Not all stars look the same. According to scientists it’s because each star has its own “personality” defined by its unique color, shape, size and age. Sirius is considered by astronomers to be the brightest single shining star in the celestial sphere.
Back here on earth, on the hardwood of a professional sports arena, Tamika Catchings deserves Sirius – or serious – consideration as the brightest star in the WNBA. A five-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Catchings has been piling up a laundry list of professional accomplishments since arriving on the professional scene in 2002.
Following a storied college career at Tennessee (1997-2001) under the tutelage of legendary coach Pat Summitt, Catchings attained All-American status. Her first year in the WNBA was highlighted by Rookie of the Year honors and, three years later (2005), Catchings scored her 2,000th point as a professional, becoming the fastest player in league history to accomplish that feat.
Her star was rising, but it doesn’t accurately explain her star’s illumination. Like the stars above, Catchings’ character is defined by her unique qualities.
At a young age Tamika watched her father, Harvey Catchings, an 11-year NBA player, spent Thanksgiving and Christmas serving the community. “We were always part of that,” said Catchings. “As youngsters we didn’t understand, but our parents explained to us that there are people who aren’t as fortunate, and the opportunity to be able to give to them is a blessing.”
The experience stuck to Tamika. Through her formative years Catchings reminded herself, “If I ever get the chance, I want to have my own basketball camp and foundation to give back.”
In 2004, Catchings launched the Catch the Stars Foundation to provide opportunities for underprivileged youth, boys and girls ages nine through 16. The foundation offers both sports and academic programs.
“There have been plenty of times when I’ve been so tired, but I know the kids want to see me,” she said. “But when you walk through that door, you see the kids’ faces lighting up, the smiles make it worth it. It’s just so rewarding.”
Catchings has been all over the country, and all over the world, holding court. Her Catch the Stars Foundation has reached back to Abilene, Texas, where she grew up, in Indiana where she now plays, and global stops in Poland and Korea.
“I love to share my story and figure out how to incorporate my story with whomever it is I’m talking to,” said Catchings, whose story is full of challenges and hurdles.
Catchings is hearing impaired. By the second grade she was wearing hearing aids. Catchings was clearly different – and different can be difficult. She was an outcast in school.
“The countless times I came home crying,” she said. “One day I was just fed up with it. As I was walking home, I took off my hearing aid and threw it in a field.”
Catchings parents decided to use the experience to teach their daughter a lesson. “Something like this you have to value,” she said. “I went from second grade to my freshman year in college, at Tennessee, without wearing hearing aids.”
The choice Tamika made, and the decision her parents made, would shape her for years to come.
“One thing with having to deal with being different, the one thing I took away from it was where can I excel?” Catchings asked herself. “That’s where sports came in. If you made fun of me off the court, my challenge was, let’s go to the court. Along the way I’ve thrived off the challenges.”
Today, Catchings still feels different. “I told my mom, ‘sometimes I just feel so different than everybody,’” she said. “She had to remind me that different is good. Jesus was different. There is a passage in the Bible (Romans 12:2) that talks about not conforming to the world. You don’t want to conform to the world.”
Different is good, and Catchings is a unique star.