Tuesday, March 5, 2013
- by B.. Branton
Raised with a basketball in one hand and a Bible in the other, U. of Tennessee All-American Tamika Catchings seemed to have it all growing up.
While a product of an upper/middle class suburban family with an NBA pro for a father, Catchings struggled as a child with a hearing and speech impairment since birth followed by her her parents’ divorce while she was in grammar school.
Shedding many tears, she struggled making friends as a young child due to the stigma brought on by wearing glasses, braces and oversized hearing aids.
While she threw away her hearing aids in the second grade, she did not ditch her God-given athletic abilities and today sees views sports as a platform to share her faith.
“I know that as a professional athlete, God has given me a platform on which to speak about Christ,” said Catchings an 11-year veteran of the WNBA and the featured speaker Tuesday night at the Greater Chattanooga Fellowship of Christian Athletes “Road to Victory” Banquet at the downtown Convention and Trade Center.
“I know that I need to carry myself on and off the court in a glorifying way for God each day. I have my struggles like anyone else, but through prayer and a strong circle of supportive friends I keep my eyes on the Lord.”
Her talents were duly noticed in high school with state championships in volleyball and basketball in Texas and Illinois which led to a basketball scholarship to Tennessee.
“I was raised in a strong Christian family, but once I got to college I realized I had freedom and strayed somewhat from my faith in Jesus Christ, convincing myself that I was in control of my life and church every Sunday was an option,” stated Catchings who has an undergrad and graduate degree from Tennessee.
“But through my involvement in FCA my last two years of college I was able to have strong Christian friends who were athletes and that really helped me grow as a Christian.”
Having won at every level – high school through international play – Catchings middle name could be “victory.”
The impressive resume of the 33-year-old Stratford, New Jersey native includes the aforementioned prep state titles, an NCAA title with Tennessee in 1998, three Olympic gold medals (2004-08-2012) and a handful of national championships while playing in South Korea, Russia and Poland.
Her playing resume was completed in 2012 as she led the Indiana Fever to the WNBA championship.
“I recently signed a two-year contract with Indiana and after the 2014 season I’ll see if I want to continue playing,” said Catchings whose WNBA career honors includes 2002 Rookie of the Year, 2011 league MVP as well as five-time league defensive player of the year and seven-time All-Pro.
While she continues to focus on being the best pro she can be, one of her passions is her Indianapolis-based Catch The Stars Foundation which helps young girls incorporate important life skills including literacy, fitness and mentoring in their daily lives.
Though recognized as one of the best in her profession and having the seemingly glamorous lifestyle pro sports can offer, Catchings knows oh too well of the hurts and pains in a young child’s life seeking acceptance.
Her goal in life is pointing them to the One who accepts them all.
Banquet Trimmed in Orange and White: In honor of Tamika, each table had a center piece of orange and white roses while UT orange napkins graced each place setting.
Vol Emcee: Former UT quarterback great Andy Kelly, wearing an orange and white tie, served as the evening emcee.
contact B.B. Branton at email@example.com