Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #291

July 1 – July 14, 2018

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

  1. Mission Accomplished
  2. The American Who Briefly Got Ireland To Love Basketball Is Looking For A Storybook Ending
  3. In Israel, Building a Lacrosse League From Scratch
  4. Women make World Cup telecast history in US, UK, Germany
  5. Team Fox Athletes Race Toward A Cure For Parkinson’s Disease
  6. African World Cup Teams Collaborated With FieldWiz to Benefit Continent
  7. How this 19-year-old World Cup star went from a rough neighborhood to making $1.7 million a month
  8. In Kelly’s Words- Mentoring in the SCI community
  9. How old bikes are giving refugees a new lease of life
  10. How NBA Players’ Advice Spurred Store Manager to Resurrect Pro Hoops Career

5 Ways Kids Gain Independence Through Sport (TrueSport)
Do you know your players’ WHY? (NAYS)
Dawn ‘Til Dusk (by Candace Parker) (The Players’ Tribune)
No one left behind. Beyond Sport and the UN SDGs (Beyond Sport)
During the World Cup and Elsewhere, Football Breaks Down Barriers (Peace and Sport)

One of the story themes we have featured multiple times before has to do with those breaking new ground, whether on the playing field, in the broadcast booth, or in the boardroom. Doing something new in the face of preconceived notions that it won’t succeed takes a lot of courage. No one wants to fail or be seen as bad at what they do. So those individuals who take that precarious first step are folks we like to highlight when possible.

This week it was possible and we feature three such stories. There is the great story of former player and now coach Pete Strickland who is looking to popularize basketball in Ireland not just once but two times in his lifetime; Scott Neiss and the growth of lacrosse at every level in Israel; and the story of women in multiple sports making inroads in the world of professional sports broadcasting. The other stories we feature this week include: the very moving account of one of the saddest events in American history and how the survival of a soccer ball helped a family, school, and community continue to move forward with even greater resolve; the inspiring story of Jimmy Choi and his incredible efforts to help raise money for Parkinson’s research; how a new technology is helping national teams from Africa improve on the soccer field; a look at young French soccer star Kylian Mbappe; how Kelly Bush is educating folks with spinal cord injuries and the friends and family of those with the injury; how old bikes are giving refugees a new lease of life; and the comeback story of Frank Session, a young basketball star who is looking to make it to the NBA.

Finally, we would like to highlight a couple of big sports events taking place this week in Los Angeles hosted by the good folks at ESPN. On Tuesday there will be the fourth annual ESPN Humanitarian Awards, an incredible effort we have been lucky to have been a part of from the beginning and then on Wednesday, the must-see ESPY Awards. For more information, please follow this link:

Highlights of the Humanitarian Awards will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN, July 24, at 7 p.m. ET.

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So, enjoy. And have a good week.

Mission Accomplished
Karen didn’t believe him at first. She’d seen the Challenger explode. There was no way a soccer ball survived that — and if it had, there was no way it had been sitting in a display case just outside her office. She walked out into the hallway and looked at it closely through the glass. There was no plaque or dedication, nothing explaining what it was or all that it had survived. Just a bunch of faded signatures. Maybe the parent was mistaken; maybe it was just an old championship ball. But as she looked closer, there in faded ink were the words that made her realize what she’d unknowingly walked by since her first day as principal: “Good Luck, Shuttle Crew!” A few days later, there was a basketball game at Clear Lake. There to see his twin daughters perform on the dance team was Col. Shane Kimbrough, an astronaut on the International Space Station. Karen’s husband worked closely with Shane at NASA, and they stopped to catch up at the game. Shane’s second mission to the ISS was coming up soon, and he extended an offer: Was there anything at the school that Karen would like him to bring up to space? When Karen mentioned the ball, Shane knew it was a great idea. He knew what Lorna had known — the ball still had so much to say. After Karen gave it to Shane, she noticed the date: Jan. 28, 2016. It was exactly 30 years after the Challenger disaster.

Photograph by Shane Kimbrough/NASA

The American Who Briefly Got Ireland To Love Basketball Is Looking For A Storybook Ending
The Irish national squad, a historically woeful outfit representing a country of 4.5 million folks whom almost to a man or woman don’t give a rip about basketball, is currently coached by Strickland, a lovable Yank with a cinema-friendly story if there ever was one. Think Hoosiers meets The Quiet Man, with some hints of The Hangover. As a young man, you see, Strickland devoted two years of his life trying to make Ireland care about the game, and briefly succeeded. Decades later, he was asked to take another shot, and now, at 60 years old, he’s taking it. A title for the Irish here, longshot that it is, would give Strickland’s story the happy ending Hollywood loves. Nobody is confusing the San Marino tournament with that other international sports extravaganza currently taking place on pitches in big stadiums all over Russia: All games of the Small Countries competition are played at place called Arena Domus, so small it could pass for an American middle school gym, yet even with free admission the bleachers were nowhere near filled for any group stage games. FIBA is streaming all contests live and without charge on its website. But folks from anywhere, even those who don’t innately crave the hardwood game, can be heartwarmed by Strickland’s Irish basketball tale. It’s a sweet story full of clashing cultures, booze, youthful breakups and middle-age makeups. And, sure, basketball. Lots of basketball.

Pete Strickland and his faux all-star team get feted during a St. Patrick’s Day parade through the streets of Cork in 1981. Photo: Courtesy of Bill Ruback

In Israel, Building a Lacrosse League From Scratch
In 2010, Scott Neiss decided to make lacrosse the No. 1 sport in Israel. The catch? The 25-year-old from Long Island had never played the game. Nor did he live in Israel. But on a trip to the country after graduating from St. John’s University, where he had worked full time for a pro lacrosse league, he wondered if he could run a team of his own. “I’m always on, work-wise,” he said. While in Israel, he started asking about sports and facilities, and realized that he could rally enough Jewish-American talent to be competitive right away. Eight years later, he has developed the nonprofit Israel Lacrosse Association, which has an eight-city league, has been a catalyst for youth engagement and, starting on July 12, will host the largest world championship in the sport’s history when 46 teams descend on Netanya for 11 days of competition. It will be the first time in the event’s five decades that it will be hosted outside the United States, Canada, England or Australia. Back home after that post-college trip, Mr. Neiss cold-called the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame goalie Bill Beroza and asked him to coach an Israeli team. At that point, Mr. Neiss had only a website, a logo and a sketch of a plan. There was no equipment, no players and no infrastructure. And Israel was a country largely unfamiliar with lacrosse. “You don’t need a coach; you need a shrink,” Mr. Beroza recalled telling Mr. Neiss.

Israel’s Noah Miller chased a loose ball in a semifinal game against Australia in the 2014 Lacrosse World Championships, in Commerce City, Colo. Israel placed seventh in the event. Credit Brennan Linsley/Associated Press

Women make World Cup telecast history in US, UK, Germany
“Women traditionally have kind of been accepted into their hosting role, whether or not they were the strongest candidate, because for a long period of time there was just simply the idea that it was enough to look good on television. It didn’t necessarily imply somebody being an expert,” said Kate Abdo, Fox’s start-of-the-day studio show anchor in Red Square. “For women to break into that domain, which traditionally has been very, very male, has been more difficult.” Wagner, a national team midfielder from 1998-2008, was a game analyst for Fox at the 2015 Women’s World Cup and called 10 of Fox’s 48 group-stage telecasts this year from the network’s Los Angeles studios, paired with Scottish broadcaster Derek Rae. “It wasn’t that I set out to end up calling a men’s World Cup match, but my path has led me here now and I’ll be extremely proud doing it,” Wagner said. “Hopefully I can prove it’s about my effort and my work and my passion and my commitment and my love for the game that comes through when I call the match as opposed to it having anything to do with being the first female.”

Aly Wagner talks during an interview, Wednesday, May 30, 2018, in New York. Fox’s Aly Wagner and Telemundo’s Viviana Vila are the first in-match analysts on U.S. broadcast television for soccer’s showcase, the FIFA World Cup. BBC’s Vicki Sparks is making a similar breakthrough in Britain, as is ZDF’s Claudia Neumann in Germany. Meanwhile, Kate Abdo is Fox’s start-of-the-day studio show anchor in Red Square.

Team Fox Athletes Race Toward A Cure For Parkinson’s Disease
For Jimmy Choi, who has been living Parkinson’s since he was 27, that horizon seemed like it was getting farther and farther away — and, for a while, like it might never ever come. He admits he was in denial for nearly 10 years after his diagnosis, to the point he needed to walk with a cane. Today, he is an ultra-athlete who has competed in 100 half marathons, 15 full marathons, and countless 5K and 10K runs — all on behalf of the Fox Foundation as part of its Team Fox initiative, a grassroots fundraising community. Choi and his family also host the Team Fox event Shake It Off each year in Bolingbrook, Illinois. “I had been battling bouts of depression the first eight years,” Choi says. “But when I fell down the stairs carrying my son, I decided to do something. I realized I still have time. All of the clinical trials I looked into had one common theme: physical activity. I started with walking, then jogging, then running, and just kept going.” In total, Choi has raised more than $240,000 for Parkinson’s research. And he recently competed on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”
(Video, Caption: Changing Course: Jimmy Choi’s Story

African World Cup Teams Collaborated With FieldWiz to Benefit Continent
National soccer teams competing in the same confederation are typically rivals: the U.S. and Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, Germany and the Netherlands. When five African sides qualified for this summer’s World Cup, however, there was unprecedented amity and collaboration. After Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Senegal had all secured bids for the World Cup in Russia, the Confederation of African Football equipped each national team with its own set of FieldWiz GPS trackers and organized a seminar on practical and theoretical usage of the devices. “What I found really, really interesting is the way they are working together in order to improve the football of the whole continent and not only each country,” said Julien Moix, CEO of Advanced Sport Instrument, which makes FieldWiz.

Senegal celebrates one of its goals during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

How this 19-year-old World Cup star went from a rough neighborhood to making $1.7 million a month
His hometown of Bondy is one of the French banlieues, or “places with large, working-class, nonwhite communities, synonymous with riots and social strife, thought of as breeding grounds for crime and terrorism,” as the New York Times puts it. Emerging from the banlieues and finding success is considered no easy feat. But on the current French national team, there are eight players from the banlieues, including Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi. Young people in the region celebrate their stories and dream of following in their footsteps. In Bondy, a giant mural of Mbappe looks down from the wall of an old apartment block. “He was the best kid I coached. He is probably the best I will ever coach,” Antonio Riccardi, one of his first coaches on his first team, AS Bondy, tells the Times. From the time Mbappe was six-years-old, he stood out. And he listened, which is an important trait for any athlete who wants a chance of becoming a star. “He assimilates advice quickly. You ask him something once, and the second time he does it,” Riccardi told ESPN.

Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between France and Argentina at Kazan Arena on June 30, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

In Kelly’s Words- Mentoring in the SCI (spinal cord injury) community
“From time-to-time I speak with people who are recently injured. It’s usually when someone is returning home from rehab (especially to Vermont) and either has a friend-of-a-friend that puts us in touch or one of the PTs I know asks their permission to connect us. After having a spinal cord injury there are so many questions and so many unknowns. A lot of these questions can be answered in a clinical setting. But what happens when you get home and don’t have someone to ask questions of every day or when there are more real-life questions that don’t have an easy answer? Real world advice and answers can be so helpful. Recently I’ve been spending more time with people who have new spinal cord injuries, and it’s been really rewarding. I feel like it can make such a difference and turn someone’s life around. One of the recent SCIs in Vermont was a girl who is in middle school. She is out of rehab and back in school but, as you can imagine, there are so many unknowns for her as well as her classmates. Some of the school administrators reached out to me and asked if I would come and talk to the class about my experience and my life now. I have talked to school age children before, but I had never talked to a 7th and 8th grade class. And never to a class that included someone who was recently injured!”

How old bikes are giving refugees a new lease of life
Often it’s the simplest ideas which make the most sense, and the Bike Project is definitely one of those. The charity’s aim is to “take second-hand bikes, fix them up and donate them to refugees and asylum-seekers”. The only response to that is: “Well, of course!” It was mentoring a Darfuri refugee while at the LSE, and giving him his old bike, that gave Jem Stein his lightbulb moment. Noticing all the abandoned bikes in the city, he asked himself: “What if they could be rebuilt and given to people who actually need them?” He decided to set up a charity – and five years later the Bike Project has refurbished and donated more than 3,000 bikes to some of the most vulnerable people in London. “In the capital alone,” says Jem, “it’s estimated that about 13,500 asylum seekers arrive each year. In that same period, at least 27,500 bikes are abandoned in streets, parks and estates across the city.” It’s the Bike Project’s mission to bring those two groups together.

Rolling onwards: the Bike Project’s founder Jem Stein with Ussamane Silla from Guinea-Bissau. Photograph: James Sharrock

How NBA Players’ Advice Spurred Store Manager to Resurrect Pro Hoops Career
“The thing that pushed me over the edge was that my best friend is Game the rapper, and he’s been telling me for at least five years now that you can make some money playing basketball. He’s the guy that pushed me the most. … I wouldn’t be as aggressive [in pursuing] basketball if it wasn’t for him.” This past fall, with the support of his family, Session decided to make another run at a pro career. He attended a tryout with the South Bay Lakers but was among the last cuts. After weighing his options, he took an offer to play in the National Basketball League of Canada with the Island Storm, based in Prince Edward Island. He played in 43 games, averaging a league-high 40 minutes to go with top-10 averages in points (19.6), rebounds (9.8), assists (5.7) and steals (1.7), and was named Newcomer of the Year. Not bad for a guy who had to be convinced by a rapper that he was pro material. Now a couple of months removed from his last game with the Storm, Session is still humbled by the experience. Remembering how quickly the opportunity came and went earlier in his life, he is acutely aware of how lucky he is this time around. He’s taking full advantage, and this summer, for the first time, he is working on his game.


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