2014 January


Church group visits the Academy

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The Senior group from Jubilee Baptist Church in Daphne visited the Academy Thursday to take in the sights associated with the American Sport Art Museum and Archives on campus.

The group spent about an hour on campus being guided on tour by Dr. Fred Cromartie, the Academy’s Director of Doctoral Studies.

Dr. Stephen Butler, the Academy's Dean of Academic Affairs meets with Academy alumnus and owner of the Gulf Coast Interstate Relay.

Academy to be transition point for GCI Relay

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Academy alumnus Anthony D’Onofrio met with Academy faculty and staff, including Dr. Stephen Butler, Dean of Academic Affairs and Matthew Cope, Director of Operations, on Jan. 20 to discuss the Academy’s role as one of six transition points during the 263-mile Gulf Coast Interstate Relay race from New Orleans, La. to Pensacola, Fla. The Academy will also help mark a portion of the course for the Relay.

As a transition point, the Academy will open its doors to both runners and cyclists participating in the race, which will take place April 4-6.

Dr. Bill Steffen teaches coaching around the country

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From the sunny coast Florida to the northeastern U.S., the Academy’s Dr. Bill Steffen has been sharing his wealth of knowledge with coaches throughout the month of January.

Steffen, the chairman of the Academy’s Sports Coaching department and former collegiate soccer coach, recently returned from a speaking engagement at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday, Jan. 16.

Steffen was asked to address the issue of mental toughness in athletes to the crowd of more than 800 soccer coaches.

“Right now mental toughness is a buzz word,” he said. “A lot of people are talking about the way it’s defined and developed.”

Steffen used research he had gathered to instruct the coaches in attendance on how to make their athletes more mentally tough.

“It went very well,” Steffen said. “I got a lot of questions and requests. I gave out between 100 and 150 copies of my presentation to coaches.”

Steffen came to the Academy to help coaches further their education, after spending decades on the sidelines of collegiate soccer pitches, first as an assistant for the University of North Carolina (UNC) women’s team and then as head coach of the University of Oregon women’s team.

“I’ve enjoyed my time at the Academy,” he said. “Helping coaches further their education, I think that’s a great thing.”

Steffen was a successful assistant at UNC, as part of a staff that helped lead the Lady Tar Heels to three out of four national titles during his tenure there from 1993 to 1996. During that time the team had a record of 73-2-1. He spent nine years as the Lady Ducks’ head coach from 1996 to 2005. Steffen earned his doctorate, while working as an assistant coach at UNC-Greensboro.

Steffen, a former professional soccer goalie, gave tips to coaches of elite goalies during a session in Sunrise, Fla. earlier in January. Steffen spent Jan. 6-12 helping to train a collection of coaches on technical and tactical issues as well as fitness and psychological development.

Steffen spent six years as a player in the American Soccer League and the American Pro Soccer League, precursors to Major League Soccer (MLS).

“When I played in those leagues it was a bit more shaky than in the MLS,” Steffen said. “Occasionally checks would bounce, but it was fun. It was soccer at a high level.”

The upstate New York native played goalie for the Albany Capitals, or as Steffen puts it, “we called them the lack of capitals.”

“It was a great experience,” he added.

Dr. Sonya Wesley meets with U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun during a luncheon in Chicago. Blackmun was awarded the Academy's Eagle Award, its highest honor, on Oct. 21, 2013.

Dr. Sonya Wesley Named Alumni Coordinator

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Dr. Sonya Wesley meets with US Olympics CEO Scott Blackmun during a luncheon in Chicago. Blackmun was awarded the Academy’s Eagle Award, it’s highest honor, on Oct. 21, 2013.

There may not be a person more fitted to the title of Alumni Coordinator at the United States Sports Academy than Dr. Sonya Wesley.

Wesley, a former track athlete, who earned a Doctorate of Education in Sports Management from the Academy, said her first professional experience with sports was as an intern at Professional Athletes Career Enterprise (PACE), while a graduate student in San Diego.

As a PACE intern, Wesley worked as a liaison, assisting National Basketball Player Association members with internships, career opportunities during the off-season and career-ending ventures.

“That was my introduction into the professional world of sports,” she said.

Her work ethic and enthusiasm eliminated two positions and she was approached about attending the Academy by Dr. Judith Sweet, the first female member of the Academy’s Board of Trustees, who, at the time, was affiliated with PACE.

After graduating from National University with a Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis in Human Resource Management and a goal of becoming a career resource for athletes in the future, Wesley began traveling and training as a certified fitness instructor.

Wesley went on to volunteer at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

“When I heard America won the bid, I called the first business day at 8 a.m.,” she said. “I was told that I was the first one to call.’”

Wesley assisted the media and sat in on press conferences with the athletes, coaches, agents and others.

“I was thoroughly exposed,” she said. “That sealed the deal. I knew I was going to the United States Sports Academy.”

Wesley started at the Academy in 2000, and interned with the Mobile Wizards, an Arena Football League II team, under the direction of owner, Ken “Snake” Stabler, former quarterback for the Oakland Raiders and Alabama Crimson Tide.

“Among learning the fundamentals of sport management, Mr. Stabler taught me how to approach and address warriors,” Wesley said. “I gave team announcements and performed as a representative.”

After graduating from the Academy in 2004, Wesley founded a non-profit organization called “Sports Series,” an educational program that facilitated workshops for student athletes ages 8 to 18, teaching math and science through sports activities in California, Georgia and Florida.

Wesley dissolved the non-profit in 2013 and decided instead to focus her teaching efforts overseas in Malaysia, as one of 28 members of the Academy’s international faculty. She taught eight various sport-related courses and was voted as one of the instructors of the week.

“The experience was a growth spurt. The students’ work ethic overcame language barriers and their classwork showed that learning was taking place,” she said. “It was exciting to be away among an international population and to return to my alumni home, the United States Sport Academy.”

Upon arriving back in the U.S., Wesley moved to Alabama, saw what employment opportunities were available online and applied.

“I’m in a zone conversing with potential alumni, sharing my experience from the heart,” she said. “Observing Academy President and CEO Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich host prominent guests, being in the environment of dynamic sport art, learning cutting edge information in the world of sport and engaging passionate sport enthusiastic classmates, I evolved.”

“I am where I am supposed to be and honored to have been chosen to contribute to this institution,” Wesley said. “I want to share my experience and provide assistance to the alumni, as well as help establish a collegial body that continues their relations with and in support of the Academy’s mission,” she added.

Board of Trustees member Dr. Gary Cunningham, left, gives Shaolin Temple Abbot Shi Yongxin a hand-made book of the "Philosophy of Shaolin Kung Fu" course translated into Chinese.

Academy Teaching Sports in Programs that Span the Globe

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Board of Trustees member Dr. Gary Cunningham, left, gives Shaolin Temple Abbot Shai Yongxin a handmade book of the “Philosophy of Shaolin Kung Fu” course translated into Chinese.

Patrick Yipp, an employee of the Hong Kong Amateur Sport Federation and Olympic Committee, was the first individual to successfully complete an International Diploma in Sports program in 1987. He was joined in this distinction on Oct. 19, 2013 with the graduation of 673 Malaysian teachers who completed the 2012 International Diploma in Physical Education and Scholastic Sports (IDPESS).

In a graduation ceremony held under the patronage of the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and presided over by Deputy Minister of Education Datin Mary Yap Kain Ching, the students collected their diplomas at a special convocation held at Balai Budaya Tun Syed Nasir Ismail in the Dewan Bahasa Dan Putaka in Kuala Lumpur. Dr. T.J. Rosandich, the Academy’s vice president and COO, pointed out at the convocation that the training the teach¬ers received helps Malaysia’s youth both athletically and academi¬cally.

“I hope that all of you will go from here today and apply your new found skills within the schools where you work,” he said. “If you succeed in doing so, you will help to create a better learning environment for all concerned and most importantly, for the betterment of the students under your supervision.”

The convocation kicked off the second year of the 10-week IDPESC program that wrapped up this year in early December. Another 680 Malaysian educators received training in physical education and sports to help improve the country’s youth sports, among other benefits.

Yassin and the coun¬try’s other leaders had the vision to build vigorous sports programs for Malaysian children. It led to the Academy developing a diploma pro¬gram for the Southeast Asian coun¬try that is arguably one of the largest training programs in physical educa¬tion and sports coaching ever under-taken.

Muhyiddin, who received a 2012 International Honorary Doctorate in January from the Academy at its campus in Daphne, Ala., helped oversee the implementation of “One Student – One Sport” in Malaysia’s schools about four years ago to im¬prove physical education and scho¬lastic sports for the nation’s children. As part of the effort, more physical education and sports coaching training is being given to thousands of the nation’s teachers, who oversee the stu¬dents’ development in sports.

It also is important to the devel¬opment of a national system that al¬lows youth to advance in sports, with the best eventually competing in the Olympics or in professional sports.
Students from around the world have successfully completed the Academy’s International Diploma in Sports programs. In addition to Malaysia, students have hailed from Hong Kong, Bahrain, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

THAILAND - For the past nine years, the Academy has taught International Certification programs in Sports Management (ICSM) and Sports Coaching (ICSC) in cooperation with the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT). In addition to the twelve weeks of on-site classroom instruction in Bangkok, for the past seven consecutive years the Academy has taken Thailand officials and best students from the program on a two-week, cross-country American sports study tour.

This year included among other things in-depth looks at United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Training Center in San Diego, and the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

CHINA - About two-dozen Shanghai swimming coaches hosted by the Academy in May received hands-on and classroom instruction. While on campus, the Chinese students participated in seminars taught by Academy faculty on subjects, such as coaching methodology, sports psychology, strength and conditioning, fitness and sports medicine.

They also participated in practical sessions at Bishop State and Auburn University. At Auburn, they spent a day with the college swimming powerhouse learning new training techniques and had the chance to quiz both coach Brett Hawke and Tyler McGill, an Olympic gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Academy is currently planning for the delivery of its International Diploma in Sports Coaching in May 2014 in cooperation with the Shanghai Sports Administration (SSA). It calls for the Academy to help transition some 100 of China’s elite athletes and Olympians into new careers as coaches.

SHAOLIN TEMPLE - The Academy has also worked with the Shaolin Temple since 2006. Working with individuals steeped in the lore of the Shaolin, reputed to be the well-spring from which all the marital arts originated, the Academy developed an online course to introduce kung-fu enthusiasts and Chan Buddhists to the philosophical underpinnings of the martial arts.

While the original course was posted in English, beginning this past October, Chinese speakers around the world could take this online course for the first time in their own language. To commemorate this event, Board of Trustees member Dr. Gary Cunningham presented Shaolin Temple Abbot Shi Yongxin with an original, hand-made, leather-bound book of the “Philosophy of Shaolin Kung Fu” course translated in both Chinese and English during the Shaolin Temple Cultural Festival in October at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

GABON - The Academy sent a team in March led by Dr. T.J. Rosandich to conduct a comprehensive study of Gabon’s sports programs and facilities in its cities and rural areas. It submitted a comprehensive report on the West Africa country’s efforts to the Office of the President in May.

This comprehensive evaluation of sport in Gabon followed an earlier effort in which the Academy prepared a Legacy Study concerning the use of Stadia built for the Cup of African Nations held in Gabon in January and February 2012. The Legacy study addressed issues ranging from the operation and maintenance of the facilities to how they could be employed to support Gabon’s national sport effort in the years to come.

Both the Assessment Report and the Legacy Study have formed the cornerstone for a roadmap for the development of a comprehensive National Sport Effort for the country. Findings of these reports were distilled into a draft program entitled “Sport in Gabon: The Way Forward” that is currently being reviewed by senior governmental officials in the Office of the President and in the Ministry of Education, the governmental agency responsible for sport in the country.

Photography by Perri Farlow

Chair of Academy’s Art Committee Helps Through Artwork

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“I am thinking of a favorite day in my life. What were you wearing on your favorite day?” With these simple questions, Nancy Raia, art teacher, chair of the Academy’s Art Committee and Director of Outreach at the Eastern Shore Art Center, draws out stories of childhood, personal accomplishments, and simple pleasures from her class of adults, who have suffered memory loss and disabilities.

Raia uses affirmative memory techniques, such as avoiding the word remember, to stir forgetting minds until once-familiar moments become almost clear again. Paint brushes slowly fill in pieces of the past – a St. Louis Cardinals jersey worn to baseball games with his son, jeans ironed into straight creases again for her children, cut-off pants worm fishing the day after the Army finally set him free. Lives lived before Alzheimer’s. Before the stroke.

“I draw a line, you draw a line, and our conversation begins.”

“Nancy takes our people back to things they can remember, a time when they had clarity,” says Leisa Richards, director of Shepherd’s Place in Fairhope, a daily program that provides care and activities for adults with memory loss or physical needs. “They relax and their personality comes out. They show who they were before, when they weren’t fearful or insecure. Nancy’s art projects give them things to take home and display, and it builds their self-esteem.”

Photography by Perri Farlow

Photography by Perri Farlow

In addition to her work with memory loss, Raia also lends her talents to one of the Academy’s top committees. The group she leads at the Academy selects the American Sport Art Museum and Archives Sport Artists of the Year.

The 2013 honorees are two prolific and world-renowned Olympic artists, American sculptor Edward Eyth and Australian painter Charles Billich. The two were honored at the annual “A Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete” as part of the Academy’s Awards of Sport, held in November 2013 at the Daphne campus.

Raia is a natural artist, but majored in finance at Emory University and worked in banking, television, insurance and acting. While voluntarily teaching art classes at her daughter’s elementary school, Raia rediscovered her own creative roots and found her calling. Twenty years later, Raia was named the 2011 Art Educator of the Year for Special Needs by the Alabama Art Education Association. She is also an award-winning artist specializing in acrylic and watercolors. She designs her own line of uplifting pen and ink greeting cards and motivational products that are sold at the Eastern Shore Art Center and Private Gallery in Fairhope.

Raia’s creativity and contagious energy help her connect with any person, no matter the artistic skill or disability. She is an expressive teacher with a personality as cheerful as the yellow or pink shirts that she often wears. As she gives instructions, encouragement, or shares a story, it is clear that she sincerely cares about each person around her.

“I am a communicator first,” Raia said about herself. “I like to use art and humor to communicate. We all speak the same language through art, no matter the situation, illness, or disability. Art is about connection and showing that everyone has a story. I love to tell these stories and I lobby for people who don’t have as loud a voice.”

Each month, Raia and her volunteers teach over 100 children and adults with disabilities or chronic illnesses in classes at the Regional School in Mobile, The Brennity assisted living in Daphne and Fairhope, and Shepherd’s Place. They also teach art classes and art camps for children and youth groups such as the Fairhope Rotary Club’s youth program and the Snook Boys and Girls Club in Foley.

“Whatever the population is, Nancy is able to pin it down. It is her soul and she loves what she does,” said Susan Wright, Raia’s treasured volunteer assistant. “She reads a room and watches how they interact with each other, then makes adjustments. If there is a problem or hesitation, she immediately shifts to find another way to get their attention.”

Marion Peters, 57, is one of Raia’s students at The Brennity in Daphne. A former nursing instructor at the University of South Alabama, Peters has Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that causes a breakdown of nerve cells in the brain and a decline in physical and mental abilities. “This disease is something that gets worse and it causes depression and high anxiety,” said Peters. “My penmanship is bad, but painting is something that I can still do with my hands. It makes me feel good that I did it.”

It’s that sense of accomplishment, the chance to let go of problems and express thoughts and feelings without the barriers of disabilities, that proves the healing powers of art. Helping people connect with their emotions and express themselves is Raia’s biggest reward.

“All you need for my class is a sense of humor, an open mind and a willingness to paint,” says Raia. “I draw a line, you draw a line and our conversation begins,” says Raia. “We share a lot together and at the end of the class I feel completely fulfilled.”

This story on Nancy Raia can be found in The Southern Rambler magazine. It is published here with permission.

Academy On-campus Alumni Association Reconstituted

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An organizational meeting of the new Alumni Association will take place at 10:30 a.m. Friday, January 17 in the executive boardroom on the campus of the United States Sports Academy. Future meetings will be held at the Eagle’s Nest.

There are 338 Academy alumni who live within 100 miles of campus, so the timing couldn’t be better to start a local chapter. To be considered alumni, a student must’ve taken a class through the Academy.

Future meeting dates will be announced.

AAHPERD Changes Its Name to SHAPE America

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The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) announced it will change its name to the Society of Health and Physical Educators, doing business as SHAPE America.

“We are now poised to move forward in creating a new chapter in our 128-year-old history with our new name, vision and mission,” said President Gale Wiedow, interim dean of the College of Education at Dakota State University in Madison, S.D. “A new logo, tagline and brand for the organization, as well as a new website, will be introduced early in 2014.”

Through the name change, SHAPE America is working to:

  • Shape a future where healthy is the norm,
  • Shape a standard of excellence in physical education and health education,
  • Shape the lifelong habits of young people,
  • Shape and influence policy related to physical education and school health education.

Shape America is the organization’s seventh name change since its founding in 1885, as the Association for the Advancement of Physical Education. It is the largest organization of physical educators in the country with close to 20,000 members.

Shape America created the first national standards for K-12 physical education, developed the “Let’s Move in School” public awareness campaign to increase physical activity before, during and after school and originated the “Shape of the Nation Report,” which reviews the status of physical education across the U.S.

Earlier this year the organization voted unanimously to unify what were five national associations and a research consortium under the AAHPERD umbrella. Among its many partners, SHAPE America works with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, American Heart Association, The Cooper Institute, First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

This is a pencil sketch of the final work by Daniel Moore in honor of the Game of the Year.

Auburn’s Last-second Iron Bowl Victory Named Academy’s College Football Game of the Year

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“THE RUNBACK” by Daniel Moore

The game chosen for the prestigious honor of the United States Sports Academy’s College Football Game of the Year wasn’t only a great game, but will most definitely go down in Iron Bowl lore.

The Auburn Tigers’ last-second defeat of the previously unbeaten and two-time defending National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide beat out a litany of nail-biting gridiron contests at the conclusion of 17 weeks of voting.

The now-famous runback of a missed Alabama field goal by Auburn senior Chris Davis with no time on the clock will be remembered for generations of college football fans to come and will be added as one of many defining moments in what is arguably college football’s greatest rivalry.

Everything leading up to the final play helped to make the game special; from Auburn’s vaunted running attack picking up more than 300 yards on the ground, to previous missed field goals from the Tide. The game was an instant classic and truly deserves this year’s distinction as the College Football Game of the Year.

The Tiger victory sealed a Southeastern Conference Championship berth and vaulted Auburn into the National Championship discussion. The win capped a marvelous comeback season for the Tigers, finishing with one conference loss this past season after a winless league campaign the previous year.

The honored game beat out other classics this year, including: Michigan State’s shake up of the BCS standings with a 10-point win over then second-ranked Ohio State and Clemson’s 38-35 win over Georgia to open the season, among many others.

Each year Daniel Moore, the American Sport Art Museum and Archives’ 2005 Sport Artist of the Year, is commissioned by the Academy to create a painting honoring the selected game and this year is no different. Moore has already begun the process by releasing to the Academy a pencil sketch of a piece fittingly titled “The Runback.” The piece will immortalize the Tigers’ season-saving moment, depicting Davis torching the left sideline of Jordan-Hare Stadium, untouched by Tide defenders.

The Academy, also known as America’s Sports University, donates the painting and $5,000 to the general scholarship fund of the annual winner, which this year will be Auburn.

A national panel of experts selects the weekly winner of the Academy’s College Football Game of the Year contest. Each week’s winner is considered for the award honoring the best college football game of the year at the end of the season. Last season’s winner was Texas A&M’s 29-24 shocking upset of Alabama in the SEC showdown.

The committee is currently chaired by Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the United States Naval Academy. Lengyel was also a college football coach.

Previous winners of the College Football Game of the Year contest are as follows: Rutgers University over Louisville, 2006; Appalachian State University over Michigan, 2007; Texas Tech University over Texas, 2008; Alabama over Florida, 2009; Auburn over Oregon, 2010 and Alabama over LSU, 2011.

Florida State Beats Auburn in Final BCS Game to Earn the Academy’s Game of the Week Honor

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Florida State overcame an 18-point deficit to beat Auburn 34-31 in the final Bowl Championship Series National Championship game.

The game that ended the Southeastern Conference’s seven-game winning streak in title game and gave FSU its third championship was named the United States Sports Academy’s Game of the Week for Week 16.

Trailing 31-27 to the Tigers, the Seminoles’ Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston threw a touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left to take the lead and the win. The pass ended an exciting series of plays in the final minutes of the contest.

After a 22-yard Cody Parkey field goal that put the Tigers up by four, FSU’s Levonte Whitfield answered with a 100-yard kickoff return that gave the Seminoles their first lead of the game.

Auburn’s Tre Mason added to the team’s 232 rushing yards with a 37-yard jaunt into the end zone to give Auburn a 31-27 lead late in the game, but Winston led the Seminoles down the field with just a little more than a minute left to score and seal the win.

Winston went 20-for-35 with two touchdowns through the air. The FSU ground attack gained 148 yards on 31 attempts. Auburn’s Nick Marshall went 14-for-27 with two touchdowns.

A national panel of experts selects the weekly winner of the Academy’s College Football Game of the Year Contest. Each week’s winner is considered for the award honoring the best college football game of the year at the end of the season. Last season’s winner was Texas A&M’s 29-24 shocking upset of Alabama in the SEC showdown.

The committee is currently chaired by Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the United States Naval Academy. Lengyel was also a college football coach best known for being the head coach who resurrected the Marshall University football program, as depicted in the 2006 film “We Are Marshall.”

Daniel Moore, the American Sports Art Museum and Archives 2005 Sport Artist of the Year, is commissioned by the Academy each year to create a painting honoring the selected College Football Game of the Year. The Academy, also known as America’s Sports University, donates the painting and $5,000 to the general scholarship fund of the annual winner.

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