Tamika Catchings is one of the most versatile and complete basketball players on the planet. The five time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year is equally capable of taking over a game through scoring and rebounding than she is disrupting an opposing team’s offensive game plan. Named as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time in 2011, Catchings had an even more successful year in 2012 when she led the Indiana Fever to their first WNBA championship while earning the 2012 Finals MVP. Months earlier, Catchings finished second on the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team in steals in being a key contributor in helping the team win the gold medal during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Now, she has recently teamed with Allstate and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association as the ambassador for the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team, an inaugural award which will honor women’s college basketball players who stand out for their charitable achievements and community service. My conversation with 2011 WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings included her thoughts on winning the WNBA championship and an Olympic gold medal in the same year, her “Catch The Stars” foundation, and her role with the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team.
MH: You had an incredibly successful year in 2012 including winning an Olympic gold medal and a WNBA championship. How does the feeling of winning a gold medal during the 2012 Summer Olympics compare to the feeling of winning your first WNBA championship?
Tamika Catchings: I think that being able to represent your country is the highest of levels. Trying to compare the Olympics to the WNBA is kind of hard from the standpoint of playing with the best players in the U.S.A. all compiled all on one team going overseas and at the end of the day it’s way bigger than what we are, way bigger than each one of us that is over there because we’re all representing the whole United States of America. Trying to compare that to the WNBA which is compiled of players from all over the world who want the opportunity to be part of this league that is considered the best league in the world makes it a little bit different because you have players from different countries here representing the WNBA team that they are on. In winning the WNBA championship it is different than winning in the Olympics, but at the same time winning the WNBA championship is great. Every single year, everyone is asking the same question, “Is this the year, is this the year?” It is great to finally have that off your back and I was laughing with our media about “What’s your question going to be this year? Are you going to do it again (win the WNBA championship)?” (laughs)
MH: How important was it for you to establish your “Catch The Stars” foundation?
Tamika Catchings: For me, growing up my father (former NBA player Harvey Catchings), played in the NBA and my mom and dad did a really good job of making sure my brother and my sister and I were really involved, that we really knew that there were people less fortunate than us and that it was important for us to give back. I credit my parents for putting that seed in us as young children. Growing up and going to the University of Tennessee and playing for Pat Summitt, she stressed getting back into the community and being really involved. When I got to Indiana, I knew one of the things that I wanted to do was get involved in the community. We didn’t start the Catch The Stars foundation until 2004 but by then we had been running my camp, we had been running fitness clinics, we started a mentoring program and the foundation allowed me to put those programs underneath one umbrella. I think that is one of the reasons why it was a good fit for what I am doing within my Catch The Stars foundation and fits with my work for the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team and seeing the correlation between both.
MH: March Madness will soon be here. How do see the Women’s NCAA Tournament playing out this year?
Tamika Catchings: It’s going to be fun. I’ve been watching these Monday night matchups. Last Monday, they had Baylor against Oklahoma. It’s been fun to watch. I will be at the Women’s NCAA Tournament with Good Works Team. We will have a chance to see which four teams make it down to the 2013 Women’s Final Four. There will be some schools that you didn’t think were going to make it who will win. Come playoff time, you have to be ready every night so it will be interesting to see which Final Four make it out there.
MH: You have long been known as an athlete for your leadership and generosity. Could you discuss your role as the ambassador for the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team?
Tamika Catchings: When I started off, I did a media tour in the beginning to get people excited about the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team and what we are doing and why it is so important to get involved. Over time, I read through all the essays and all the applications that came in. We then came together with another part of the team and all of us read and picked our top ten. It is about being able to represent each one of these young ladies who get recognized at the Final Four in New Orleans and we will do a community event down there as well. One of the reasons I am part of this Good Works Team is because I do the same things these young ladies do in regards to getting involved in the community and being a great ambassador for women’s basketball. For all of us, it is important for us to stress the importance of giving back to the community and enjoying what we do, both off the court and on the court.
MH: Thank you, Tamika, for taking the time to interview. I have long respected athletes like yourself for your abilities on the court and your high character off the court. Best of success this season in defending your WNBA championship.
Tamika Catchings: Thank you, Mark. That’s going to be the question right there! Can we repeat? (laughs)
MH: They can’t ever take the WNBA championship that you and the Indiana Fever already earned.
Tamika Catchings: Exactly, they’re definitely not taking that one! (laughs) I worked too hard for that!
For information on the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team, you can visit the website here.
For more information on Tamika Catchings’ Catch The Stars Foundation, you can visit the official website here.