2018 – Stories of the Year – Top 10
This is the second year of our partnership with Good Good Good and we are thrilled once again to share news that caught our attention for all the right reasons. We are confident you will be inspired by these individuals for the efforts they undertook as well as the impact those efforts had on others near and far. While the common theme involves sports, you will find it easy to appreciate how these positive stories can transcend that world to influence those in all walks of life.
So what is the theme this year? It’s “Do well for yourself, do well for others.” Sometimes people think that doing something for oneself is solely selfish, even when done for the right reasons and with positive results. We think differently. How many times have we been energized by a terrific performance on the field by an individual or team? They are surely driven by the desire for success for themselves…and we are okay with that. For their honest effort, even if that effort does not result in a win or a championship, can and does motivate others to perform in a similar fashion. We now see that such results are possible. We just needed to see someone give it a try. And in 2018, these individuals and teams certainly gave it a try and in ways big and small, changed society for the better.
Viral video helped young boy find his perfect role model (USA Today)
As soon as introductions were done between the boys in April, the two bonded like “two kids in a candy store,” Williams laughed. They shot baskets. Willis taught Jayce to finish with a high release and backspin. He gave Jayce a shirt that says, “Ten fingers are overrated.” They rode bikes around the hallways. They took plenty of photos. They played a lot of hide-and-seek. Jayce thinks he won. “Because I hide very good,” he said, clutching a signed basketball Willis gave him that day. Willis also got serious with Jayce. He talked about their left arms — or lack thereof. He told Jayce he was perfect the way God made him. He said to not let anyone drag him down, and that words don’t need to shake his confidence. “It reassured me,” said Cortney Lewis, who became friends with Willis’ mom, Jennifer Williams, and regularly texts her for advice. “I know in my heart that everything’s going to be OK, but it reassured me that, I mean Trashaun’s grown up to be a wonderful kid. And I know, at some point, Jayce is too. It’s just inspiring to watch and see where he’s at in life. It’s going to be OK. As a parent, that’s all you want to know: that everything’s going to be OK.
Being treated differently can be very lonely even if you don’t think you are different. Jayce Crowder is a 6-year old who is missing most of his left arm and he felt there wasn’t anyone he could identify with, especially when it came to sports. Or so he and has mom thought. 110 miles away in another Iowa town there was Trashaun Willis, a middle-school student-athlete who also had one arm who was overjoyed that he could be a role model, and friend, to Jayce.
The Guy Who Finished Last In The Olympic Cross-Country Event Got A Hero’s Welcome (Deadspin)
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.
The great majority of athletes at the Olympic Games don’t win a gold medal, or even a sliver or bronze for that matter. So why then are so many athletes smiling? Because it is about the journey, testing oneself, and inspiring those who did not think the possible was, in fact, possible. Despite finishing last in the 15km men’s cross-country ski race in South Korea, German Madrazo of Mexico was treated to a hero’s welcome by fans and maybe more importantly, his fellow competitors, who saw in Madrazo the brilliance of a valiant effort.
Meet The Woman Smashing Stigma And Rallying For Muslim Women In Sports (HuffPost)
Sports have long been linked to American identity. They have played a major role into efforts to combat discrimination and exclusion, and now that’s beginning to be true for Muslim women. On the world stage, there’s fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who made headlines in 2016 when she became the first American to compete in the Olympics in a hijab. A year later, Nike introduced its first sports hijab. But local visibility is important too, and Muslimah ’Ali Najee-ullah is doing her part. Known as Dr. Ali, The Fitness Doc ? she holds a doctorate in anatomy and neuroscience ? the Baltimore-based author, science teacher and fitness coach is busy fighting misconceptions about Muslim women by inspiring them to compete. She has run three marathons and 14 half-marathons, and last year led a 12-woman, all-Muslim team in a 200-mile nonstop race called a Ragnar Relay. She believes it was one of the first entirely Muslim teams to run a Ragnar. Dr. ’Ali chatted with HuffPost about the race, representation, and what she wants to accomplish as both a runner and a Muslim-American athlete.
What does it mean to be “American?” Participating in sports is often mentioned. We are a nation of individuals who like to challenge ourselves and others on the field of play. That challenge, however, does not take place equally for everyone at all times. This has been especially true for Muslim women in the U.S. Muslimah ’Ali Najee-ullah, aka Dr. ‘Ali, is changing that reality by competing and helping other Muslim women participate freely in sports while maintaining cultural and religious norms that are so meaningful to them.
Mo Salah of Liverpool Breaks Down Cultural Barriers, One Goal at a Time (New York Times)
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.”
Hate directed towards groups based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. is ignorant and destructive. It is also not easy to fight. It takes effort by a lot of people all of the time to have even a small impact. However, history has shown that athletes can be part of that fight, even if not intentionally. Mo Salah, an Egyptian playing for Liverpool, is one of the top soccer players on the planet and shows the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, that he respects both and is proud of both. And both groups have embraced his talent and sincerity and see him as a role model.
‘She sees possibility’: How a teen rock climber shattered a gender barrier (The Guardian)
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.
Trying to achieve a challenging goal is, well, challenging. This is especially true when your goal is well-known and being monitored by others. The pressure is duly multiplied. Margo Hayes, just 20 years old, became the first woman last year to ascend the toughest-graded climbing route (5.15 or “five-fifteen). Many compared her achievement to Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile. It was as much a psychological barrier as it was a physical one. And Margo broke that barrier for female climbers. And most are confident she will continue to set the standard in the future.
Anthony Lynn Gets his Degree for his Players, for his Family and for Himself (Sports Illustrated)
“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.”
When we are getting advice or instruction from someone, how much credence we put into it is somewhat dependent on that person’s credibility. What do they know, what have they done, to serve as a counselor on this matter? Los Angeles Chargers head football coach Anthony Lynn was never questioned about his credibility by others, but he did question himself. Who was he to serve as a role model when his own journey to a college degree was not complete? Lynn closed the loop started when he was the first member of his family to attend college. Degree now firmly in hand, there was no doubt about Lynn’s credibility with his players, his coaches, his family, and himself.
Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif graduates from medical school (Yahoo!)
While the rest of the Chiefs took some time off after playoff losses each of the past two seasons, Duvernay-Tardif went right to medical school. He has said repeatedly during the past few years that the Chiefs and particularly coach Andy Reid have been great about allowing him to pursue his medical degree. The Global News in Canada said Duvernay-Tardif’s schedule last summer was to treat patients while training in anesthesia during the morning, then in the afternoon he’d be in the gym to keep with his training schedule. Duvernay-Tardif even found some similarities between his two professions. “In an emergency department, you have to be able to stay calm, relaxed and apply rational algorithms to different situations in order to save patients lives,” Duvernay-Tardif told the Global News last summer. “When you’re on the field in front of 80,000 people and everyone’s yelling at you, you’ve got to stay calm, you’ve got to analyze different scenarios and apply the algorithm of the protection on that play.”
In professional sports, even college sports, there is a lot of consternation over what to do when playing sports is done. Some treat it in a linear fashion, that is, they don’t think about it until the playing is actually done. Too often, that has been a recipe, for a lack of success. Preparation is key, no matter, the profession or the goal that you have. You have to start while you are still playing. Pro football player Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs became the first active player in the NFL to hold a medical degree. His story is instructional for his fellow players and everyone else wanted to succeed in all phases of life.
How This Special Olympics Athlete Races Past Expectations (GOOD Magazine)
Andy Bryant was only supposed to run for 90 minutes. After all, he was in Albuquerque, running at elevation alongside some of the top middle distance runners in the country. Plus, it was snowing and cold. But when the group reached the turnaround point, he said he wanted to keep going. The 36-year-old from Woodinville, Washington, has autism spectrum disorder and has heard a chorus of “no’s” and “he can’t” throughout his life. But, thanks to running, he’s racked up an impressive list of accomplishments, finishing 30 marathons — including nine Boston Marathons. He ended up running for two hours in Albuquerque with the Brooks Beasts Track Club as part of their training camp earlier this year. “He’s very disciplined in his approach to training. He has intention behind what he does and structure to what he does,” says Danny Mackey, head coach of the Beasts. “If you ask him to do something, he just does it. The guy can work hard for a long time.” It’s this head-down, grind-it-out work ethic and up-for-anything attitude that Mackey believes has made Bryant a successful athlete and will help him excel at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in July.
One of the great attractions of sports is the way seemingly dissimilar people can bond together as teammates and as friends. Sports can be a way to communicate, bridging gaps that may exist due to language, culture or personal history. Andy Bryant found his connection to others through running. A Special Olympics athlete who has completed 30 marathons, Andy has set a course for himself and others that many felt could not happen for them. His groundbreaking effort changed who he was as a person and is destined to impact others as well.
From the Homeless Shelter to UFC, JJ Aldrich Says Tough Times Made Her Stronger (Bleacher Report)
“She did everything she possibly could for us,” Aldrich tells Bleacher Report. “She did it all by herself for years. She didn’t have any other family helping her out. She didn’t have friends that she would trust us with. It was just her raising us. My mom is my biggest inspiration, just as far as fighting every day and making it through, even if it doesn’t seem like tomorrow is going to be a great day.” Now 25, much has changed for Aldrich, though that fighting spirit forms the backbone of her professional life. As a pro MMA fighter with a 6-2 record, she competes in the UFC’s strawweight division. This Saturday at UFC 227 in Los Angeles, she takes on Polyana Viana in a bout that will appear on the event’s main pay-per-view card. A victory would give Aldrich three straight inside the Octagon, perhaps vaulting her into the organization’s official rankings and cementing her as a contender at 115 pounds. That makes the Viana fight the biggest step yet in a martial arts journey that began when Alrdich’s mother started taking her to taekwondo classes when she was nine.
Being a champion athlete is a great goal to have. Yet it pales in comparison to having a place to sleep and a meal to eat. The toughness of MMA figher JJ Aldrich is borne from everyday battles to have those basic yet important goals. Survival came first, everything else was secondary. However, with her family life becoming more stable, JJ started to excel as a young athlete and continue on in her career as a professional mix martial arts fighter. Her success is sure to find value in her future role as a martial arts instructor for young athletes.
Andre Ingram Is The NBA’s Best Story (Deadspin)
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.
Most of us at one time or another have said, “I’d do anything to…(fill in dream here).” But would we? If our dream was to play in the NBA, would be grind through 10 years in the G-League? Would we give up a chance at making more money playing basketball abroad or more likely, just stop playing so we could get a normal job, e.g. being a teacher, to support our spouse and kids? Well, Andre Ingram did “do anything” and he was rewarded with an opportunity to play for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA and proceeded to pour in 19 points in his debut.