We caught up with former Indiana Fever legend, Tamika Catchings about her decision to hang up the WNBA boots and what her career would have looked like without God driving it.
So Tamika a lot has been happening for you in recent months, what is next on the schedule?
So we have our own foundation, called Catch The Stars here in Indiana and so there are quite a few things coming up with that. There are a few speaking engagements, some travelling and just generally a lot of fun stuff.
All of this comes after your recent decision to retire from pro basketball, how difficult a decision was it?
Honestly, I made the decision two years ago in 2014, right after the season. In that season I had to sit out the first seventeen games and then when I came back for the second half I never really got back into my groove. It was at that point where I thought that I might need to start thinking about what comes next, to start that transition. So whatever comes next for me, is literally wherever God places me, I am not in a rush but just trying to listen for once to where I need to go.
Excited then, when you think of the extra time you have now?
Yeah I am, in doing our foundation I haven’t really had time, I have always had to work out and be getting ready for the new season. There were so many other responsibilities that I had but I think now I can now focus more on the foundation and what we are doing. Also to figure out what other things am I passionate about, the speaking engagements I have done a lot of and we also get involved with FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). Retirement has given me the opportunity to be free and to be able to do more things.
What inspired you to start up your foundation?
My sister and I moved when I got drafted by Indiana Fever, we packed up our stuff and headed over this way. Coming to Indiana, I was now part of a community that I really knew nothing about, so right from the beginning I decided that I really wanted to be involved in the community. I started doing all of the events that the Fever put on and one thing led to another. We started doing our own programme which in the first year was a basketball holiday camp in 2001, we kept adding programmes each year but had no umbrella to list them under, so we came up with Catch The Stars foundation. We catered everything to helping youths, aged 7-17, focusing on literacy, mentoring and fitness.
Tamika, you’ve had a long, loyal career with Indian Fever, which is quite rare to see these days, was it just your love for the club?
Being able to come here with Indiana taking a chance on me after my ACL injury and getting so involved in the community, did make me think that it would be really hard to leave. The club, the team and the success that we’ve had has been amazing, just being able to be loyal to a team and they be loyal back to you has been great for myself and my family.
In fifteen years, what’s been a standout on-court moment?
I mean 2012 would be the best one, the year that we won the WNBA championship, even beyond that 2009 and 2015 our team made it all the way to game five of the WNBA finals and lost, but even through that I feel that the experience with my teammates was awesome.
As a figure in the sport of women’s basketball, you are held really highly, what would you put your success down to?
My faith. Just my faith and those who support me, my family and my friends. That group has allowed me to be successful and focus on what I am doing. Even when I have had to make decisions between doing things with the family or going to practice to work on my skills, everyone has always supported my vision, my goals and my dreams. That definitely made it easier for me to be successful.
How has knowing God impacted on your basketball career?
Even to picture now what my life would be like without God, I can’t. I have had lots of ups and downs, growing up as an African-American child you usually grow up in the church and it’s almost something that we are forced to do. Not necessarily because it’s what we want to do but because it is the right way. I would say, for me personally when I fully realised that God was my saviour that wasn’t until college. At that point I wanted to know him for myself because basketball had become my God, I remember my mindset changing and one thing after another led me back to church after falling off a lot. I shifted focus and really wanted to get back into the word and once I had that relationship with him myself, I never looked back.
Being a Christian on the WNBA circuit, are people receptive to hearing about God?
I think for me because I have always been true to who I am and what I believe in, that’s one thing that has never faltered. I have always been able to speak with confidence and know that I am a child of God. So I do think it’s never been a struggle for me to talk about my relationship with the Lord. I am definitely all in.
How does God feature in your pre-match routines?
We have chapel in our team, in the WNBA we have chaplains where sixty minutes before a game you have an opportunity to focus on the Lord, we have our amazing chaplains who give really good messages. It’s that moment before the game where we get ourselves right for what we are going to do on the court but at the same time know that it is all about an audience of one, God. You just have to be conscious that not everyone is in the same place as you on your faith walk, we have some baby Christians, some who have been for a long time and some who just come in to listen.
Who is the best player that you have played against in your career?
The best player I have played against in my career would be my sister. She didn’t make it to the WNBA but the one thing about her is that she knew my game inside and out. You picture us playing on the playground all of the time, so she knew all of my strengths and weaknesses. Having someone like her has allowed me to bring my game up to another level. We helped each other out, she played the game because she was really good at it and this helped me achieve my goals.