May 6 – May 19, 2018
Welcome to issue two hundred and eighty-seven of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:
- Joe Hawley retired from NFL. Then he moved into van and hit road in search of new path
- ‘She sees possibility’: How a teen rock climber shattered a gender barrier
- Derek Jeter’s Storytelling Revolution
- Special Sport Exhibition Is Opening at 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- Lindsay Whalen Juggles Jobs as a W.N.B.A. Player and an N.C.A.A. Coach
- A New Atlanta, United by Soccer
- Los Angeles Youth Get A Safe Place To Play Soccer Close To Home
- Bomani Jones Has a Funny Joke for You
- Farmers flourish in Tennessee infield and at the plate
- Anthony Lynn Gets his Degree for his Players, for his Family and for Himself
UJA Federation to host conference on Sports and Social Change (Beyond Sport)
An Open Letter About Female Coaches (by Pau Gasol) (The Players’ Tribune)
Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer Exchange program returns to MLS (Beyond Sport)
My Toughest Year (by Mike Moore) (The Players’ Tribune)
UEFA/WWF report – ‘Playing for Our Planet’ (Sport and Dev)
I sometimes come across students who talk about their concern of taking an extra semester or year past the “norm” of four years for college. They talk about taking extra classes over the summer or overloading on credits to “catch up.” While I understand their concerns, I try to calm them down by talking about how learning is not done over a finite timeline, that they should operate at a pace that makes sense for them. That concept seems to be embraced by what we call “returning” students, those who come back to school after several years away. Whether due to family, work, and/or health issues, these individuals are not able to finish their degree in the normal time frame and then come back and supplement their invaluable life lessons with the formal education they started years ago. I find the returning student to be the best adjusted, most conscientious student I deal with on a regular basis. They get school education for what it is, not a finite effort, but rather a phase in a lifetime process of learning.
One of the stories we feature this week involves Anthony Lynn, head football coach of the Los Angeles Chargers in the NFL. Coach Lynn graduated this weekend from UNLV, 30 years after starting his degree program. This is a great story of perseverance, commitment, promises and seeing the bigger picture. It is also a story of serving as an example to others. This is especially true for Coach Lynn, who sees athletes across the NFL who have not completed their degree. As he shows, there is no expiration date when it comes to the journey of learning.
The other stories we highlight this week include: Joe Hawley, retired NFL player and current nomad; wunderkind rock climber Margo Hayes; Derek Jeter’s groundbreaking media effort, The Players’ Tribune; a special exhibition involving the power and impact of sport being shown at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum; superstar WNBA champion, and now college head coach, Lindsay Whalen; the amazing early success of the MLS’s Atlanta United; a new example of the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s national effort to build 1,000 safe playing spaces by 2026; the emergence of sports observer/commentator/analyst Bomani Jones; and the success of two farm-raised, softball playing student athletes at the University of Tennessee, Chelsea Seggern and Meghan Gregg.
Finally, we want to make you aware of an awards ceremony this week that should be on your calendar now dealing with the “good” in media. The Cynopsis Social Good Awards “honors those civic-minded professionals who find a way to utilize the media industry as a tool for social good. With a panel of judges who’ll benchmark excellence in the area of social good in the TV and entertainment industry, we will be honoring everything from sustainability partnerships and PSA’s, to diversity campaigns, environmental initiatives, and more.” www.cynopsis.com/events/2018-social-good-awards/
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Joe Hawley retired from NFL. Then he moved into van and hit road in search of new path
Hawley isn’t sure exactly how to describe the void that football leaves behind, but he says it’s a tangible, physical feeling. He mentally prepared for this moment for years, and still found himself unprepared. He’s chosen to combat feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt by not just diving into his trip but also visually documenting it. In addition to his “Man Van Dog Blog” — which, among other video entries, includes an MTV Cribs-style tour of his van — Hawley has already racked up more than 13,000 followers on Instagram, most of them people who want to follow his travels — and, in some cases, be a part of them. Since he hit the road April 4, he’s already received unsolicited offers for dog dates, places to stay, random meet-ups and everything in-between. “What a time to be alive. Seriously,” he says. “Doing this 20 years ago would be like me out there on the road… figuring it out.” And, just to be clear, there’s certainly still some of that. “It’s not something everybody does. Not something hardly anybody does,” Koetter said. “But Joe is definitely a unique individual and his own man. I think it’s a really cool thing what he’s doing.”
Hawley packs up his van at the Old Federal Campground on Lake Lanier in Flowery Branch, Ga., before heading to Pensacola, Fla. (Photo: Jason Getz, USA TODAY SPORTS)
‘She sees possibility’: How a teen rock climber shattered a gender barrier
Athletes only rarely confront that line, the place where possibility is supposed to end. But that was where Margo Hayes, a rock climber from Colorado, stood last year, then just 19 years old, looking up at a limestone cliff outside Barcelona. If she got to the top, the line of possibility would be moved for good: she would become the first woman ever to climb a rock route with a difficulty rating of 5.15 (read “five-fifteen”) – the highest number grade. “It was a route that I knew I wanted to climb,” Hayes told the Guardian in an interview this month in Washington DC, where she had joined an effort to advocate on behalf of public lands. Before her decisive attempt on the Spanish route, called La Rambla, Hayes had gotten to know it by heart. She had practiced the moves, memorized the sequences. She had fallen asleep thinking about it and woken up planning for it. The challenge was to climb it from bottom to top in one go. She had the talent to do it, hailing from a family of climbers, including a grandfather who led the first expedition to summit Mount Everest via the Kangshung face, in 1983, and a father who scaled the big walls of Yosemite Valley, California.
Margo Hayes competes during the sport climbing lead single women’s qualification of the World Games in Wroclaw, Poland, last year. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Derek Jeter’s Storytelling Revolution
In the world of branded content, The Players’ Tribune represents a new wrinkle, as the company bases its revenue almost entirely on the creation of high-quality sponsored stories, following a game plan intended to leverage its greatest asset: the athletes. If the key to making powerful branded content is to engage the readers’ emotions—to make them feel something and then hopefully associate that feeling with your brand—then sports is a natural fit. Last June, the site hired its first CEO, Jeff Levick, the former CRO of Spotify, who has also held marketing stints at Google and AOL. A veteran of disruptive companies, Levick sees The Players’ Tribune as creating its own category in the media space, appealing to fans in the same way he saw musicians impact listeners at Spotify. “For me, The Players’ Tribune is like looking at what I had seen in the tech world—a unique revenue model,” Levick says. “This was a space that had yet to be disrupted in media, a site centered around a unique class of content creators that had never existed before—the athletes.”
Special Sport Exhibition Is Opening at 9/11 Memorial & Museum
This unique period in history reflected a seismic shift in American life on many fronts but perhaps overlooked – and documented for the first time definitively in this exhibition – was the powerful link between sports and commemoration. Sports provided a meaningful connection to those who had been killed. Stories of the bonds between famous athletes and first responders and the families of 9/11 victims are detailed in an emotional story arc in the exhibition. “For so many in the weeks and months following 9/11, sports offered a welcome distraction from the weight of grief, an uplifting experience to share with others, and something to cheer about,” 9/11 Memorial & Museum President Alice M. Greenwald said. “Some victims’ family members chose to honor loved ones by celebrating the sports they had loved, as leagues, teams, athletes and fans came together to affirm that what we have in common is far greater than what divides us.” Mark Messier, the former New York Rangers captain said, “For us as a Rangers team we really felt the responsibility to represent the city, to represent the first responders, to represent the people who had lost their lives, and to represent the Downey family. It was an honor and we quickly realized we’re standing shoulder to shoulder with the first responders who had been so brave.”
“Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11”
Lindsay Whalen Juggles Jobs as a W.N.B.A. Player and an N.C.A.A. Coach
Whalen said there is a difference not only in what she says, but in the way she listens. As she is practicing with the Lynx, she has begun to mentally jot down approaches Reeve takes, even asking her coach to show her what a particular play or drill is and how she teaches it. “It’ll be kind of like having another summer internship where I’ll be learning even more from her and watching her even more closely than I probably had before,” Whalen said of Reeve. “The way she does things as a team together is really at the highest level. I’ll be learning from one of the best for sure.” This is part of a multiyear plan Whalen had already put in motion before the Minnesota job came along. Two years ago, she took an internship with the Lynx during the off-season, working with Reeve and Roger Griffith, the general manager at the time. She did player evaluations, cutting up video clips and seeing what kind of fit the front office would be once her playing career ended. And this past off-season, Whalen worked in the broadcast realm, contributing to Timberwolves telecasts on the men’s side, and working women’s games for the Big Ten Network.
Whalen playing for the Lynx in 2016. She has won four W.N.B.A. championships with the team. Credit Stacy Bengs/Associated Press
A New Atlanta, United by Soccer
Jay Riddle moved to this city of transplants 14 years ago, and for much of that time, his life revolved around his job in the aerospace industry. His main sports fix was watching Arsenal matches on television each weekend. He knew little of Major League Soccer. But when Arthur Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons, was awarded an expansion franchise in the league in 2014 and announced plans to call it Atlanta United, Riddle jumped at the chance to embrace a new team in his adopted hometown. He joined the Faction, a fan group that connected him to a cross-section of other Atlantans. He made new friends. They introduced him to more. And after Atlanta United’s record-setting debut season last year, Riddle, 35, commemorated his new passion with a tattoo on each arm: an oversize Atlanta United logo on one side, and the Faction’s shield on the other. “I just went all in,” he said. “It’s about putting down roots and participating in the community. For 10 years, I didn’t look at Atlanta as my home. Now, Atlanta United is the glue to the community for me.”
Atlanta United shares Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the N.F.L.’s Atlanta Falcons, who are also owned by Arthur Blank. Credit Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times
Los Angeles Youth Get A Safe Place To Play Soccer Close To Home
For youth to get the benefits of any sport, a space to play must be close to home, says Ed Foster-Simeon, president and chief executive of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “If it’s more than half a mile away, it’s too far for children in underserved communities,” he says. “By creating a safe place for them to play and be active and have fun, they’re learning those life skills that are going to help them become productive healthy citizens.” Foster-Simeon says they’ve found that 80% of children in underserved communities aren’t participating in sports, largely because the “pay-to-play” model doesn’t work in those communities or there’s a lack of the infrastructure to support programming. Through Soccer for Success, young athletes learn about healthy habits, and coaches are trained in supporting the social-emotional journey. The results have shown positive outcomes not just for the athletes, but for the families too. Independent case studies have revealed everything from improved physical activity and nutrition for parents to better grades for students and lower rates of conflict and violence. For more information on the movement and ways to get involved, visit itseveryonesgame.org.
Bomani Jones Has a Funny Joke for You
Jones’ comfort with navigating white spaces worked in tandem with his own awakening toward racism in America to make him an ideal radio host: someone unafraid of provocation, but who was also patient when engaging people with different politics. He used the radio show to create his own little strange, hodgepodge community. He cultivated a set of regular callers, informal friends of the show—people like Mike Giddens, better known as “DJ Mike Hitman,” a DJ from Chicago’s West Side, who would poke fun at conventional radio norms by, say, sharing his phone number with callers on air, telling them to hit him up if they’re ever in town. Jones brought the fullness of himself to the show—his humor, his varied interests, his questions about the world, his fundamental beliefs. For many of Jones’s white listeners in those days, this was a transformative image of what blackness could be; not a flattened personality, but three-dimensional and human, with space for complication. To black listeners, there is nothing especially contradictory about someone who, as Darity points out, “quotes Big KRIT and also has an econ degree. But for a large section of white people, that’s not something that they had even considered.” Jones was smart, he was funny, and he made people feel like they were part of a community. And so it was only a matter of time before he would become one of those second types of people—the kind that accidentally end up on TV.
Farmers flourish in Tennessee infield and at the plate
The Weeklys traveled to Thrall, Texas, to learn more about Chelsea Seggern and her small-town roots. They received a tour of Seggern’s 3,000-acre farm, where the family raises cattle and grows cotton, corn and wheat. They saw how the land shaped Seggern and instilled a resiliency that translated to the softball field. The Weeklys knew they’d found the right player to complete a unique Tennessee tandem: Seggern and Meghan Gregg have combined to form a farm-bred left side of the infield and heart of the batting order for the Lady Vols. They seamlessly transition from baling hay, picking peaches and riding tractors in the summer to hitting home runs, fielding grounders and throwing out runners in the spring. “I will always recruit farm kids, always,” Karen Weekly said. “You get a steadiness from them. There is not a lot of drama and not a lot of emotion. They just go about their business the same way every day, and you can count on them to be consistent and dependable.” Gregg, a senior shortstop, and Seggern, a sophomore third baseman, have bonded through their love of softball and farming backgrounds. The team captains and top run producers share a work ethic honed from the hours spent on family farms that date back generations. They both have older brothers who worked right alongside them and have now become their biggest fans.
Meghan Gregg, Tennessee’s career leader in home runs and RBIs, says she learned the importance of teamwork on her family’s farm. Alison P. McNabb/Tennessee Athletics
Anthony Lynn Gets his Degree for his Players, for his Family and for Himself
“I’m excited, because I actually have 12 more credits,” safety Derwin James, the Chargers’ first-round pick, said as he walked off the field. “He inspired me to go get mine right away and not wait.” Over the last quarter-century, not having his degree nagged at Lynn. He didn’t need it to coach in the NFL—it didn’t come up in a single job interview. But while he’d been the first member of his family to enroll in college, he had not been the first to finish. Both of Lynn’s children, son D’Anton and daughter Danielle, completed their bachelor’s degrees. Danielle will walk again next weekend, earning her master’s in health administration from the University of North Texas. His father’s three younger children, Lynn’s half-siblings, received their degrees, too. As happens for so many people, he says, “there was always something.” He had two small kids. He had a successful off-field construction business. He was building a coaching career. In 2014, when Lynn was the running backs coach for the Jets, he got a nudge from one of his peers. He was sitting in the office of the team’s director of player development, Dave Szott, along with Szott’s wife, Andrea. Szott, a former NFL offensive lineman, had returned to finish his degree at Penn State 11 years later. “Coach,” Andrea said, “you’ve gotta get this done. There’s no excuses.”
It set an example for his players, it taught him how to be a better coach, and it fulfilled a promise to his late sister. On Saturday, nearly 30 years after he became the first person in his family to go to college, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn walked across the stage as a graduate. UNLV Creative Services