Sports Doing Good Newsletters, #286

April 22 – May 5, 2018

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

  1. New Kind of Dual Threat: Chad Thomas Is ‘Gonna Win a Grammy’ and Play on Sundays
  2. This Play About A Girls Soccer Team Kicks Up The Issues Facing Young Women
  3. Women’s sports leagues band together with SheIS initiative
  4. Diversify collegiate athletics through Native American communities
  5. Mo Salah of Liverpool Breaks Down Cultural Barriers, One Goal at a Time
  6. Same Warrior, New Battle: Brian Grant Won’t Back Down From Parkinson’s Disease
  7. Inside Pascal Siakam’s 6,000-mile journey to the Bench Mob
  8. Why we still love ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ 15 years later
  9. Kentucky Derby: Mick Ruis risked it all on a dream … and just might win
  10. Ichiro Suzuki: the secretive superstar who defied baseball’s steroid era

Beko embarks on Global Mission to Prevent Childhood Obesity with FC Barcelona (Beyond Sport)
Setting the Stage: 5 Pre-Game Activities to Boost Sportsmanship (TrueSport)
Goal Click: Telling stories through the lens of football (Sport and Dev)
An Open Letter to the Undrafted (The Players’ Tribune)
A youth coach’s message, a lifetime influence (NAYS)

We would like to change up the proverb “familiarity breeds contempt” to say “familiarity breeds friendship” or “familiarity breeds (positive) feelings.” So much of what we see in the stories we come across deal with the issue of exposure and access, i.e. we tend to do better when we learn more about each other. Makes sense. There is a lot of good in all of us but many times it is overshadowed by the negative, negative borne from stereotypes and ignorance.

One of our stories this week gives us some hope that sport can be the engine that creates familiarity and positive feeling. One of the top soccer players in the world, Mo Salah, an Egyptian Muslim, has brought together local and international Liverpool fans with this brilliant play and goal scoring. Salah is a dynamic player and a likeable personality. While we should not expect only world-class footballers to be the ones that can help build bridges between different communities and cultures, it certainly does not hurt. We look forward to the impact Salah will have off the pitch as he amazes fans of his talents on the pitch.
The other stories we feature this week include: the multi-talented football player and music artist Chad Thomas; a play that uses soccer to address some of the complex challenges for teenage girls; a major initiative by women’s sports organizations to support each other’s efforts; the opportunity, and real need, to incorporate athletics into the lives of young Native Americans; former NBA star Brian Grant and his fight against Parkinson’s disease; the Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam’s and his 6,000-mile journey to the NBA; the ongoing allure of the film “Bend it Like Beckham”; successful businessman, wrestling coach, and now horse owner Mick Ruis; and the wonderful international success of one of this generation’s best baseball players, Ichiro Suzuki.

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 And we are now also on Instagram. Find us at sportsdoinggood.

Finally, if you think others would like to receive the newsletter, please feel free to forward it on or have them contact us directly at (If you do not want to receive the newsletter anymore you can use the Unsubscribe button at the end of the email)

So, enjoy. And have a good week.

New Kind of Dual Threat: Chad Thomas Is ‘Gonna Win a Grammy’ and Play on Sundays
After his grandmother died from cancer when he was five, Thomas continued to learn the piano on his own. He later would add the trombone, bass and acoustic guitar to his repertoire. At age 11, he was accepted in the Norland Middle School band, where they played songs by South Florida rappers like Grind Mode and Piccolo. It was the one class where Thomas and his friends gave their undivided attention because, “We was gonna play something gangsta.” Thomas started exploring DJ equipment during trips to the music store with his dad because of his love of hip-hop, and when he was in seventh grade, Chad Sr. bought him a Roland MC-808 drum machine for his birthday to allow him to make beats with live instrumentation. “He’s an actual musician, which is what I thought he would be,” says Chad Sr., who envisioned Thomas becoming a band teacher who would play side gigs at events like weddings. Still, his son kept asking if he could start playing football again. After seven years of saying “no” since that heart murmur, Chad Sr. finally agreed and signed him up to play—without telling his mother—as a reward for his performance in the classroom. Hovering around 160 pounds at 12 years old, Thomas played on both sides of the trenches against kids older than him, some by three years. In a state where toddlers sign up for football immediately after their first steps, Thomas lacked experience. He was extremely raw. But he loved it. And his parents supported his passion.

This Play About A Girls Soccer Team Kicks Up The Issues Facing Young Women
The importance of creating complicated characters was stressed with the cast members and director. The play’s setting in a soccer facility helped to shift the focus to the girls being seen as people. “The context of a girls soccer team helps desexualize the characters and enables us to see them not as teenage stereotypes but as complex individuals dealing with issues of morality, ambition, and betrayal,” Green says. DeLappe, who played soccer growing up, wanted to write a play about girls where the focus wasn’t on their bodies. “We’re on a planet of teenage girls, and they’re the only people there, and they’re not there as daughters or girlfriends or sex objects or manic pixie dream girls. They can just talk with each other and be rough with each other,” DeLappe told The New York Times. Part of the authenticity of the characters was seen through their interactions when dealing with the range of emotions experienced by teenagers. “These girls don’t hold back. When they are mean to each other, they are brutal. And when they apologize or congratulate each other, they deeply mean it,” Green says. “When I first read the script, I fell in love with it,” says Lyle Belger, understudy for #15. “It was so similar to how my friends and I interact. I thought I was reading about a real teenager’s life.” Belger says she grew up playing soccer and feels the play showcased how sports can have a meaningful impact on girls’ lives. “My soccer team had a built-in unspoken community. We looked out for each other and had a strong bond between everyone,” she explains.

Cast members Isabel Langen (#2), Carolyn Faye Kramer (#8), Emma Roos (#7), Sango Tajima (#25), and Betsy Norton (#00) at soccer practice/rehearsal. Photo by Jeff Berlin.

Women’s sports leagues band together with SheIS initiative
The initiative was the brainchild of Brenda Andress, commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, who came up with the idea last November. “This collective sports voice has never been heard. I wanted to create some type of program or challenge to bring women together that was born out of positivity,” Andress said. “So I thought of SheIS. When I thought of myself, she is a grandmother with young kids. She is a commissioner. She is a hockey player. She is anything she wants to be. That’s where SheIS came from.” Andress reached out to Borders and USTA chief executive Stacey Allaster, who quickly jumped on board. “Right off the bat, they were so supportive,” Andress said. “We have to do it together. Let’s do it, but let’s do it right. It’s going to be professional, top notch. It’s about us as females recognizing we can bring the fans not just to hockey, but to the WNBA. Tennis needs more eyes on the TV. It’s not about everyone else making the difference for us, but us making the difference for ourselves.” There has been much discussion over the years about the wage gap in sports between the sexes. Tennis is one of the few sports where the women have some parity — all four Grand Slam events pay both sexes equally. “I think the secret sauce for women’s tennis started with our athletes,” Allaster said. “It took their advocacy and courage to stand up to the establishment much like soccer players and female hockey players have. It was Billie Jean King and the ‘Original 9’ saying they’d do this back in the 1970s. The athletes have the power and SheIS is a great time to energize our athletes.”

In this April 18, 2018, photo, from left, Caiti Donovan, executive director of SheIS; Brenda Andress, commissioner of Canadian Women’s Hockey League; Lisa Borders, President of WNBA; Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive for the US Tennis Association and Dr. Jen Welter, first female NFL coach, all meet to speak with sponsors, investors and other commissioners of leagues in New York. Women’s sports leagues are banding together for the first time with a new initiative _ SheIS. (AP Photo/Doug Feinberg)

Diversify collegiate athletics through Native American communities
One day soon I hope to develop a culturally relevant, socially responsive leadership program that will empower diverse athletes, particularly Native American athletes, to push harder and reach higher toward their educational and athletic goals while unharnessing the talent and pride within their respective communities. Successful athletes serve as a catalyst of hope and inspiration to their communities, while also changing the discourse on race, equity and education. I am now a mother of three children, ages 17, 14 and 5. All three play a wide range of sports year-round. My two oldest play competitive club/AAU basketball and lacrosse. Both are highly talented, coachable and motivated to play sports at the highest level, but, more importantly, are high-achieving students. As their mother, and a once highly skilled athlete, I am blessed with the opportunity to support and encourage them through the process to becoming collegiate athletes. Being an athlete from an early age sets the precedent for a healthy active lifestyle, mental and emotional discipline, teamwork and accountability, and competitive drive. These characteristics, coupled with Native American principles, beliefs and values, are beneficial to individual athletes, coaches, teams, schools, communities and sports to learn and gain from a population with so much pride and history.

Tanksi Clairmont coaches the Powwow Allstars – nine high school girls from Colorado, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming who also are well-known powwow dancers. They played in the 2018 All-West Native American High School basketball tournament with 48 girls teams and 52 boys teams. They were the No. 1 seed in the silver bracket and advanced to the Elite 8. Assistant coach is Chancey Chrisjohn.

Mo Salah of Liverpool Breaks Down Cultural Barriers, One Goal at a Time
Mr. Salah has been European soccer’s breakout star this season. He has scored 43 goals in 49 games in his first season at Liverpool. He has carried the team to its first Champions League final in more than a decade. He has been voted England’s player of the year both by his fellow players and by the Football Writers’ Association. His faith — and his public displays of it — have also made him a figure of considerable social and cultural significance. At a time when Britain is fighting rising Islamophobia, when government policy has been to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants, he is a North African and a Muslim who is not just accepted in Britain, but adored. “He is someone who embodies Islam’s values and wears his faith on his sleeve,” said Miqdaad Versi, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “He has a likability. He is the hero of the team. Liverpool, in particular, has rallied around him in a really positive way. He is not the solution to Islamophobia, but he can play a major role.”

A mural of Mr. Salah at a cafe in Cairo Credit Khaled Desouki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Same Warrior, New Battle: Brian Grant Won’t Back Down From Parkinson’s Disease
It took a while for Grant to come to the realization that the why no longer matters. It’s about how he chooses to handle it. So these days he focuses on telling his story to as many people as possible, so others won’t feel ashamed and alone, as he once felt. In the years after that first fundraiser he revamped his foundation to provide resources, advice and support with a focus on living with the disease. Recent research suggests that exercise may delay the progress of Parkinson’s, so the foundation now sponsors a range of programs and events: Boot camp, cooking classes, even Pints for Parkinson’s events at local bars. Whatever keeps people moving and socially engaged. Keeps them from hiding away. Meanwhile, Brian tries to heed his own advice. He made a bucket list and began checking off goals. Surfing, skateboarding. He climbed Mount St. Helens with five other Parkinson’s patients. He took public speaking lessons to tame his anxiety. He spoke at TedX in Portland, where he discussed persevering though the rapid-fire blows of retirement, depression, divorce and Parkinson’s. He sits for interviews, gives speeches in New York City and Dallas, shows up at community events, courts potential sponsors, all the while trying to remember Fox’s words: Once you step in, you can’t step out.

Jonathan Ferrey/Sports Illustrated

Inside Pascal Siakam’s 6,000-mile journey to the Bench Mob
Two weeks later, Toronto selected Siakam with the 27th pick in the 2016 draft. Three months after that, the night before a preseason game against the Washington Wizards, Siakam saw his mother for the first time in four years. She came to see Raissa, who lived in the D.C. area, and to watch Pascal play. Pascal hadn’t folded his mother in his arms since his father died. James estimates it has been 16 years since all the siblings have been in the same room together. Victorie remarked that Pascal looked taller, stronger, older. They ate pizza at a restaurant near the hotel and tried to fill in the gaps of missed birthdays, holidays and milestones. Pascal says his mother was mostly stoic during that visit. “She doesn’t like to show her emotions,” he says, “but I’m sure she cried later.” Five days later, the first NBA game Pascal Siakam ever saw in person was the first one he ever played in — as a rookie starter.

Just six years ago, Pascal Siakam was living in a remote Cameroonian village, training to become a priest. Now, he’s a key member of one of the best bench lineups in NBA history. Mark Blinch/NBAE/Getty Images

Why we still love ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ 15 years later
Challenging the expectation of womanhood is a central theme in the film. Jess doesn’t care much about the way she looks or about the kind of clothes she wears, and she resists her mother’s overtures to get her to cook. She just wants to play soccer. Jules is also in constant conflict with her mother, Paula Paxton (Juliet Stevenson), particularly about her appearance. The first scene we meet Jules’ mom, she’s encouraging Jules to get a padded bra. She laments when her daughter wanders to the sports bra section. This is the kind of tension and gender commentary that we expect from films today, but made “Bend It Like Beckham” so progressive for its time. These days, it’s more accepted to have a more nuanced take on gender. It’s “cool” to critique gender norms in a way that wasn’t even 15 years ago. A film like newly released “Blockers” features a female character who is biracial (half South Asian actually) who was taught to love sports by her father (played by John Cena), feels like a direct character descendant of Jess. And yet “Bend It Like Beckham” doesn’t feel old. The commentary offered still feels relevant because even though gender is being addressed in different ways in film, we’re still catching up to the ideas Chada presented over a decade ago.

In “Bend It Like Beckham,” the lead character Jess (Parminder K. Nagra) fights cultural and familial norms just to have the chance to play soccer. Photo by Sundance/WireImage via Getty Images

Kentucky Derby: Mick Ruis risked it all on a dream … and just might win
Isaac Knable’s sister had prepared a Kentucky-themed care package for Mick Ruis when he showed up at the warehouse, a KFC bucket filled with local food and drink. She also made a Derby hat for Wendy in Ruis Racing colors, which Mick was all too happy to take out of its box and put on his own head. “Send a picture of this to Wendy,” he asked a friend, smiling broadly and looking preposterous. At the end of his talk to the wrestlers, Ruis dropped a surprise on the group: If Bolt D’Oro wins the Derby, he is going to donate $50,000 to the club. If Bolt doesn’t win, he’s still going to donate $10,000. And no matter what happens, he’s going to fund trips for 10 wrestlers to an elite summer camp in Montana. “The donation and the opportunity to travel, to go to camps, that’s just priceless,” Knable said. “I can’t thank him enough for that opportunity for our kids.” This was a millionaire Kentucky Derby owner in his earthy element, helping kids get up off the mat, just the way he has more than once in his life. On the other side of the river, the living is large for the thoroughbred racing brahmin. But over here, watching wrestlers toil in a sweaty warehouse, Mick Ruis is right at home.

Mick Ruis talks to wrestlers at the Invicta Wrestling Academy just a few days before the Kentucky Derby. (Yahoo Sports)

Ichiro Suzuki: the secretive superstar who defied baseball’s steroid era
He leaves the field with a trail of jaw-dropping highlights, the ones everyone mentions. The laser throw to third base that caught Oakland’s Terrence Long. The inside-the-park home run at the 2007 All Star Game. But the moments I remember most are not from the games. They came hours before in empty stadiums, when I observed him practice his bunts over and over until he had found the perfect feeling of ball deadening against bat. I loved his batting practice because it was when this slight player would unleash the slugger he kept tucked inside and launch booming home runs off the restaurant on Safeco Field’s second deck. It was an Ichiro few got to see. It was the one I could watch all night. In the end, though, his career stands as a monument against the era in which he arrived. He was the superstar who did not have to turn his body into a bloated, cartoonish replica of a muscle man. He didn’t have to hit home runs. He didn’t need to be big. At a time when baseball had lost the simplicity of what made the game great, he was a reminder that a ground ball to shortstop could be more exciting than a home run.

Ichiro Suzuki compiled more than 3,000 hits during his MLB career. Photograph: Ted S. Warren/AP

Quick Links…

Our Website

More About Us
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.

Our mission is to have Sport Doing Good be a consistent, and significant, contributor to the areas of sports, social responsibility and development. We look forward to partnering with other stakeholders in producing content, in creating and/or sponsoring athletic and service events, knowledge sharing, and conferences/seminars, and even having a commercial arm that could be the source of innovative social businesses.

We invite you to send in news, press releases, and guest pieces for possible publication, and email us with suggestions about the content and format of the newsletter and Sports Doing Good website.

Contact Information

Sarbjit “Sab” Singh