Shifting Forward With A Boost From The Spurs

By Lorne Chan, November 04, 2016

Fran McEwen has an idea that she thinks can help change the world. So she’s come halfway around the world to get a little help.

McEwen is from Wellington, New Zealand, a city almost 7,500 miles away from San Antonio. She works for the Wellington City Council, where she created an initiative called Shift to increase the physical activity and wellbeing of women in Wellington ages 12 to 20.

McEwen said the number of women who are physically active in New Zealand is declining, and a lack of physical activity can also affect their wellbeing, self-esteem and sense of achievement.

She started Shift to get a generation of New Zealand moving again. To help grow her program, McEwen has come to San Antonio.

She is working with Spurs Sports & Entertainment as part of The U.S. Department of State and espnW’s Global Sports Mentoring Program. McEwen spent the past three weeks in San Antonio working with SS&E’s Community Responsibility team.

“We’ve seen so many times how sports are a way to bring about change,” McEwen said. “That’s become my passion, and I’ve received this incredible opportunity from Spurs Sports & Entertainment that will help make a difference.”

McEwen was one of 16 women from around the world chosen, with the program finding accomplished women from Ukraine, Benin, the Philippines and other places around the world. The program received applications from more than 100 countries.

Spurs Sports & Entertainment is the only professional sports team involved in the program. Other organizations involved include the NBA, NHL, PGA of America and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Last year, SS&E’s fellow was Najat AlSayegh, who is fighting gender inequality and obesity in Kuwait.

This year, McEwen has met with Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, Stars general manager Ruth Riley, University of Texas senior associate director of athletics Chris Plonsky and many more in discussions on empowering women in sports.

“The passion for serving others that everybody has in Texas has been incredible,” McEwen said. “Everybody has been so thoughtful and really lives up to these values of integrity and caring.”

McEwen’s program, Shift, currently serves about 500 women in New Zealand with community based physical activities, guest speakers and a fund to help ease financial barriers to participating in sports.

After she researched Silver & Black Give Back’s Team Up Challenge program, a program that empowers students to give back to their communities through service projects, McEwen said she made a few cups of tea and stayed up all night working on a plan to bring a similar program to New Zealand.

McEwen be in Washington D.C. next week for seminars with the State Department. As she presents her plan to empower women in New Zealand, she’ll happen to be in Washington D.C. on an election night.

“New Zealand in similar to America in that we’re facing a lot of the same issues,” McEwen said. “Obesity and diabetes issues and mental health issues are major ones that we’re facing, and our idea is to give back and shift forward. We’re going to dream big, and I can’t wait to get home and use everything I’ve learned in San Antonio.”

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