Sunday, March 31, 2013

Positive sports stories - on Elena Delle Donne & Mike Matheny

About a week ago I came across a sports story about things more important than just winning or losing and more recently saw (and was reminded of) another athlete's story in the same vein.

The piece from a week back was about St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and coaching of youth baseball. Written by Joe Posnanski for NBC Sports, "Matheny's Message: Sports Can Be Joyful For Kids" starts off four years ago with a recently retired MLB catcher Matheny being asked to coach the team his 10-year old son would play on. Posnanski writes of how rather than simply accepting the coaching offer, Matheny wrote a 2,556 word document with his conditions for him agreeing to coach. The idea behind Matheny's words (which he also covered in a meeting with parents prior to accepting the role) was that youth sports should be played a certain way, with respect for the game and opponent and free from overbearing parents. While it's true that Matheny as a former MLB player had the leverage to spell out and get people to agree to his coaching approach, it's great reading about it.

The other story I've seen recently on sports and approaching them with perspective was on University of Delaware women's basketball player Elena Della Donne. ESPN ran during Sportscenter a profile about her path from sought-after high school recruit to the women's powerhouse program at the University of Connecticut. The piece details how Della Donne then left UConn shortly after arriving and returned back home to be closer to her family, including older sister Lizzie who was born blind and deaf and has both celebral palsy and autism. Della Donne enrolled at the nearby University of Delaware and after time away from the sport, began playing basketball again and became one of the best women's NCAA players.

I've previously linked to articles on Della Donne with a 2009 column by Selena Roberts for Sports Illustrated and 2012 SI feature by Jon Wertheim and the ESPN segment was more excellent storytelling on Della Donne. The same day I watched it, Delaware was eliminated from the NCAA tournament 69-62 to Kentucky, with its star player scoring 33 points in this loss as well as in each of the Blue Hens first two tournament games.

Seeing the ESPN segment on TV sent me off in search of the video online and along with the below version of it was a Mar 2012 ESPN Outside the Lines feature article by Graham Hays. Providing more detail than could simply be in a short video, it's an excellent look at Della Donne and choices made in pursuit of the things that matter to her.