Catchings makes winning contribution to unity through sport

  • Tamika Catchings is making time to promote unity in sport on a worldwide level.

    Tamika Catchings is making time to promote unity in sport on a worldwide level. Daily Herald Photo

  • Libertyville's Lauren Paulson signs her commitment to play tennis at St. Norbert College. Pictured behind her from left are coach Craig Hunter, sister Sarah Paulson and parents Tammy and Stephen Paulson.

    Libertyville's Lauren Paulson signs her commitment to play tennis at St. Norbert College. Pictured behind her from left are coach Craig Hunter, sister Sarah Paulson and parents Tammy and Stephen Paulson. Submitted photo

Updated 12/5/2016 4:28 PM

Former Stevenson standout Tamika Catchings helped the Patriots win the Class AA state championship in 1995.

She helped Tennessee win a national championship in 1998 and the Indiana Fever of WNBA win a championship in 2012.


Catchings is also a champion helping off the court.

She is an ambassador for Laureus, a global sports-based charity that works to improve the lives of young people. Nelson Mandela was the organization's first patron.

Since its inception, Laureus Sport for Good has raised over $100 million and supported over 150 projects worldwide which use sports to tackle violence, discrimination and the disadvantaged.

Laureus Sport for Good has helped to improve the lives of millions of young people in over 35 countries and is proving that sports can change the world.

A news release from Laureus revealed that on Dec 1, Catchings and a student from Cyprus, Eleni Partakki, found themselves together on the basketball court celebrating a special moment in time.

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Partakki is a participant in PeacePlayers International, a Laureus-supported project which encourages Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot boys and girls to play basketball together.

Partakki won a unique drawing competition, from which hundreds of young people from Laureus projects around the world entered.

Her winning design became the back cover of a distinctive IWC watch -- the 2016 Portofino Automatic Moon Phase 37 Edition Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The sales will raise funds for Laureus.

With a theme of 'Time for Sport', Partakki's drawing shows boys and girls playing with a ball, just as they do at PeacePlayers.

Catchings traveled to Nicosia to congratulate Partakki and show support for the work which the Laureus project does in Cyprus, which has been divided by a UN buffer zone since a war between the Greek and Turkish communities in 1974 split the island.

Catchings is quoted as saying "Congratulations to Eleni. That's something unique she has achieved and she can be very proud. Her drawing was all about Time for Sport, but here in Cyprus it could just as easily be about Time for Peace and Harmony."


Catching called it a great project that breaks down historic barriers between the communities and shows just what sport can achieve.

"And special thanks to IWC which have been raising funds for Laureus Sport for Good for more than 10 years by means of this watch," Catchings said. "It's a really imaginative idea."

Men's basketball

Carthage junior Brad Kruse (Lake Zurich) scored 11 points as the Red Men posted a 70-59 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin opening win over Millikin.

The win concluded a six-game home stand in which the Red Men went 4-2 to open the season.

Women's tennis

Senior Lauren Paulson of Libertyville High School has made a commitment to play tennis at St. Norbert College.

A true battler

Many of those who followed area girls volleyball the past few years knew Buffalo Grove's Kiarra Akiyoshi was one of the top liberos in the Mid-Suburban League.

What many didn't know, is that while she was picking up countless digs and serving as the Bison captain, she was also dealing with a health condition that made her achievements all the more impressive.

Prior to her junior season, Akiyoshi was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a dysfunction of the autonomic (automatic) nervous system.

It can affect pretty much anything the body does naturally for you without you thinking about it.

The primary symptoms are rapid heart rate and very low blood pressure.

Kiarra would also experience bad headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue and more.

"I try to sleep well, eat right, do school work in advance in case I miss classes (not feeling well), rest whenever I can, and do my best to stay healthy in general," she said.

Volleyball has always been Akiyoshi's outlet so she was determined to not let the symptoms hold her back.

Flare-ups of POTS can happen randomly or after pushing too hard or experiencing too much stress (physical or mental).

"I've learned how to deal with it and I have definitely gotten a lot better," Akiyoshi said. "As medications were tweaked and added, I have improved."

This past fall, Akiyoshi was named an all-area player for the second year in a row. The senior contributed 388 digs and served at a 93 percent rate with 24 aces.

Her coach, Matt Priban, said, "Kiarra's leadership on and off the court is exemplary. She has a great ability to read the game and communicate with her teammates. She is extremely driven and competitive."

Which obviously didn't always come easy.

She always had to be prepared for what she called a 'bad day'.

Akiyoshi takes four different medications each day to keep her heart working better but still not exactly the way a normal body would.

Researchers say that it takes someone with POTS three times the energy to do something as someone without it.

Exercise is important so volleyball is actually helpful as long as it is not too much.

Akiyoshi also has to eat often, drink a lot of water, rest, and eat a high sodium diet.

"It was difficult to accept that I would never be able to play club anymore and that I would have to give up my hopes of playing at the collegiate level," she said. "But I'm so thankful that I was able to play in my last two high school seasons. My coach was very helpful and understanding especially because I couldn't always do all the tough conditioning, even when I really wanted to push myself."

Akiyoshi also credits her teammates.

"They could easily recognize when I didn't feel well and they looked out for me a lot, which also helped tremendously in dealing with everything," she said.

"I'm pretty stubborn and determined to always do my best, so sometimes I just needed one of my teammates to be like, 'You look dizzy. Sit down. It's OK.' "

It was her passion for the sport that kept her playing at a top level.

"Basically, my love for volleyball has been too strong to be hindered by any of my symptoms," Akiyoshi said. "Each time I played a game, even if I didn't feel well, I usually just forgot about anything besides what was happening on the court."

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