CHICAGO (CBS) — We all know Loyola’s oldest superfan – Sister Jean – but she has some competition now from the Ramblers’ youngest fan, Reese.
She is the daughter of the head women’s basketball coach Kate Achter, who has the program off to their best start in years.
But as CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reported Sunday night, it’s little Reese who has changed her mom’s perspective about basketball and life.
“I’m a maniac,” Achter said. “I’m a maniac.”
Achter means when she’s on the basketball court. Off it, the sweet smile of 7-month-old Reese brings out her softer side.
There are plenty of ups and downs for Kate and her partner, Tina – ever since they learned Reese has Down syndrome.
“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, certainly. We found out prenatally. It was one of our blood screenings at the 14 or 16 weeks, and then from there it was just doctor appointment after doctor’s appointment,” Achter said. “We had, I don’t know, what, six echoes? She’s had tubes put in her ears.” She’s remarkably healthy for some of the things that we could have encountered. She has very strong muscle tone – which is not something that is typical – and she’s just a bundle of joy.”
Reese is a frequent visitor at Loyola practices, games, and even news conferences. But it’s hard as a Division I coach, spending over 100 nights a year on the road.
Achter, though, believes her pint-sized blessing has made her a more successful coach.
“Everything is put in perspective – you know, how you interact with your players is different; how big things aren’t really that big. They’re just – small things are what’s important,” Achter said.
Achter hopes to be a role model not only for Reese, but her players – showing them that they can be at their best in work and life, but you have to have realistic expectations.
“It’s partly my job to prepare them for the real world, and it’s not the Instagram culture where everything looks great. There are things that are hard,” she said. “So we’ve been very open with them.”
Achter’s hope for Reese is to make sure Down syndrome doesn’t define her daughter – but also hopes she can touch some hearts and open some minds along the way.
“Just because she’s different doesn’t mean she can’t exist, and I think exposing more people to children with Down syndrome only helps normalize that for children with Down syndrome. It just becomes more acceptable,” she said. “You know, Reese can change the world one little smile at a time.”
Reese is doing well, and her next milestone is to crawl – hopefully soon. The 13-5 Ramblers’ next milestone is to try to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.