Interview with a Legend: Tamika Catchings

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The world is a buzz this week after Kobe Bryant announced
that he would be retiring from his career as a professional basketball player.  The court will be missing one of the greatest
who ever picked up a basketball and he should continue to be celebrated for the
impact he had on the sport.  Well Kobe
isn’t the only great player that the sport will be without come 2016.  Following the conclusion of the 2016 Summer
Olympics, living legend Tamika Catchings will step away from the court, her
passion, the game.  It’s difficult to imagine
watching the WNBA without Catchings.
She’s been a fixture, a dominating force in the WNBA since 2002.  In fact, many of her young fans don’t even
know the sport without her being a part of it.

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.  

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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.    

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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.

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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 own
terms. 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.  

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