Coaches and PT’s work together to keep athletes strong after injuries

By Zoe Collins Rath
Medill Reports

Despite hours in the gym and weight room, practices and taking good care of their bodies, elite athletes still sustain physical injuries that can take them out of their sport for as much as a year.

One of the most common injuries is a torn ACL, one of the four crucial ligaments to stabilize the knee. Girls of all ages and women are more prone to ACL tears. The focus for these injuries are often seen in basketball and soccer players, but gymnasts need to be included more in the conversation.

“My concern is watching a kid who doesn’t fully understand their body and the way to properly land,” said gymnastics coach DeAvera Todd a coach in Atlanta but a former UIC Flame. “They could blow their knees out because there is no strength in the quads and glutes to protect them from extremely hard skills.”

Video: Exercising and strengthening the glutes is one way to help prevent ACL tears. (Courtesy of DeAvera Todd)

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Chinese in US fight the coronavirus at home with charter plane of medical supplies

By Yun Hao
Medill Reports

Chen Cui, a volunteer from Seattle and CEO of marketing company Matone, burst into tears as the plane finally started to pull out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport at about 10:30 p.m. on Jan 28. He and other volunteers had worked hard to collect the medical supplies on the plane.

For several days before, fewer than 20 Chinese volunteers managed to get a Boeing 747 plane that flies to China filled with medical goods that the Chinese hospitals urgently need to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Most of the volunteers work or are attending college in the U.S.

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Heart of glass: Artist Pearl Dick explains how glassblowing can spark creativity and hope

By Maura Turcotte
Medill Reports

At Project FIRE, artist Pearl Dick teaches students how to use glowing furnaces, scorched metal rods and molten glass to craft more than delicate sculptures. The studio’s 23 participants, who were all shot in Chicago as teens or young adults, also learn how to build relationships and heal. Dick cofounded Project FIRE, or Fearless Initiative for Recovery and Empowerment, with clinical psychologist Brad Stolbach in 2014 to address trauma from gun violence. Six years later, the organization in Chicago’s East Garfield Park continues to expand. This year it will collaborate with Therman Statom, a prominent black glass artist, on a potential 2021 show. “I’ve just seen such dramatic change in people’s willingness to be a part of a community and contribute to that community,” says Dick, 43. “It’s unreal.”

How do you encourage creativity in Project FIRE participants?

We’ll brainstorm different things that we’re feeling and thinking about as a group and as individuals, and then we’ll talk about ways to express those things with glass. And it just flows. A lot of people don’t think that they’re creative or don’t do things creatively because they don’t know that it’s a possibility. It’s incredible what people come up with when they have that encouragement.

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Former Chicago Luvabull dances her way through an ever-evolving career

By Michaela Schirra
Medill Reports

Every day is different for Amelia Carpenter. From teaching fitness and dance classes to coaching a high school dance team, Carpenter has chosen to pursue her passion through varied paths.

Carpenter, 30, currently works as a professional dancer, coach and teacher in Chicago and will continue to host private dance intensive programs to inspire dancers.

After balancing multiple jobs in order to live her dream, Carpenter jumped into dance full time in September. While her dance journey continues to evolve, it began when she wanted to join her high school’s dance team. Continue reading

Sanders rally in Charlotte draws a mix of committed, undecided supporters

Maura Turcotte
Medill Reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sen. Bernie Sanders left his rally to a standing ovation. Macasha Campbell left undecided.

Campbell, 29, voted for the progressive candidate in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and said she might vote for him again. Marijuana legalization, student loan forgiveness and health care expansion — some of Sanders’ key issues — are also some of her key issues in this year’s presidential election.

But, she added, she’s also interested in Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota moderate who scored a surprising third-place finish in New Hampshire, finishing behind Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“There’s a lot of bills that she has championed and gotten through,” Campbell said at Sanders’ Feb. 14 event in Charlotte. “There’s something to be said about results, and she totally has gotten results.”

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Chicago’s Latinx community struggles to find answers to mental health

By Leah Vann
Medill Reports

Linette Aleman, 20, rubbed her hands together as she sat in Los Gallos restaurant on Nov. 17, 2019, recalling the first panic attack she had 11 months ago.

Aleman vividly remembers the episode. She described the feeling of her shoulders rising up uncontrollably, and what followed was a series of physically uncomfortable sensations her conscious mind couldn’t control.

Sitting in the back seat of her dad’s car, she felt her neck tighten, stomach twist and temperature heighten. She managed to mumble, “I don’t feel good,” over and over again until her dad finally pulled the car over. Continue reading

The man behind the murals: Jonas Never on painting sports murals, his process, and working in public

By Gurjit Kaur
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — While everyone else was watching Tiger Woods play, Jonas Never spent his week at the Genesis Invitational painting the legendary golfer. Never, a prominent Los Angeles muralist, grew up imagining he’d become a baseball player or run a bar — like Sam Malone from “Cheers.” However, after he tore his rotator cuff, labrum and bicep tendon, he turned to art, realizing it was more fun than any of the other subjects he was learning in college.

Never has built a large following and has become famous for his incorporation of pop culture, celebrities and athletes in his work. Besides Woods, he has painted well-known murals of other professional athletes, including LeBron James, Ronda Rousey and Kobe Bryant. As he worked on finishing his latest piece near the 2nd hole at the Riviera Country Club, Never reflected on his unique start, his typical workday and shared which player he’d like to paint next.

Your work first got attention in the sports world when you did a mural of Stuart Scott after he died in 2015. Did you imagine it would lead to a career?

I really didn’t expect the Stuart Scott mural to turn into a career. I’d always played sports growing up. I had spent so much of my life bartending too, that every night you would see SportsCenter come on, and Stuart Scott made a big impact on me. When I did [the mural], it was really cool to see the sports world come together and the way his daughters flew out from Canada to come see the wall. I realized that there was something powerful about doing sports murals.

A mural of ESPN sports broadcaster Stuart Scott by Jonas Never above the Melody Bar & Grill in Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Never/Twitter)

What’s something people don’t realize about creating murals?

Most people don’t realize it’s a long workday. It’s not the whole stereotype of an artist being a stoner. You’re not in the studio with a bottle of booze. You’re climbing ladders, you’re in the sun. It can get tiring. Hell, some days I’m painting both here and doing a Kobe mural at downtown. I feel like I’ve run a marathon, my legs are all shaky from 12 hours on a ladder. You can’t drink after. You have to approach it almost like these guys who are teeing off at seven in the morning if you’re going to get stuff done the next day.

The progression of Never’s Kobe Bryant mural at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Never/Instagram)

Are 12-hour days typical?

If there’s a deadline, absolutely. Otherwise, some days you really have it when you get up, and you can paint for hours. Other days, you have to know when to call it when it’s really not there. And when you’re doing public art, there’s social pressure to get it done well. If you’re in your studio, any mistake, any lazy day, people don’t see; but when you’re painting in public, people can. Now with Instagram, like the one I’m doing downtown, someone posted a photo last night of the new mural and I’m like “Oh no, it’s not done.” It’s a little more exciting that way, I guess. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard.

Is it frustrating when your work is posted on social media before it’s finished?

It’s different. I wouldn’t say frustrating cuz it’s fun to be part of the process, like I met you out here painting. You get much more interaction and much more satisfaction being part of a community.

How did you decide what you wanted the mural of Tiger to be?

Any time where you’re working with a situation as big as the Genesis Invitational, you don’t get a lot of say. But they had a really good idea with Tiger’s legacy, they wanted young Tiger and current Tiger [in the mural]. If I’d done this on the street, I probably would have done young Tiger morphing into current Tiger, like a 3D-effect almost. But this is a country club, you want a more postcard-y photo. I figured, current Tiger, looking over the young Tiger [would] put a smile on his face watching him drive. I thought that was more warming and more Disney-like.

Going off of that, generally do you get a lot of say in what you paint?

I always try and keep some level of artistic integrity. I’ll turn down a job that I don’t want to do, or I think it’s a bad idea. I’ve turned down a lot of the Kobe and Gianna murals because people are capitalizing on the tragedy. I have kind of a sliding scale of the less they pay, the less say they have. If there’s something that I really want to do and there’s no paycheck, I’ll still do it. But if the money is ridiculous, then I’m a lot more open to painting what they want.

Any advice for someone wanting a career as a muralist?

You don’t really know where opportunities are going to come from, like the Stuart Scott one I did for free, just for fun. That led to a million opportunities, and I found more often than not, the really low-paying, or the ones I want to do end up leading to a lot more business. So I think that’s why it’s important to find something you really care about.

What about for someone struggling to become successful?

Bartend, waitress, do something at night so you can paint during the day. Then you’re not relying on taking every job to make your art career work. You’re not going to paint murals at night anyways.

Do you have a dream mural?

I really want to paint Pat Tillman, the old Arizona Cardinals football player somewhere in Tempe. He was the one killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. His little brother is one of my good friends. I mean, you can show me any city on the map, and I’ll find something that I really want to paint there.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Finished mural of current Tiger Woods smiling at his 16-year-old self from his PGA Tour debut in 1992. (Gurjit Kaur/MEDILL)


Photo at top: Muralist Jonas Never working on the Woods’ mural, capturing his legacy at the Riviera Country Club. (Gurjit Kaur/MEDILL)

Black voters in South Carolina could boost Tom Steyer’s rise

By Brandon Raphael Dupre
Medill Reports

Easter Benjamin stood on her front porch watching Tom Steyer canvassers in bright orange and blue campaign shirts spill out of a van. Their shirts flashed across the backdrop of muddied grass and drab woods in a mostly African American neighborhood outside the small city center.

Benjamin, an African American prison counselor in York County, has seen canvassers in her neighborhood before, although in different shirts. Biden canvassers? she recalls thinking. Maybe Bernie? But these days she is so inundated with TV and mail ads and people knocking on her door, the campaigns all blur together.

“There’s so many running that it makes it so hard for the peoples to narrow down who to vote for,” said Benjamin, slouching against her porch banister as if exhausted. “Too stressed with the debt of everyday life, people’ll say, ‘I’m just not gonna vote’ and that’s how they lose a lot of voters.”

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Kobe Bryant’s legacy and presence felt throughout a meaningful NBA All-Star weekend

By Keith Giagnorio
Medill Reports

Every event of the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend was blanketed with melancholy air. Seemingly every show, contest and person associated with basketball’s most star-studded weekend paid homage to the late Kobe Bryant, as well as his daughter Gianna.

“It’s still very fresh in people’s minds and in people’s hearts, so he definitely has a big presence here,” said first-time All-Star Jayson Tatum, who idolized Bryant and had been training with him in recent years. “There’s so many Kobe jerseys here and tributes, as there should be.”

On January 26, the heartbreaking news that Kobe, 13-year-old Gigi, and seven others died in a helicopter crash sent people all over the planet into shock and mourning. Just three weeks later, the basketball world gathered in Chicago to compete on a stage where Bryant had long shined brightest: the NBA All-Star weekend.

Even though the Lakers legend is no longer here, there was no question that this weekend was all about Kobe. His larger-than-life presence inspired countless tributes and invoked the sharing of memories and stories about him throughout the weekend.

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Big men steal show at skills challenge

By Arman Tondravi
Medill Reports

Jimmy Butler may be in a little bit of debt following Bam Adebayo’s three point shooting at the NBA’s skills challenge.

“That’s $1,500, so I’ll be expecting my check in the mail,” Adebayo said. The money Adebayo is referring to stems from a bet he and his Miami Heat teammate Butler placed earlier this season, with Butler fining Adebayo $500 for every game Adebayo doesn’t attempt a three point shot.

Adebayo was the first to sink the concluding three-pointer in each of his three rounds during the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday night, and afterward he let the public know about the ever-evolving role of the modern big man.  

“It just shows where this league is going,” said Adebayo. “It’s scary because, when you got guys that are 6’10”, classified as centers or power forwards, I don’t believe it’s any of that anymore.”

Adebayo could not help but smile from ear to ear as he accepted his trophy, a trophy he intends to dedicate to his mother. Adebayo’s victory marked the third win in the past four years for a big man, following a stretch which encompassed no big men ever winning the award since the event’s inception in 2003. 

Adebayo’s counterpart in the finals, Domantas Sabonis, echoed Adebayo’s sentiments on the state of big men in the modern game.  “It’s just showing how the game is changing and how big men and power forwards are basically bringing up the ball,” Sabonis said. “It’s more of a point guard position.”

Adebayo went on to poke fun at Miami Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra about an advanced role in the Heat offense moving forward. “I’m just saying, I had to end this with threes, so I can take top-of-the-key threes maybe,” said a joking Adebayo. 

Adebayo finalized his conference by pointing to the ever-changing landscape of the NBA, while also paying homage to one of the games current greats. 

“I mean, K.D. is 7 foot,” he said, referencing Kevin Durant. “So is K.D. a center?” 

Photo at top: Bam Adebayo addresses media following Skills Contest victory. (Arman Tondravi/MEDILL)