PHOENIX – The New York Guardians of the XFL, a professional spring football league, began March 2020 with great optimism. The Guardians routed the Dallas Renegades 30-12 on March 7 behind their stifling second-half defense to move to 3-2 on the season. The next week would bring a showdown with the undefeated Houston Roughnecks – or so they thought.
By March 14, the season had already been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our last meeting was pretty sad, hearts were pretty heavy, just because as guys who are looking for an opportunity,” said Wesley Sutton, who played safety for the Guardians. “(We had) finally found a great opportunity to showcase our talents, and more importantly just be able to play football again on a professional level.”
But the pandemic didn’t mean the end of the road for Sutton, a former standout at Chandler High School and Northern Arizona University. In the following year, he picked up work as a personal trainer, bided his time and soon found a new opportunity to the north. On March 22, 2021, he signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
Sutton isn’t the only Arizonan to pursue professional football up north. His onetime NAU teammate Emmanuel Butler, who attended Mountain Pointe High School, is trying to make it as a wide receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. To the west, Tucson native and former University of Arizona standout Ka’Deem Carey is ensconced in the Calgary Stampeders’ backfield. In short, as remote as the CFL may seem for American football fans, it continues to provide a viable career path for many aspiring football players and coaches with Arizona ties.
Terrance Vaughn, a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, played his college ball at Arizona. He joined the Calgary Stampeders in 1995 after a brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals and, over the course of a decorated 12-year career, became the first receiver to reach 1,000 catches in the CFL.
PHOENIX – Michele McCann says she has “loud mom syndrome.”
At all of her three daughters’ games, she can be heard cheering for not only her children, but everyone on the team.
“I’m the loud mom in the crowd,” she said. “I’ve always been very determined to make sure that they know that they’re appreciated and there is at least one parent that’s extremely proud of them and loves watching them grow.”
Experts see value in her enthusiasm. A 2020 Women’s Sports Foundation study found that parental support has a significant impact on whether girls stay in sports in a way it doesn’t for boys. Additionally, by 14, girls drop out of sports at two times the rate of boys.
McCann and her husband, Tye, live with their daughters in Cordes Lakes, just an hour north on the I-17 from Phoenix. Senior Kylie, sophomore Danielle and eighth-grader Taylor play volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball and track in the spring. The high schoolers also play basketball over the summer.
McCann attends every practice and game she can. If she can’t travel to away games, she calls often to check in. She quit playing sports in high school because she wasn’t supported.
“My parents didn’t back me,” McCann said. “They weren’t there when I played sports, and it broke my heart. So I determined that I was not going to do that for my daughters. I was going to be everywhere they needed me.”
Nicole Zarrett, an associate professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina who co-authored the Women’s Sports Foundation study, said more girls drop out because playing sports are inherent in the way boys are raised. If parental support is minimal they have media celebrating boys in sports, supportive peer groups, role models on TV, and video games designed to show them they belong. For girls, those external resources are fewer.
“We’re looking at parenting being particularly important for girls because it may be the only resource they have in supporting their entrance and continuation,” Zarrett said.
PHOENIX — Mo
st youth who have played basketball at the park or in their driveway have likely done this: pretended to hit a high-stakes shot as the buzzer sounds. That could happen more often during Arizona high school basketball games if the state moves forward with a 35-second shot clock.
The National Federation of State High School Associations announced a new shot clock adoption option in May after eight states, including California, Washington state, and New York, completed an entire season testing the clock. Data and information gathered from these states through surveys were provided to the NFHS, which led to its decision. The adoption option allows state high school associations to choose whether they want to implement a shot clock as early as the 2022-2023 season.
Karrisa Niehoff, executive director of the NFHS, said the initial vote by the rules committee was 11 to 1 to allow the adoption option.
NFHS rules, historically, forbid states from using shot clocks at the high school level, and if schools did, state associations forfeit their seat on the rules committee. Now, state associations will remain on the committee regardless of what option they decide.
Since Arizona was not one of the eight states previously testing a shot clock, the Arizona Interscholastic Association plans to build from preliminary data, and do a thorough gathering of data in the next year which will be used to decide whether to add the clock as early as the 2022-2023 season.
Joe Paddock, assistant director of the AIA, said the association will look to its schools, athletic directors and coaches for insight.
“If the schools are in favor of it, you know, certainly we’re going to support our schools as we do and we’ll get the shot clock implemented,” Paddock said.
With help from Monarch Sports Arizona, a sports events-management company in Phoenix, the AIA started preliminary research on implementing a shot clock in the Visit Mesa Challenge during the 2018-19 season. The four-day event held at Mesa Mountain View High School featured 16 schools, a few from out of state and local schools like Sunnyslope, Chaparral, Rancho Solano and Corona del Sol.
PHOENIX – Scott Yates is a Denver-based entrepreneur and writer. He’s also one of a select few people around the country who can be described as a “Daylight Saving Time activist.”
Yates has been invited before countless state legislatures, which he’s exhorted to end the biannual switch between Standard Time and Daylight Time, or as he puts it, to “lock the clock.” His goal is to prevent the disruption in circadian rhythms that results from springing forward and falling back, which causes a slew of maladies: “car accidents and workplace accidents and strokes and all the rest,” he said.
Arizona avoids these hazards, as one of just two states with the clock already locked (in its case, on Standard Time). Yates said this makes it a “role model.” And while his movement is gaining ground – 18 states have passed measures locking the clock on Daylight Time, pending federal action – it’s still not exactly receiving mainstream attention.
But Yates does see one particular group show up to support these bills again and again.
“A lot of the states, when I testify,” he said, “the only other ones that show up are the golf people.”
The golf industry has historically promoted the expansion of Daylight Saving Time. One of the earliest advocates for setting the clocks ahead in the summer was an English builder named William Willett who wanted to be able to golf later in the day. And after the U.S. standardized Daylight Saving Time (DST) with the Uniform Time Act of 1966, the golf lobby was right there to push for an extra month of DST in the 1980s, which they said would garner an additional $400 million in revenue for their industry.
The thinking goes that extra daylight after work should entice more people to spend their spare time on the golf course.
“I think that most of us spend more leisure time in the afternoon,” said Calvin Schermerhorn, a history professor at ASU who once spoke about DST before the National Conference of State Legislatures. “So yeah, you may want to get out to the links early and have a nice early tee time, but the real sweet spot is in that afternoon.”
But what about in Arizona? It’s a top-10 state for golf economic output, according to advocacy group We Are Golf, yet it eschews DST.
PHOENIX – As Missy Farr-Kaye watched her friend Phil Mickelson master the PGA Championship, the Arizona State women’s golf coach said what everyone was thinking: “He is a fountain of youth right now.”
The legendary lefty and Arizona State alumnus became the oldest golfer to win a major at 50, capturing the PGA Championship Sunday.
It was Mickelson’s sixth major win and first since 2013. With it, not only did he become the oldest golfer to ever win a major but he also joined a prestigious list of golfers to win a major in three different decades.
And it raised an interesting question: Is Mickelson’s success at 50 a sign of things to come for other athletes?
“There are a lot of advantages that accrue over time in sports,” said Jeff Bercovici, author of “Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age.” “You acquire a lot of knowledge, and a lot of skill and experience and maturity and emotional control all these things that are advantages to any athlete. The thing is that you’re also acquiring a big disadvantage, which is that your body is getting older. You get slower, you get injured more easily. Historically, the disadvantages have accrued faster than the advantages.
“What we’ve seen, particularly over the last kind of 20ish years, is the science of particularly athletic training but also medicine, surgery, nutrition, recovery, has allowed athletes to slow down the rate at which their bodies age to the point that now we see what happens when the advantages, express themselves more fully than we’ve ever been able to see before.”
PHOENIX – The words were light, yet poignant.
“If we would’ve had an injury problem or a COVID outbreak, you might’ve seen my big tummy out there in left field.”
That’s what former Seattle Mariners President Kevin Mather said during a video call with a local rotary club on Feb. 5, adding that there was no way any of the team’s top prospects could have made the Major League roster last September out of reluctance to start their service time clocks.
These words from Mather, along with a handful of other statements regarding the Mariners in the same meeting, ultimately led to his resignation on February 22 after the video from the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club surfaced. They also mark Major League Baseball’s latest instance of service time manipulation, a practice that aims to prolong the amount of time that teams retain club control of top prospects while paying them the minimum allowed by the league.
While the situation involving the Mariners’ prospects may have been out in the open, most instances of service time manipulation are relatively quiet. Teams generally don’t admit to manipulating a player’s service time and often attempt to justify keeping them down by claiming more development is needed.
Due to the nature of service time manipulation, one can only guess how widespread the practice is.
“It is your job as a (general manager) to most efficiently use the system to your benefit, and so I think every team does it,” said Zach Buchanan, the Arizona Diamondbacks reporter for The Athletic.
Service time manipulation in baseball exists largely due to MLB rules that — either deliberately or unintentionally — incentivize keeping players who are “ready” for major league competition in the minor leagues to maximize the amount of time they are under their club’s control.
PHOENIX – Although Arizona is the site of two NCAA softball regionals this week, that might not be the case next year if the state passes a law requiring athletes to compete in interscholastic sports based on their sex at birth.
The “Save Women’s Sports Act” was introduced on Feb. 3 as House Bill 2706, and passed in a party-line vote of 31-29. The ban on transgender students participating in girl's sports was sponsored by Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, and will be introduced to the state Senate in early May.
The NCAA Board of Governors, which is comprised of university presidents and chancellors, issued a statement on April 12 that it “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports” and that “when determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected.”
Advocates for the transgender community were surprised Sunday when three states – Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee – which already have legislation banning transgender athletes from interscholastic competition, were named by the NCAA as hosts for the postseason softball tournament which begins Thursday. Arizona State and the University of Arizona are also hosting games.
Backlash from the decision could prompt the organization to be more selective in naming sites next year.
Arizona is among dozens of states that are considering passing legislation related to the federal “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act,” which specifies that sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth. A lawsuit filed last February is at the root of the proposed legislation.
PHOENIX – Carla Walker was tired of sitting inside during the coronavirus pandemic. She missed going to the gym, shopping and spending time with friends and family. Her retail job in Central Phoenix had laid her off and she had time on her hands. She wasn’t sure how to fill it.
One day while returning from buying groceries, she took a different route to avoid traffic and drove past something she had never seen before: a disc golf course.
“I remember seeing two guys throwing a Frisbee, but not to each other or to a dog,” Walker said.
She dropped off her groceries at her apartment and returned to Conocido Park in North Phoenix to walk around and watch a little longer.
“They were throwing the Frisbees at these metal basket things on poles,” Walker said. “It looked sort of weird but I could see a bunch of other baskets around the park and figured that’s how you play the game.”
Walker did research on her phone and learned they were playing disc golf. She watched a few videos and quickly learned the rules. She even found a beginner’s set of discs online and bought them while she was still at the park.
When the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to most recreational sporting events and activities, people began looking elsewhere for exercise and competition. While many indoor sports are slowly returning, outdoor activities have seen major growth and involvement in the last year. Disc golf is one of them.
The sport is similar to traditional golf. Participants begin at a tee box or launchpad and throw their disc toward a “hole,” which is an elevated, metal basket. Each hole has a set number for par, and scoring is the same as traditional golf, where each throw equals one stroke. A round of disc golf is typically 18 holes but some courses also offer nine and 27 or more holes. Depending on how busy the course is and how quickly one plays, a round of disc golf can take anywhere from one to three hours.
The Casino Del Sol Charity Golf Tournament is back for its sixth year to raise money for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Charitable Organization.
The event will be held Oct. 27-28, 2021, at Sewailo Golf Club.
Casino Del Sol has hosted the Charity Golf Tournament since 2015, with the exception of 2020 when the event was canceled due to the pandemic. This year’s tournament will have comprehensive safety measures in place to protect the health and well-being of all employees and golfers.
For more information or if you are interested in participating in the tournament, visit www.casinodelsol.com.
In Arizona, more than 973,000 people experience food insecurity, including one in five children. The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona provides food to people in need as well as advocacy and nutrition education throughout southern Arizona. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe Charitable Organization has partnered with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona to establish a food pantry on the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s reservation.
“The level of food insecurity in Arizona and throughout the country has spiked dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. We want to help those who are struggling in our community, and the proceeds from this golf tournament will do just that,” said CEO of Casino Del Sol, Kimberly Van Amburg. “We are honored to resume this annual tradition and support these remarkable organizations that are stepping up to combat hunger in Tucson.”
“This past year has brought us so many challenges,” said Michael McDonald, CEO of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. “We distributed more food than ever before, and as we work to make our way out of this crisis we know there is still a high number of children, families and seniors who need food. We’re grateful for this support from the Casino Del Sol Charity Golf Tournament to help us meet that need.”