Putting God first did not always come easy for WNBA player Tamika Catchings
Retired professional basketball player Tamika Catchings has received many accolades and awards for her performances on and off the court. After graduating from the University of Tennessee in 2001, Tamika Catchings was drafted into the WNBA by the Indiana Fever. She was named Rookie of the Year in 2002; was named to the All-WNBA First Team; and was a starter on the last two USA Women’s Basketball Olympic teams, winning consecutive gold medals in Seoul, Korea in 2004; Beijing, China in 2008; London, England in 2012; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016!
The former Indiana Fever Forward dominated the game during the 15 years she played, helping her team to clinch the 2009 WNBA Eastern Conference title, and winning the WNBA basketball championship in 2012, where she also received the WNBA Finals MVP Award. Tamika was selected for 10 WNBA All-Star games; was named to the Indiana Fever All-Decade team, where she went on to tie the WNBA record for most number of career steals (600), accomplishing it in the fewest number of games, and has received five WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Tamika had many challenges growing up. Born with a hearing deficiency in both ears, Tamika spoke with a speech impediment, and in elementary school, wore braces and hearing aids. The victim of bullying and constant teasing from classmates, she struggled with self-esteem issues as a young girl. When she was just eight years old, she threw her hearing aids away one day during a walk home from school. When her parents refused to replace them to teach her a lesson, Tamika was forced to learn how to read lips.
But Tamika excelled in sports; especially basketball. Finding that one thing that she knew her classmates could not make fun at her doing, she dedicated herself to getting better. Though she grew up in the church, and came to know Christ at an early age, Tamika didn’t let anything interfere with playing basketball; not even attending church. But after an ACL tear sidelined her during her senior year in college, Tamika had time to reflect on her priorities. “God used that time when I couldn’t play to help me refocus my life in general, and put things back in balance. That’s when I rededicated my life to the Lord.”
In 2004, Tamika founded the Catch the Stars Foundation, a charitable organization that provides basketball camps, fitness clinics, mentoring and literacy programs for underprivileged children to help them become successful in sports and academics.
Known for the importance she places on living a healthy lifestyle, Tamika agreed to lend her name to former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ health initiative program, INShape Indiana, which educates Hoosiers on the importance of eating better, moving more, and avoiding tobacco products. Each October, Tamika’s foundation sponsors fitness clinics in Indianapolis which are designed to teach teenagers good fitness habits.
In March 2016, Tamika released an autobiographical story written by Ken Petersen with a Foreword written by Tony Dungy. Catch A Star: Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion tells her story of overcoming. She faced being set apart by her hearing loss, separation from family, high expectations and the pain of debilitating physical injury. She reached for the stars with hard work, perseverance and her faith in God. Through the silence, she found a way to shine.