The Impact of Tamika Catchings

As I watched Tamika Catchings’ final regular season game today, I took a few minutes to write The Ellen Show and The Steve Harvey Show about her—and how she gives back. Now I’m sharing that with all of you.

I wanted to take a few minutes to write you about Tamika Catchings. Are you familiar with Tamika? If not, you should be.

As you read this, you may think I seem like her publicist—I can assure you that I’m not. But I did have the privilege of reporting about her back when we were both college students and she played for the Lady Vol basketball team.

Tamika is retiring this year after 16 WNBA seasons. She’s won nearly every honor possible in that time—she’s a WNBA champion, an MVP, a perennial All-Star and a four-time Olympic gold medalist. But those honors don’t tell the whole story.

To truly understand Tamika Catchings, you need only consider how she chose to “go out” in this, her final season. When most people retire, they receive a cake and a going-away party. The same is true for athletes—albeit on a much larger scale. When high-profile athletes retire, they typically receive gifts in nearly every city they visit during their farewell tour.

Tamika didn’t want that. Instead, she plotted out the Tamika Catchings’ Legacy Tour, which held one event in each of the WNBA’s 12 cities. At each stop, she raised money for her foundation—Catch the Stars—but also gave back to the city she was visiting. To the tune of $2k in each city, for a total of $24k in donations to charities. In addition, she’ll return to each of those cities next year to carry out one of the principal goals of her foundation—building young athletes, on and off the court. Next year, she’ll hold clinics in every city with a WNBA team.

She established the Catch the Stars Foundation early on in her career with the Indiana Fever. The foundation’s mission is to “Empower youth to achieve their dreams by providing goal-setting programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring.” There’s no telling how many young people Catch has influenced since 2004, but I feel confident saying it numbers in the thousands. The Foundation hosts fitness clinics that cost only a donated can of food, holds a back-to-school celebration each year where kids are given supply-filled backpacks, and has established Catch the Stars Reading Corners in several locations.

Let’s throw it back a little further…Tamika was born with a hearing impairment, and she was bullied as a child. Basketball became her outlet, eventually leading her to the University of Tennessee and Pat Summitt. Tamika had always been quiet, hesitant to use her voice. Until Pat Summitt encouraged her to embrace her hearing aids and step out of her comfort zone. She found her voice, and ever since, she’s used it to speak out. She frequently gives motivational speeches around the country; she serves as the president of the WNBA Players Association; and she recently represented generations of Lady Vols in honoring their coach at Pat Summitt’s Celebration of Life.

Why am I writing this? Because Tamika Catchings is truly one of the most exceptional people I’ve ever met—or even just known of. She’s a true example of someone who gives everything she’s got every single minute of the day, no matter what she’s doing. She’s as spectacular off the court as she has been on it. And I, for one, have been blessed to know her.

I know you frequently recognize those who go above and beyond in giving back to their communities. Tamika Catchings is one of those people, and it would be fantastic if you would tell her story and recognize her excellence. Her platform deserves a bigger audience.

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