Sports and Social Change
Friday, 30 December 2011 12:36

A 2011 Closing Thought from the Coach...

If you've spent some time around this site, you'll notice we're big fans of quotes, especially from the legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi. Lombardi had a unique ability to inspire and motivate his players, to bond them towards reaching a common goal, and to never quit - on each other or the task at hand. More so than the championships he won, his words have become his legacy and their power extends well beyond the football field.

As 2011 comes to a close, we leave you with these words from the coach...


To all in the global sports community who are doing their part to make this world a better place in which to live, we say THANK YOU and send our wishes for a very happy, healthy and safe NEW YEAR!


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“Not to sound too deep or weird, but I think that the times when you really appreciate surfing are the times you're really sort of becoming one with nature. Surfing's as raw of a sport as it gets.”

~ Kelly Slater

Hard to argue with the 11-time ASP World Surfing Champion on that. Surfing really is a unique sport, channelling the forces of nature and gravity to propel you across the water.

But did you know there's a cost to nature for every surfboard, every wetsuit and every bar of wax that's made? The folks at Envirosurfer do - and they want everyone to be aware of it. They created this cool infographic to show the impact surfer's have on the same nature they rely on. This isn't a scolding; more of a wake-up call to educate and spur new ideas for sustainable practices in the surf community. Check it out...


Surfing Infographic by Envirosurfer
Created by Envirosurfer: Eco-friendly Wetsuits & Surf Clothing.



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United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA)

ASSOCIATED SPORTS: Football (Soccer)
CAUSES SERVED: Athletics, Children and Youth, Disability Issues, Special Needs
EMAIL: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. " target="_blank">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Just minutes prior to the final championship match, players on competing teams are seen hanging around talking, laughing, and having a blast. Blasphemous, right? Nope. This is special. This is the sport of Power Soccer.


Power Soccer is a sport developed specifically for those who use power wheel chairs. According to the United States Power Soccer Association, “Athletes' disabilities include quadriplegia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and many others.” The game is similar in format to outdoor soccer, but is played indoors on a basketball court. “Two teams of four players attack defend, and spin-kick a 13-inch soccer ball in a skilled and challenging game similar to able-bodied soccer.”


While relatively new, Power Soccer is played all over the globe, and every four years there’s a world cup - which Team USA won in 2007. The athletes involved have varying levels of physical handicaps; some are 100% dependent on others when out of their wheelchair. And in similar fashion to “the beautiful game,” Power Soccer not only gives these athletes an outlet to express themselves through sport, but also a way to meet people and make new friends.


To learn more, we checked in with Karen Russo, executive vice president of the United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA) about some of the different facets of the sport, these amazing athletes, and the organization…

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about the sport of Power Soccer, and your mission with the USPSA?


A: Power Soccer is specifically designed for the daily power wheelchair users. The reason these athletes are in power wheelchairs is they generally have very limited upper body strength or do not have the ability to maneuver a manual wheelchair. Manual chair sports are prominent in the disabled community, but there really was not a competitive team sport that someone in a power chair could play. Power Soccer uses the power of the wheelchair to spin, pass and kick a 13" soccer ball to their teammates in order to score goals.


Our mission with the USPSA is to reach out to all power wheelchair users to educate them on the opportunities of playing Power Soccer through holding clinics, to validate the game through certified officials, typically USSF certified referees, who are now trained in our sport. The Laws of the Game are aligned with the outdoor running game with a few adaptations.


The USPSA is about opportunity and a celebration of the players’ abilities. The power of Power Soccer is about creating an atmosphere where these athletes learn life skills that allows them to become contributing members of society. Power Soccer removes and pushes back some barriers that are self created or perceived or perhaps imposed by parents of children with disabilities. Many of these athletes through much of their lives have been told, “I’m sorry but you can’t do that” or “I will do that for you or with you.” Power Soccer allows the players to compete totally independent without anyone but themselves and their fellow teammates. This is a great revelation to many that play this sport. Many for the first time leave their parents and siblings on the sidelines and discover this great independence and freedom.

{slimbox images/stories/uspsa_2011teamusa.jpg,images/stories/uspsa_2011teamusa.jpg,USA Power Soccer Team USA 2011;images/stories/uspsa_danny_fast.jpg,images/stories/uspsa_danny_fast.jpg,Team USA member Danny Gorman at training camp;images/stories/uspsa_img_4464.jpg,images/stories/uspsa_img_4464.jpg,Kevin Williams about to make a goal at the national tournament;images/stories/uspsa_jcandmike.jpg,images/stories/uspsa_jcandmike.jpg,Competing at the national tournament;images/stories/uspsa_jc_pete_omar.jpg,images/stories/uspsa_jc_pete_omar.jpg,Three team USA members during training camp;images/stories/uspsa_mike_jordan.jpg,images/stories/uspsa_mike_jordan.jpg,US Power Soccer team members in action}


Q: What sparked the motivation for the creation of the USPSA?


A: A governing body for Power Soccer had been envisioned for a number of years by a group of dedicated people that had been involved with the sport long before us, specifically people from the west coast originally forming NPSA, the National Power Soccer Association. This dedicated group worked together over a year to put together a constitution and a set of bylaws that would ultimately be the governing body of the United States Power Soccer Association, USPSA. At that time, there were 19 teams in the country playing local games and a national tournament but nothing was standardized; guards, speed, interpretation of rules, referee training, and with the growth of the sport on the horizon, it was necessary for a governing body to be established to take the sport to the next level. The United States Power Soccer Association became a 501(c)3 organization in 2006. It was clear by the growth of teams from 2003 to 2006 that there needed to be a central body to generate visibility, communication, and to support the growth of this exciting sport.

Q: These players must face unimaginable daily difficulties; have you seen Power Soccer as a therapeutic way of healing?


A: Oh yes, some of these athletes need 100% assistance when out of their wheelchair, they are totally dependant on someone dressing them, feeding them, rolling over in bed as well as their personal needs. Power Soccer gives them the power to play a sport totally independently, making their own choices on the court and giving them complete control. Power Soccer gets these athletes out of their rooms and away from the computer, TV and game consoles and puts them in an environment where they can thrive. The sport of Power Soccer is not just a game, but teaches many life skills that will benefit them outside the game.

Q: Is Power Soccer something people of all ages can play? Are there different age groups?


A: People 5 years of age to 105 can play as long as they have control of their chair. This game is for physically challenged athletes and not mentally challenged. In some cities, such as Indianapolis, athletes are placed on age appropriate teams as they have 13 active teams. In other cities, there may only be one team so they all play on the same team. However, this is the beauty of the game. All ages and genders can play together. The control of the joystick is the great equalizer. We have a veteran in Orlando who is in his 70’s and loves to play! The first Team USA in 2007 had players as young as 16 and a woman aged 55.


The USPSA travels to cities and states around the country holding clinics. These clinics are the beginning of a whole new world. Funds are limited so we need to be efficient with the funds we have. We have adopted somewhat of a leapfrog approach by hosting clinics in bordering states where Power Soccer currently exists. This furthers the camaraderie that is at the center of this sport. We typically bring two athletes and two able bodied persons to host a clinic. The able bodied persons assist with getting the soccer guards on the new players and the two athletes help with demonstrating drills and help the scrimmage flow so everyone has fun and learns. As with the running game of soccer, it is important to allow the players to touch the ball and understand how to maneuver it. This gives the new player and the parent of the player a comfort level and the confidence Power Soccer is a game they can play.

Q: Is the sport a medium for players to express themselves and let go?


A: I think this is about knowing you are not alone and there are others just like you. Being part of a team regardless of physically ability or being disabled, each person learns from each other. Each person learns they are part of the group moving in the same direction and each player has an important role for the team to be successful. They also find and develop friendships outside of their normal group of friends and in many cases can share their sporting successes on the court with their able-bodied friends just like everyone else. In many cases, their able-bodied friends support them at games and competitions. It gives the Power Soccer player a common bond with others.

Q: Do the players build relationships and camaraderie among each other?


A: I am not sure how other sports are, but I would doubt that you would see athletes that are preparing to play each other in a championship game, hang out with each other on the sidelines prior to the match. As serious as these athletes are about their game, and as intense as they are on the court, off the court they are no longer opponents, they are friends. These athletes have formed relationships all over the world and with wonderful tools like Facebook they are able to stay connected. The Power Soccer community is very strong and it’s not just the athletes that benefit from new friendships - the parents, husbands and wives, grandparents and more find a new support system as well.

Q: Can you tell us about one of your proudest moments while working with the USPSA?"


A: There have been so many; but one of my most personal moments was when my children made Team USA in 2007. We went into the matches as the under dog and managed to shut out every team except for Team France, and allowed only 1 goal prior to the championship game. The final game came down to overtime and then to penalty kicks. Team USA came home with the win. I was so proud of the whole team and what they were able to accomplish. It’s not very often someone can find themselves as the best in the world in something. On that day, this group of athletes was the best in the world and I was extremely proud of them.

Q: In one of your newsletters, a child was quoted as saying "I love it, the experience of power chair soccer. I love my team. My team is awesome." That must be pretty amazing to hear.


A: It is. Power Soccer brings a wonderful element to these athletes’ lives. Many of these athletes have been closed off to sports and the team experience. Words cannot describe the evolution and discovery of what a team sport brings.

Q: What do you think of Team USA's chances in the world cup this year?


A: Team USA has a very good chance of retaining their 2007 championship title. The team has been training for the past 2 years together on a quarterly basis and has been responsible for completing drill assignments’ as an individual for the past 86 weeks. They are ready!

Q: What can our readers do to help out the USPSA?


A: Funding is always challenging. We are launching a new campaign 100 days from the date of the 2011 World Cup, “The ONE Campaign.” The significance of THE ONE Campaign is to provide the team with the support to be THE number ONE team in the world, to achieve THE ONE mission of raising ONE million dollars, and THE ONE goal of winning the 2011 Power Chair Football World Cup. THE ONE will achieve these goals with the support of hundreds and thousands of advocates for the US National Power Soccer Team by using social media as our tool for promoting the sport of Power Soccer. To learn more, please visit


These athletes and staff are proud to represent the US at the World Cup. The team is depending on the success of this campaign. I hope you will help in what ever way you can.

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We just got a note from our good friends at US Power Soccer Association, with some news from the FIPFA World Cup...

After putting on two convincing performances in their first day of competition, Team USA was confident entering Friday's matches against Switzerland and England. After defeating the Swiss 21-0, they prepared for a very strong England squad. It was a hard-fought match, with England scoring the game's only goal in second half. Despite the loss, Team USA were still through to the semi-finals.

At that point, it was a matter of seeing who would be the next test. The opponent ended up being France, setting the stage for a rematch of the final in the inaugural World Cup in Tokyo. The match was intense, as Team USA struck first, with Michael Archer putting away a penalty kick in the first half. In the second half, France had several scoring chances, but a goal by Kendra Scalia-Carrow sealed their fate and Team USA advanced to the FIPFA World Cup final with a 2-0 victory!

The final game will see the United States vs. England in a rematch! Kickoff is Sunday, November 6 at 9am EST. You can watch the game live at Blog Handicap.

Team USA is one win away from being the first US Soccer team to repeat as world champions. Be sure to tune in on Sunday and support our athletes as they fight for the trophy!


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It's always great to get a chance to network with peers in the nonprofit industry, and we've been given a great opportunity to participate at one of the leading nonprofit fundraising conferences - the 2011 Vivanista Fundraising Summit in San Francisco, Nov 11-12.

The Vivanista Fundraising Summit gives volunteer leaders and emerging nonprofits in-depth training and expert advice they can implement immediately to sustain their fundraising through economic uncertainty and build passionate communities for the long term. Visionary speakers will address the most pressing issues including how to bootstrap fundraising events as well as creating integrated multi-channel fundraising campaigns using online and traditional tools.


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October is National Breast Cancer Month, and the National Football League is doing its part to raise awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer. For the past few seasons, every October the National Football League has partnered up with the American Cancer Society in an effort to spread awareness and knowledge for women in their battle against breast cancer.


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The sport industry has often been used as a vehicle for social change. Sport has been considered a great vehicle for promoting healthy habits and teamwork in youth, to support research for causes such as breast cancer and HIV/AIDS, raise money to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and united our country after September 11th. It has always been an affective way to reach the hearts of fans and citizens alike. Recently, many people have turned to sport to increase movement for another important cause: World peace.


This past month, Wilfried Lemke, the UN Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace visited Israel and Palestinian territories. Lemke spent three days in the country at a time when the world has once again turned its attention to this region and the issue of Palestinian statehood. He attended and gave the opening speech at the “Sport as a Mediator between Cultures” conference held in Netanya, Israel.


In his opening remarks Lemke said, “Let us all be ambassadors and mediators of the positive potential and best values of sport and build bridges of exchange, respect, and tolerance to overcome difficult situations of conflict and misunderstanding. Creating positive change is not always easy, and circumstances can sometimes go against you. But we must all persevere and continue our much-needed work despite sometimes some unfavorable conditions.”


The conference is an opportunity for the many countries represented to strengthen their relationships and promote friendly interaction among the representatives. In addition, it is a way for the participants to form partnership programs to encourage healthy relationships among countries. Lemke emphasized his support of peaceful discussions between Israeli and Palestinian groups including these countries’ Olympic Committees.

Special Adviser on Sport, Wilfried Lemke, with children participating in activities organized by Budo for Peace © UNOSDP/Antoine Tardy


Other prominent sports figures are also speaking out for world peace. The recent name change by NBA star Ron Artest to "Metta World Peace" certainly elicited more than a few grimaces and eye rolls from critics and fans alike. But despite the cynicism of many, this could certainly be a step in the right direction for the U.S. sports industry.


In recent years, the world of sport has become an industry of extreme competitiveness and rivalry. People have forgotten the joy and fellowship sport can bring. Players are greedy and driven by money. They play dirty and disregard the traditions of the games. At times it seems that rivals are real enemies, on and off the field. Violence at sporting events has increased, and players and fans are angrier than ever.


We only have to look back at how the baseball season began this year with the brutal beating of Bryan Stow, a Giants fan attacked in the parking lot of the Dodgers’ stadium by angry fans. Stow was so viciously beaten that he was put into a medically induced coma and is still recovering over 6 months later. What did Stow do to provoke this horrible attack? He deigned to support his team by wearing a Giants jersey.


Artest is the perhaps last person many would expect to be the next face of world peace. He has been known throughout the NBA for his “tough-guy” defense and is famous for being at the center of the 2004 Pacers-Pistons brawl, a fight in which Artest punched a fan. Some people may be skeptical about the kind of peace a man like this can promote.


Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest)












But maybe Metta is just an example for all of us of how people can change. Maybe he’s exactly what the sport industry is in need of: athletes who speak up and act out against the increasing anger and violence in their industry. Athletes who aren’t afraid to go against the norm and who recognize that sport is a way of reaching out to the world and promoting peace. After all, how can we ever expect to strive for peace on the battlefields of our world if we can’t even achieve it on the fields and courts of our sports?


So maybe it was a little hokey, but Artest showed that he isn’t afraid to speak up for what he feels is important. Hopefully, Metta World Peace will only be the first of many athletes stepping forward and speaking out for much needed change.

Additional sources:,

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Thursday, 29 September 2011 18:57

More Love for Lokomotiv...

I received a nice note today from another of the many hockey wives who are part of the Love for Lokomotiv movement...

This is a link to a wife's blog, and she explains our "hockey family" so eloquently in this post:

I just thought I'd share this because like you said in the article, the families in professional sports are so behind the scenes, and this just helps explain how truly connected we are as a family, and why this support for the Locomotiv team is so important to us. Thank you for your article and helping us get the word out.
Sara Haydar (wife of AHL Chicago Wolves' Darren Haydar)


"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life."
~ Richard Bach (author)


Thank you Sara!

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While hockey doesn't get as nearly much media attention as other sports do, the fans, players, coaches, management and especially the family members of those who play at the elite level, form a very loyal and tight-knit family. And when tragedy strikes any close family, you can be sure there will be many who rise up to offer support, in all shapes and forms.


Such has been the case with the recent plane crash in Russia that took the lives of entire Yaroslavl Lokomotiv hockey team and coaching staff. This was a tragic event that touched everyone who follows hockey, and it became quickly and painfully clear that beyond the young men who were lost, there are wives and children left behind with very little support. Until now...






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To kick-off the NFL season, we're highlighting two rookies who are as amazing off the field as they are on it...

J.J.  Watt - Dream Big, Work Hard

From pizza delivery boy to NFL first round draft pick. Sounds like a movie script, right? For J.J.  Watt, it’s a reality. The Houston Texan’s prized 11th overall draft pick had a less than conventional path to the NFL. After walking away from a scholarship to play tight end at Central Michigan, Watt called the University of Wisconsin and begged for a try-out as a walk-on. His wish was granted. He took some classes at a local community college before the fall semester at Wisconsin, and during that time - as walking away from a scholarship isn’t cheap - he delivered pizza for the local Pizza Hut.

“It was a real humbling experience,’’ Watt said. “Some of the little kids who once looked up to me would answer the door and say, ‘Mom, why is J.J. Watt here?’ And the only thing I could say back was, ‘I have your pizza.’ It was real humbling. And it brings you back to earth real quickly.”


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