Catching’s place in basketball history has been solidified. She’s the first ever player to notch a quintuple (that’s right, QUIN-tuple) double. In one game she scored 25 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 steals and 10 blocks. When she steps on the court, she controls it, all of it. The former Lady Volunteer and NCAA Champion, turned Indiana Fever forward, is a 10-Time WNBA All-Start, a 5-Time member of the All-WNBA Team and a WNBA champion. She has blessed the international community with her skill by taking her talents to leagues in Russia, South Korea and Turkey. Beyond the game, the impact she’s had on this world is undeniable. Through the work of her non-profit organization Catch the Stars Foundation, Inc., Catchings equips, encourages and inspires disadvantaged youth by promoting literacy, fitness and mentoring. She has been a recipient of the Reynolds Society Achievement and Dawn Staley Community Leadership Awards for her dedication to community service and improving the lives of others. Her life has been a lesson of excellence on and off the court.
The above list of accolades only begins the scratch the surface of Catchings’ life as a basketball player and humanitarian. It doesn’t really show her full spirit of selflessness, her compassion for people, her dedication to the game and commitment to excellence, or her stature as a leader. The list just doesn’t do her justice. Thankfully, I don’t just have the list to share with you. Yesterday, I had the privilege to have a one-on-one conversation with the player that little girls dream of becoming. She patiently and graciously answered questions from a laryngitis stricken blogger about her life, her career and her future. As I share with you our conversation, I hope you get a better sense of just what the court will be missing when Tamika Catchings steps away.
As you prepare for retirement, I’m sure you’re doing a great deal of reflecting over your career. What would you say have been your greatest accomplishments in basketball and in life?
Good question. I would say that my biggest accomplishment off the court would definitely be my foundation, Catch the Stars Foundation, and being able to give back to the community. As far as on the court goes, I’d say my biggest accomplishment has been being able to give 100% every single day. Being able to use the platform of basketball and the way that I play and the passion that I play with to help others has been great.
What do you hope your overall legacy will be?
I’d like to be remembered for the passion that I play with; the passion, commitment, dedication, love and heart that all go into the way that I play. I want those same characteristics to translate into my legacy off the court. I’d like to be remembered as a giving person, on and off the court; someone who gives 100% no matter what she’s doing.
You have been in the WNBA since its early days. I’m sure you are aware that over the last 20 years its growth has been somewhat stalled. What do you think needs change within the organization in order for it to see some growth?
I don’t think that the growth has been stagnant. We’ve definitely moved up, but I do feel like the numbers aren’t necessarily as high as we’d like them to be going into our 20th year. But the great thing is that the WNBA is still around and we’re still giving a lot of hope to our younger athletes who are aspiring to be in the WNBA one day. As far as getting more people engaged, I think a lot of it amounts to getting commitments from the media outlets to make women’s basketball a priority.
One thing that I am excited about is getting to work with the 2016 AllState WBCA Good Works Team. I’m really excited because this is one way that we’re able to highlight our young student-athletes who are doing great things. On the court what they’re doing is great, but what they do off the court is even more phenomenal. I think highlighting student-athletes who are involved in their communities really helps with the expansion of the game and helps to get and keep people engaged. People are engaged in what players do off that court and we hope that that translates to fans being interested in what we do on the court.
Growing the game from outside in, I like that. My next question was actually going to be about your involvement with the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team. How important do you think it is for younger kids to see these student-athletes being recognized?
I think the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team is awesome. I think it’s awesome that these ladies get to be recognized. I’ve been involved since the beginning, 2016 will be our fourth year, and every year it continues to grow. This year we have 103 players who have been nominated from across the country. Colleges, coaches and athletes continue to learn about it and continue to want to be involved.
The stuff that they are doing in the community is great. While they don’t do it to get recognition, it’s cool to be highlighted and for people to see all the great things that they’re doing. Recognizing the student-athletes encourages younger kids to be involved in their sports and their communities.
What will you be looking for in the student-athletes?
Personally, I look for commitment, dedication and diversity. By diversity I mean that I look for student-athletes who are involved in multiple organizations and for those who are taking on various tasks within an organization. It’s great to see that a lot of them are not only active in the communities surrounding their schools, but they’re doing things in their hometowns and even travelling abroad, internationally. It’s very cool to see them wanting to make a difference. I believe that the little seeds that they’re sprinkling now will really go a long way in the future.
I really think it’s a great opportunity for people to see what the student-athletes are doing besides playing basketball. Speaking of the student-athletes, do you have any predictions for this year’s Final Four?
Oooh, any predictions? Well, I know who I want to be there. I want Tennessee to win the whole thing! That would be my prediction. But I haven’t gotten an opportunity to really watch many of the teams this year, so I don’t want to really put myself out there. I guarantee that by February, once the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team is announced, I’ll have a great amount of collegiate games under my belt. Then I can give a solid prediction, not one just based off of who I want to be there.
I’d like to switch gears a bit. You’ve been very open with your fans about your personal struggles, triumphs and beliefs. What are some new things they can expect to learn from your new book Catch a Star?
I think what I love about the book, and one of the main reasons I wanted to write it, is that it’s answering the calls of fans. I do a lot of public speaking and everywhere I go, fans say, “Oh, we wish there was a book out…We wish there was something we could take away with us.” So it’s finally here. About 5 or 6 years ago we put out the kids’ book, Dreams are for Catching, so I wanted to do one for adults. I wanted it to track my life. My faith is something that is definitely important to me, basketball has been a blessing, my family has been a blessing; and the book covers all of that but in a way that tracks my life from beginning until now.
There are some things that I have talked about before, but there’s a lot that I haven’t talked about before. Even the few people who I’ve let read it have come back to me and said, “Oh my God, I learned a lot about you!” These are people who are close to me, so I’m sure the fans will be able to learn some new things about me.
I’m really excited for it to go on sale next year. I want to make the best-sellers list! I need GladiatHers.com to tell everybody, to go buy this book! Tell your readers to pre-order and buy it from everywhere when it goes on sale on March 1st.
Gladiathers.com will definitely be on top of helping you promote. Speaking of the blog, GladiatHers.com is a dedicated to discussing female athletes and the issues women in sports face. We define a GladiatHer™ as a fiercely competitive woman who tackles her sport and the world on her ownterms. What GladiatHer™ has had the biggest affect on your life?
My mom. I think about the struggles that we faced when I was growing up. I talk about this a little bit in the book, but through the struggles she and I faced, she’s always remained strong. When I think of that word, GladiatHer™, I think of strong women. All of us go through stuff. We go through different struggles, some bigger than others, but what’s important is how you are able to recover and how you are able to stand strong and be firm and be that stable person in a rocky world. When I think of my mom, she’s always been that for me.
I think that’s wonderful. It’s always great to learn who GladiatHers like you look up to. So what will you miss the most about playing basketball?
My teammates. I’ll miss getting on their nerves every single day.
I’m sure they’ll miss you too. I have one last question. What would you like to see in the future for girls and women’s basketball?
What I would love to see would be for us to continue to grow our numbers in youth basketball and to increase involvement. But as we move into the future, I’d like to see more attention to women in sports, in general, not just basketball. I’d like to see women get their due respect for all the great things their doing in whatever sports arena they’re doing it in. I’d like us to get to a point where gender is not the reason that someone doesn’t get the respect they deserve.
Thank you so very much, Tamika, for taking the time to share with the readers of GladiatHers.com. We’ll be watching closely to see where the next chapter of your life takes you.
Tamika Catchings is basketball, but she’s so much more. She’s worked tirelessly on the court and given the same effort to the world outside of basketball. There is no question that she has already achieved her desired legacy as a giver. In fact, she is The Giver. You don’t win championships by being selfish or by not giving your all. You don’t amass fans by avoiding giving a part of yourself to them. You don’t run a successful non-profit and inspire future athletes without giving. It just doesn’t happen that way. While August 2016 will likely be the last time we’ll see The Giver in action as a professional basketball player, there’s no doubt that it won’t be the last time we see her giving her all to others, to achieve excellence.
This interview made you feel all warm, fuzzy and inspired, didn’t? Good! So, keep the warm and fuzzies going! First, go follow Tamika on Twitter @Catchin24 and Instagram @Catchin24, so you can keep up with all the great things she’s doing. Next, go pre-order Tamika’s book, Catch a Star. Finally, give. If you don’t have an organization that you give to, get one; and if you already have one, give more. Give more of your time, effort and money to those who really need it. I promise it will truly make this world a better place.