As a student at Schaumburg High School, Casey Starkey-Vanputten loved her days as a three-sport athlete.
She was one of those rare athletes who started four straight years on Kay Winkelhake's softball team and Joe Breault's basketball team and also played for Jeanette Pancratz's volleyball squad.
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Today, the former Palatine freshman girls basketball coach and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater first baseman is teaching and coaching in Indiana, where she lives with her husband, Mike.
Starkey is a co-teacher (working with students with special needs in inclusive classrooms) and the freshman softball coach at Fishers High School.
It is a new school that opened a few years ago because of a huge growth in population in Fishers.
"We are constantly trying to prove ourselves in both sports and academics, and competing with the school we branched off from (Hamilton Southeastern High School)," said Starkey, a 2001 graduate who was a homecoming queen and all-area first baseman at Schaumburg. "I don't think this helps with the amount of pressure put on our kids either. It's actually so bad that even when the Colts played in the Super Bowl, we weren't allowed to wear blue that Friday because it is our rival Hamilton's school colors."
While moving from Illinois to Indiana, the biggest difference Starkey has noticed in softball is the pressure to play the sport year-round.
"I was hired in June to coach softball and incoming freshmen were already doing camps and playing for their travel teams," she said. "They were also playing games for their high school teams and going to pitching/hitting lessons."
Starkey said they began workouts two weeks after school started, practicing three times a week in the fall.
"This continued into the winter, where girls were expected to lift weights twice a week, as well as going through hitting and pitching workouts," Starkey said. "I was completely blown away when I first started coaching this year at how much was expected from these girls. It was more than I did playing Division III softball."
Starkey asked students and parents if these expectations were normal.
"They said it was normal for the area," she said. "Very, very few girls play more than one sport and I don't know of a single softball player in our program that plays three sports. I honestly don't think that they even could if they wanted to because of the pressure and expectations that each coach would place on them."
Starkey finds it much different than her high school experience.
"I think it is extremely sad because when I played three sports, I got excited and hungry to play the next one once it got closer," she said. "In my opinion, I think a lot of girls are getting burned out by the time the season gets started."
Starkey tries to prevent burnout during the season by incorporating team bonding activities, mixing up practices and holding competition days.
"I think if the girls are learning the game, getting along with one another and most importantly having fun, I feel like I am successful as a coach," she said. "I think there is such a huge emphasis put on winning where I'm at that coaches are forgetting what's most important - all the good times."
Starkey says she can't remember a single game she played in high school.
"But I remember the funny things that happened on bus rides, the friendships I made and our team toilet papering houses and dyeing our coach's dog blue with food coloring," she said. "I also think socially it was great for me to play three sports because it gave me the opportunity to be on three different teams and interact with three different groups of girls (which is one of the most important life skills I took with me from sports)."
Senior first baseman Kathleen Duffy (Barrington) became the all-time RBI leader in the University of Chicago softball history when the Maroons split a twin bill at Wheaton College.
Duffy homered and collected 3 RBI in a 5-0 Chicago victory in Game 1, then drove in a run - the 88th of her career - in a 5-4 Wheaton win in Game 2.
Andrew Heer (Wheeling), a senior designated hitter for Beloit, was named the Midwest Conference player of the week.
In four games for the Bucs (3-1), Heer hit .545 (6-for-11), scored 3 runs, drove in 10, had 1 double, 3 home runs and a slugging percentage of 1.455.
He had a career day against Washington (Mo.) by going 5-for-9 with 7 RBI, hitting a 2-run homer in Game 1 and a 3-run shot in Game 2.
He also had a pinch hit 3-run homer in a win against Knox College.
For the season, Heer is hitting .474 with 3 doubles, 3 home runs and 15 RBI.
Wisconsin-Stout freshman Kim Gulik (Elk Grove) set a personal record on the vault, scoring a 9.275 and set another personal best on floor, scoring a 9.275 in a meet with Texas Woman's University.
Men's track and field
Kevin O'Brien (Palatine), a sophomore at the United States Coast Guard Academy, took first place at his own school's 11-team track and field Invitational with a time of 15:41.00 in the men's 5,000 run.
• Arthur Baptist (Prospect), a junior at the University of Chicago, turned in one of his best performances when placing first in the 10,000- meter run at the Chicagoland Championship meet. He had a personal-best time of 31:27.90 for the event
Junior Ryan Lowery (Fremd) has been named captain of the Colorado College Tigers for the 2010-11 season. Lowery has been playing hockey since he was 4. He played AAA hockey for Team Illinois during high school until his junior year.
He was drafted in the first round of the "Futures Draft" for the United States Hockey League during his junior year of high school and moved to Lincoln, Neb., to play for the Lincoln Stars his senior year.
Last year, Lowery was awarded the Academic Scholarship Award for the WCHA, which requires a 3.5 or above grade-point average and this year made the academic team, which requires a GPA of above 3.0.
The Elk Grove girls basketball program will be holding a summer basketball camp for players entering grades 5-8. The camp will run June 14-24.
You can register online at eghs.d214.org. If you have any questions, contact coach Ryan Kirkorsky at email@example.com.
The Chicago Bulls/White Sox Training Academy is hosting a spring basketball league at its main facility at 6200 River Bend Drive in Lisle.
The Chicago Bulls Training Academy hosts fall, winter and spring basketball leagues. The league format is organized for teams at all levels from fourth grade through high school. Many of the top basketball programs in the area have competed.
The league format features a 10-game guarantee with teams playing on three state-of-the-art courts. The main floor is a replica of the Bulls United Center court equipped with the six Bulls championship banners hanging overhead.
Every game is officiated by certified IHSA officials, official scorekeepers control the clock plus team and individual awards are handed out to the top teams and athletes.
The Bulls Training Academy Spring League plays on weekends starting Friday, April 23. The schedule for games is Friday nights from 5-9:30 p.m., Saturdays from 3-9 p.m. and games run all day on Sundays. The cost is $650 per team. You can register by contacting Casey Babarskis at (630) 324-8235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Chicago Bulls Training Academy Power Moves Camp is a four-week session designed to teach players how to become a more productive in the paint (free-throw lane).
During each session, players will learn the skills necessary to be the most effective when driving to the basket.
The camp is open to boys and girls ages 5-17. The 5-10-year-old camp runs on Tuesdays starting April 13 from 5-6:30 p.m. The 11-17-year-old camp runs on Thursdays starting April 15 from 5-6:30 p.m. Each camp costs $105 per participant and includes a camp T-shirt.
Lil Sluggers charity
The Windy City Fieldhouse will host a Lil Sluggers Chicago charity event for an afternoon of baseball on Saturday, April 24 from noon-3 p.m. The event will help raise funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).
The family-friendly event will be co-emceed by Fox Sports anchor Corey McPherrin and Emmy award-winning broadcaster Chet Coppock.
Children of all ages will have the opportunity to partake in Lil Sluggers T-ball and baseball fun while parents can enjoy a sports memorabilia auction and meet Chicago sports personalities.
Rose Astorina is a mom and recent Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma survivor, and she is raising money in honor of the LLS Boy of the Year, four-year-old Griffin Maks, who is battling leukemia.
The cost is $25 for the first child and $20 for each additional one. Visit www.lilsluggerschicago.com/Fight-Cancer.htm to reserve and purchase tickets.
Visit www.RoseAboveCancer.com to make a donation.