No ‘I’ in TEAM
By Chad Bonham
As the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) enjoys
its 13th year of existence, professional women’s basketball continues to grow
in popularity with increasing fan support and greater national media exposure.
League standouts such as Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Diana Taurasi and rookie
sensation Candace Parker are slowly but surely becoming household names.
Since winning the 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year and 2005
Defensive Player of the Year awards and finishing second in 2002 MVP voting,
Tamika Catchings has made a similar impact as her superstar counterparts.
Still, the Indiana Fever forward has somehow managed to fly under the radar.
But while the spotlight might not always shine as brightly on her as on others,
Catchings maintains a positive attitude that is strengthened by a deep-seated
“I could be mad
sometimes about being one of the top players and not getting the publicity that
maybe somebody else gets or not getting a deal like somebody else did,”
Catchings says. “There are people like that. For me, whatever’s mine, God will
provide for me. Nobody can take that away from me. So I’m going to go out and
have a great time. Whatever God wants me to have, nobody’s going to be able to take
that away from me.”
Catchings, 29, speaks with a rare combination of confidence
and humility. It’s something she learned at a young age from her parents and
that was later fortified by the legendary Pat Summitt. Playing for the
University of Tennessee head coach was life changing on many accounts even
though Catchings’ first exposure to Summitt was seemingly random.
“Eighth grade was the first time I ever saw Pat Summitt,”
Catchings recalls. “I was flipping channels, and I saw her flash across the
screen. For whatever reason, she just caught my attention. So I watched the
game for a little bit, and I thought, If I ever get good enough to play for
her, that would be a dream come true.”
Catchings says that Summitt was everything she needed in a
basketball coach at that time in her life. Catchings not only improved as a
basketball player, she also learned valuable life skills. Of course, playing
for the Lady Volunteers — arguably the most storied program in women’s
college basketball history — provided competitive benefits not afforded
to all players. Catchings took full advantage by being named All-American all
four years and leading her team to a national championship and perfect 39-0
record as a freshman.
College was also a pivotal time for Catchings’ spiritual
life. Although her parents had raised her and her siblings in church, it wasn’t
until she endured a painful knee injury that she got serious about a
relationship with Christ.
“After I got hurt my senior year in college, it seems like
it became that much more obvious to me,” Catchings says. “There was a huge
chunk that was missing in my life that I was filling with basketball.
Basketball was my god. I couldn’t go to church because I had practice, and you
lose that balance that you grew up with. So after my injury, I got back to
going to church, and then one thing after another, my faith continued to grow.
It is who I am, and that’s how I’ve come through adversity, knowing that I have
Him to count on. It makes things that much easier.”
By 2002, Catchings was not only an established WNBA
commodity but also a regular contributor on the United States National Team.
That year, the star-studded squad captured the FIBA World Basketball
Championships for Women in China. Two years later Catchings was a starter on
the undefeated gold medal team at the Summer Olympics in Athens. The team’s
achievement was a testament to teamwork and humility.
“All of us are the best players on our respective teams,”
Catchings explains. “People had to put aside their differences and understand
that it’s not about them. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about the Indiana
Fever. This was about us getting together and winning the gold medal, and
that’s what we did.”
Catchings hopes to be a part of the U.S. team that will
compete at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. A foot injury ended her 2007
WNBA season prematurely but she is now fully recovered and enjoying yet another
Catchings looks for effective ways to shine the light of
“Actions speak louder than words,” she says. “Conducting
ourselves in a Christian way goes way farther than talking. You’ve got to talk
the talk and walk the walk, but sometimes if you’re not able to talk you can
still walk. I think that will have a bigger impact than standing out on the
Catchings has a similar philosophy when it comes to the work
of the Church. Just like the star athletes on the U.S. National Team have so
often come together for a common goal — to win the gold medal — she
believes the body of Christ must look past its petty disagreements and engage
in teamwork as a means to fulfilling God’s plan.
“It’s just important for us to come together and unite,”
Catchings says. “We need to gather as Christians. Our main goal is to praise
God and to live our lives for Him and to please Him. It’s not to please man,
because like it says in the Bible, if you try to please man you’re always going
to be disappointed.”
CHAD BONHAM is a freelance writer based in Tulsa, Okla.
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