As Indiana Fever superstar Tamika Catchings gets ready for her 10th All-Star Game, she spoke with Swish Appeal on an array of topics.
Swish Appeal: What did it mean to you to win ESPN’s first ever Sports Humanitarian of the Year award?
Tamika Catchings: “It was definitely a huge honor, and one that you don’t really do stuff to get the recognition; you do it to give back and make a difference. It was a huge honor just to be nominated and be amongst those athletes, and it’s a blessing for the (Catch the Stars) foundation.”
SA: Which of your humanitarian efforts are you the most proud of thus far?
TC: “Definitely my foundation, and all the work we do. I think the person I am, every single thing I do ties into being passionate into helping our youth and giving back to the community. We have our Back to School event coming up this Sunday where we hand out backpacks and school supplies.”
SA: You do a lot of work engaging women and girls in sports. Seeing how sports can empower women first hand, what do these efforts mean to you personally?
TC: “I grew up in sports, and that was something my mom and dad were very passionate about. I have an older brother and sister, and they wanted to get us involved in activities outside of the house. I was involved in ballet, gymnastics and even band; we did a lot of different activities.
“There are so many things we were able to learn by doing extracurriculars that we don’t realize we’re learning while we’re young. But when you get older, you realize how it helps you, just from a confidence standpoint, just building relationships and learning how to work with others.”
SA: What do you think can be done, that isn’t already, to make women’s basketball more popular in the United States:
TC: “I think that we definitely need to keep on the road that we’re going. With the U.S. women’s soccer team and the exposure around that, and the excitement of watching, that’s what we have to continue to build off of, being able to support your team. The biggest thing is the media coverage. The more coverage and the more success we have within the women’s league, in whichever sport, that’s what helps women’s sports get more people engaged in what you’re doing.”
SA: In your 14 seasons, how have you seen the game changed from when you first began?
TC: “The talent is definitely getting better. We’re now to the point where next year we’ll be celebrating 20 years as a league. Players now were born into knowing one day I want to be in the WNBA, whereas early on that wasn’t an opportunity or a choice. I knew I wanted to be in the WNBA in seventh grade. There’s definitely a change when you look at the talent and where we’ve come from.”
SA: You’re set to become the WNBA’s first player to spend her entire career of 15 plus seasons in the same place. What has it meant to you to share your entire career with the Indiana organization?
TC: “It’s awesome, and it’s definitely a dream come true. You never really think about what could happen when you get drafted, and you’re playing. I didn’t have to think I’d get traded one day or not having the opportunity to be a Fever player. To have the support I’ve had from the team, management and community overall, and just to be able to share everything I’ve started, to share that on the court and off the court with the community and the fans, it’s a blessing.”
SA: Indiana’s last championship was in 2012. How do you plan to return there before your planned retirement following the 2016 season?
TC: “(Laughs) God willing, we’ll be able to pull together and get back to that year and the highs and lows we had to overcome as a team down the stretch. You learn about a team as a season goes on, and once you make it into playoffs, the team regroups and shifts focus. It’s about getting better every single day, every practice and every game. We get better, and the wins will come.”
SA: Speaking of retirement, how did you know it’s the right time to leave the game?
TC: “Last year was a really hard year for me, having to sit out the first half and never getting into the groove of things, and going into the offseason and into this year. I remember we were going a community service event where people in the community come out, and we all do service.
“We were doing ours and the local news guy comes — I have a really good relationship with him — and he asked how many more years I’ve got. “Two more years” just came out, as I had already been thinking about that. He (the reporter) came up to me and asked if that had been released yet, and I told him no.
“But I just knew, it’s not something you have to think too much about. You get to the point where there’s so much more, this is such a short part of my life, and I’m excited to see what’s next; having a family, having kids, just what’s next for me. It’s just time.”
SA: What has been your favorite memory on the court thus far?
TC: “Oh, I have to think about that one. I’d say winning the championship. Everything we went through as a team that year, and being ale to get to the point where it’s like, ‘All the stuff we did to get to this position finally paid off’.”
SA: The Summer Olympics are the summer of 2016. Will you be looking to return to the U.S. team?
TC: “Yes, I do plan on trying to make the 2016 U.S. team.”
SA: And how exactly does one prepare to win their fourth gold medal?
TC: “(Laughs) Well the good thing is, it’s not just me. It’s a team. The good thing about USA basketball is that it has been able to create a system to create a constant pool of players they can make a team from, and I think that’s a smart way to do it. With injuries and so many different things going on, this is a way for us to stay on top and stay ahead of the game knowing the players and the system. That’s how you prepare is being able to have a pool of players.”
SA: Now let’s focus on the season at hand. The Eastern Conference is extremely tight this year. What does your team need to do the rest of the way to get to the top?
TC: “Win games. Just focusing on every single day and getting better as a team as well as individually. We’re going into the All-Star break off two bad losses. The thing I think about the most is a sense of urgency as a team and being committed and buying into the system that has allowed us to be successful in the past.”
SA: After 14 years in the league, what aspects of your game are you trying to continue to develop now on a day-to-day basis?
TC: “My shooting! (Laughs) I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get better in that aspect, so it’s been a frustrating up and down battle, but something I know that for me, before I’m done, I want to overcome that battle.”
SA: The All-Star game is quickly approaching. What did it mean to you to receive your 10th selection?
TC: “I’m excited about going, especially because one of my teammates (Marissa Coleman) got nominated as well. It’s better to have someone to go in there with, and it’s her first time. Yeah it’s my tenth year and that’s great, and I appreciate all the love and support, but that’s what it’s all about for me (Coleman’s first selection)—the journey she’s been on and us having to break her down to get her ready.”
SA: What’s your favorite thing about participating in the All-Star game?
TC: “Being able to share it with my teammates. But also being able to play with some of the other players around the league you might never be able to. Also, the first-timers and seeing how awesome of an experience it is for them to be there and sharing that with them.”
SA: Who do you see as the WNBA’s newest emerging talent?
TC: “In terms of players who began this season, I’d have to say the rookie on our team, Natalie Achonwa, with what she was able to do in her college years, having to sit out a year. I think she’s done a really good job with our team, and I’m really excited to see where she’s going.”