WINONA LAKE – For most of Tamika Catchings’ life, she has wanted to be the best. And was driven to work for it. Wednesday morning at Grace College, Catchings was once again at her best.
The former WNBA superstar for the Indiana Fever stopped into Grace College for chapel and delivered a very relevant and powerful message about her upbringing, overcoming her hearing disability and switching gears into her post-playing career. Exchanging with an interactive and down-to-earth delivery, Catchings made her points well, and intertwined her faith into the equation.
“We’ve all experienced, to some extent, something to drive you in your career path,” Catchings said following her presentation. “It’s career week here (at Grace), and a lot of the people here are starting to think about that path. And not all of the people, probably very few, are athletes here so sports aren’t necessarily the most important thing to them. I’m trying to capture all of them, not just some of them, to mix both my basketball life and my time away from the court.”
Catchings was as good as anyone ever was on the basketball court. She helped bring a championship to the Fever in 2012 while being the Finals MVP, was the league MVP in 2011, won five Defensive Player of the Year awards, and was named one of the Top 15 All-Time players in WNBA history. To boot, Catchings was a four-time Olympic gold medalist for the USA women’s basketball team, and was a superstar for Pat Summitt’s University of Tennessee Lady Vols, winning a national title in 1998.
As life shifted away from the basketball court in 2016, she took on a role in the front office at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, working with the Indiana Fever, Pacers and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. She also began her public speaking, which allowed her to share her colorful story.
Using the acronym F-A-I-T-H, she shared how that helps drive her on a daily basis. Focus, where she would go to church as a child and not always listen, but the words were sinking in. Ask, by always having a Father, whether its an earthly figure or always knowing there is a spiritual one. Impact, using the words of former First Lady Michelle Obama that Catchings met on Tuesday night, “If you are consistently you, you don’t have to change.” Trust, trusting the process and overcoming your fears. Hold On, to always enjoy the journey.
“The cool thing about being in the WNBA, or maybe it’s not the coolest thing, is that you are relevant for five months,” Catchings said. “For seven months, you’re not. In the moment, everybody is like ‘Oh, that’s Catch. Oh, that’s Candace Parker, I gotta get a picture.’ But when you’re not on, you are playing overseas and nobody knows you.
“I stopped going overseas in 2013, and then when the WNBA season was done with the playoffs, I was like what am I going to do? Maybe I’ll try something new. By the time I retired, I didn’t feel like it was a bad thing. Working now with the Pacers and the Fever, people are still excited that I am there, and that’s a good thing. Doing the speaking thing, it’s also refreshing because I can still impact people on a different level.”
Catchings, who is also the owner of an Indianapolis tea shop, Tea’s Me Café, has seen life’s new journey become a different type of fulfillment.
“It’s all about opportunity,” Catchings said. “I want to make that connection, to whatever the audience is. My story, I don’t have to make that up. It will resonate with high school students, with college students, even little kids who have big dreams. I want people to know that you can do whatever you want to do, but you have to work for it.”