One of a Kind
Indiana Fever star forward Tamika Catchings is a rare breed.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Despite 10 seasons of professional basketball under her belt, Tamika Catchings is showing no signs of slowing down.
The reigning WNBA MVP is putting together another stellar season and hopes to add to her impressive resume which already includes: Member of the WNBA All-Decade Team, two-time Olympic Gold medalist, seven-time WNBA All-Star, four-time Defensive Player of the Year, ‘02 Rookie of the Year, ‘11 MVP, President of the WNBA Players Association and the only player ever to record a quintuple double.
With that incredible list of achievements, Catchings is easily one of the best players of all time. But she’s not done yet. Fresh off a league MVP award at the age of 31, Catchings is hungry for more and 2012 may prove to be one of the most memorable years of her esteemed career.
As the miles begin to pileup on their bodies, players tend to lose the dominant skills that made them terrors on the hardwood throughout their early careers, but Catchings is getting better with age and playing some of the best basketball of her career. For Catchings, the success she enjoys on the court during the regular season is fought for during long, arduous hours of training during the offseason which keeps her playing at a high level despite being one of the seasoned vets of the WNBA.
“For me, during the offseason, I do a lot of swimming and cross training and just recently picked up this thing called budokai, which is a type of martial arts. I do all of that on top of the basketball and weight training that I always do,” says a nonchalant Catchings.
While she spends most of her time working on the physical during her off months, in-season it’s all about the mental and using her days off to her advantage.“During the season, it’s me being smarter on my days off,” says Catchings. “I make sure that I’m rested and making sure that I’m not just going to the gym because that will wear you out both mentally and physically. You need that time off.”
The combination of hard work and strategic rest has been a proven formula for the reigning MVP as sheleads the Indiana Fever with 17.2 points, 6.8 boards and 3.0 assists per—near identical numbers from last year’s award-winning season. With Catchings at the helm, the Fever currently sit at 8-5, good enough for second in the East and only a game and a half back from the first place Connecticut Sun.
But what makes this season so special is Catchings’ chance to take home a Gold Medal in what will surely be her final go around in international play. The Olympics may be looming, but Catchings is focused on staying in the moment and pushing her team to the top of the standings.
“I’m not really thinking about it yet,” Catchings says of her trip to London. “One thing that I’ve focused on this year is being in the moment and remaining in the point where you are and focusing on what we need to do to get better. When it comes to that time [for the Olympics] and everyone gets together and the team goes to London, I’ll be focused on that.”
Catchings may be focused on the now, but she knows that once the Games roll around, all eyes will be on her and her teammates and anything less than a Gold medal for Team USA will be a disappointment.
“We have a really talented team,” says an optimistic Catchings. “Just looking at our performance from the World Championships and how we were able to play with each other and dominate. I think being together for the training session in Seattle and being around everyone and the vibe and the chemistry we had right off the bat will definitely play in our favor.”
While Catchings’ accolades on the court will keep her in the history books forever, it is her work off the court where she takes the most pride. Catchings began her Catch the Stars Foundation back in ‘04, and since then has been devoting nearly all of her free time to helping others succeed.
“My passion defines me on the court and allows me to be in the community with the Catch the Stars Foundation,” says Catchings. “The platform that we’re on, to be able to reach out to so many kids and to share and give back to the community and the people that have helped me get to where I am today is a blessing.”
Catchings, who has battled a hearing and speech impairment since her childhood, knows firsthand the struggles that underprivileged children face every day and hopes that she can serve as an inspiration for them as they hit their all important and impressionable teenage years.
“Just being able to touch these kids’ lives is amazing,” says Catchings. “Not all of them want to be basketball players. Whatever they want to be, someone needs to help them get there. Telling my story about the struggles that I have been through to get where I am today and having them share their struggles with me will hopefully propel them to where they want to be in life.”
For someone who has accomplished so much both on and off the court, Tamika Catchings never lets her successes go to her head and handles herself with a tremendous amount of humility and seems genuinely thankful for where she is today—something everyone can learn from.
“I was just a shy little girl,” says a reflective Catchings. “Growing up with a speech problem and a hearing problem, I was just trying to find an outlet where I could fit in and that’s why I started playing sports. Once I started playing, it kind of just kept going and going and now here I am.”
“I never thought basketball would take me this far.”