBA coach Phil Jackson, NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant, and NFL coach Pete Carroll, have long touted its benefits in sports. We all need tools to help us in high-pressure situations at work or school or in our interpersonal relationships. Mindfulness has even been shown to help with everything from bullying prevention to technology overload to helping us deliver better presentations at work or motivating team members. But until recently, many of the strategies and tactics recommended to meet this need, particularly when it comes to our daily habits, were left to intuition and non-repeatable methods. The USC Performance Science Institute was launched to try to change that. Housed at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, the new research lab is focused on bringing groundbreaking performance science to the masses.

Kobe Bryant (left) and Paul Pierce. Photo by Keith Allison/Flickr.

The Sport World Unites for the 5th Annual International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
This year, organizations across the world came together yet again to celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) on April 6. The officially recognized United Nations annual event started in 2013 to celebrate the role of sport in creating sustainable development and peace. The day marks a growing appreciation of the way in which sport can be used to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). In 1978, UNESCO described sport and physical activity as a “fundamental right for all.” Since then, sport has played an increasingly central role in addressing issues of economic development, gender equality, peace-building, and health and wellness. The UN General Assembly passed the resolution for the day in 2013 noting that that “sports can foster peace and development and can contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding.” They chose the date of April 6 for its historical link to the opening ceremony of the first Olympic Games in 1896. To highlight organizations using sport for development and peace, the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs ran an online campaign, #PlayforGlobalGoals. Particularly the campaign focused on the way sport can be used to reduce inequality by supporting vulnerable groups.

The Beljulji Brothers & Fargo’s Fusion
During the Yugoslav wars and chaos of the 1990s, Sunaj Beljulji (pronounced Bell-Jull-Jee) found himself growing up in a Bosnian refugee camp, kicking around a soccer ball at age three with his older brothers. For three years after that, he and his nine siblings did what was necessary to survive, and to find makeshift fields and free corners to play the game that kept them dreaming. “All I remember is we didn’t know or have much there,” Beljulji told in a recent interview. “The U.N. helped us, and we mostly played soccer – barefoot, whatever, whenever we could.” He is still playing soccer, and still doing it with two of his brothers. Now, though, the Beljuljis are playing for the Dakota Fusion of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), heading for a First Round match on May 9 away to Duluth F.C. in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It often sounds like a cliché when players refer to their club as a family, but in this case, it’s at least partly true. Sunaj Beljulji is a starting forward and midfielder for the Fusion, who scored two goals with nine assists last season. Emran Beljulji plays midfield and Habib Beljulji is the team’s backup goalkeeper.

(Sunaj Beljulji is a powerful presence up front for NPSL side Dakota Fusion)

In the year 2028: How sports will change in the next 10 years
Let’s use your imagination for a minute. Pretend you’re back in 2008, and your Uncle Barry — the one who does annoying freelance family tarot card and palm readings every Thanksgiving — has cornered you during the Lions-Titans game and told you he’s seen the sports future for 2018. He predicts that in 2018, an NFL prospect with one hand is the biggest NFL scouting combine story … the Rams are back in Los Angeles and have a 32-year-old head coach presiding over the league’s hottest new free-agency destination … a 23-year-old Japanese player is the best hitter and pitcher on an MLB team … and ring-collecting hoops guru Phil Jackson has been run out of the NBA. Impossible, right? But it all happened, of course. So we convened our own panel of expert futurists to read the sports tea leaves and envision how the five sports leagues with upcoming or recent drafts — the NFL, MLB, the NHL, the NBA, the WNBA — would look in the year 2028. We asked them to complete the following sentence: In the year 2028 …

The cycling club helping homeless women regain independence
The hostel staff, who are experienced mental health practitioners, were keen to develop cycling to boost the women’s personal confidence and help give them access to other spheres of society, such as college, community groups or paid employment. The hostel is moving away from a traditional medicalised model of mental health to a more holistic model of wellbeing, and thought cycling could be a really useful tool in helping move the residents towards more independent living. After the success of a 10-week pilot project, mostly funded by the hostel themselves, the cycle club has recently received funding of £10,000 from Cycling Grants London to continue the club for another three years. According to the Mental Health Foundation, homelessness and mental health often go hand-in-hand. Poor housing or homelessness can increase the chances of developing a mental health problem, or aggravate an existing condition. Studies have shown that physical activity, including walking and cycling, can be used to overcome and even prevent stress, depression and anxiety. It can be as effective as medication and counselling, and a cheaper route to mindfulness.

Dallas Goedert Leaps from Small-Town Hero to the Top of the Tight End Class
Listening to stories of unicycle parades and summer days at the local swimming pool is a little like staring at a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s easy to forget that Britton is a real place and that Goedert plays video games and has traveled to big cities. Goedert isn’t Tom Sawyer, and he won’t arrive at rookie camp in a straw hat. But small towns like Britton really are vanishing, and small-town prospects like Goedert may start to vanish with them. Pastor Larson believes the small towns of middle America produce individuals with a different kind of work ethic. While people everywhere work hard, folks in farm communities grow accustomed to a dawn-to-dusk daily life of constant outdoor activity. “It takes a great work ethic to be a great athlete,” Larson says. “But it also takes a well-rounded work ethic.” Goedert grew up so well-rounded that he was almost overlooked. It forced him to take a long, strange journey to the top of NFL draft boards. It’s the ultimate all-American tale, practically ripped from an old dime novel. And it’s great to see that such tales can still come true.

Daryl Wilson/Associated Press

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer give Make-A-Wish recipient day to remember
Which brings us back to Van Houten, the true star of this story. Van Houten, a freshman at Bowling Green, is wheeled backward onto the field at Comerica Park, near the pitcher’s mound. The great thing is, he had no idea this was going to happen when he showed up at the park. He thought he was just going to go to a Tigers game with his parents. And now, he is out on the field. Fulmer bends down behind home plate and Van Houten throws the first pitch. Fulmer springs up and catches it on a bounce. He shakes hands with Van Houten. After posing for some pictures, it looks like this moment is over. But then, everything stops, and Fulmer is handed a microphone. “How is everybody doing?” Fulmer says, addressing the crowd in Comerica Park on Friday night before the Tigers’ game against the Kansas City Royals. “So Kyle just threw me a nasty slider. And I’ve got a special announcement for Kyle.” Fulmer speaks with ease in public. But people who saw Fulmer in the dugout said he was incredibly nervous before this event. Because he wanted it to be perfect. Because he wanted it to be special. Which probably says all you need to know about Fulmer. “First of all, you are an inspiration to all of us,” Fulmer says to Van Houten. “We mean that.” Fulmer speaks in short bursts, with momentary pauses, because it takes a fraction of a second for his words to make it through the stadium speakers. “Second of all,” Fulmer says, pausing. “I was blessed to be selected to the American League All-Star team last year. And it was the best moment of my career so far and it was an awesome time. So Kyle, for World Wish Day, Make-A-Wish has told us that you are going to the All-Star game in Washington D.C.”

Kyle Van Houten of Hartland, center, who was awarded a trip to this year’s All Star Game poses for a photo with Detroit Tigers players on the field before a Detroit Tigers game against Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park in Detroit, Friday, April 20, 2018. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

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