Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings has done it all in basketball. She has won championships at every level, including college, the WNBA and USA Basketball. She has three Olympic gold medals and is expected to pursue a fourth with the U.S. national team in August. Catchings led Indiana to the 2012 WNBA title, and she will conclude her WNBA career this year, after 15 seasons in the league.
Catchings, who moved to the forefront of women's basketball when her Tennessee team won the NCAA title in 1998, has always been known as a relentless competitor on the court -- and an equally dedicated community servant off it. Through her Catch the Stars Foundation, she has impacted the lives of many children, particularly in the greater Indianapolis area.
Catchings, who recently got married and hopes to start a family as soon as her playing days end, is also known for her advocacy for the hearing impaired, and she is a crusader against bullying.
In her new book, "Catch A Star: Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion," co-written by Ken Petersen, she details her life as the daughter of professional basketball player Harvey Catchings, how she adapted to her hearing impairment as a child, how she sought refuge in sports and how the joys and sorrows molded her into the person she is today. At the recent USA Basketball national team training camp in Storrs, Connecticut, Catchings spoke to espnW about the book and why she wrote it.
Q&A with Catchings:
Q: What was it like to write this book?
A: It has been a three-year process, a lot longer than I would have liked it to be, but it's so rewarding. God's timing is everything, and the book coming out now for my final season -- and everything that will transpire for the next six to eight months -- I'm excited about that.
The journey in writing the book and going through pictures -- unfortunately, I couldn't put in every picture that I wanted to put in -- but the story that we're telling and the people in it, it's just really cool.
Q: Did the writing feel like a journey on which you watched yourself grow up?
A: Yeah, and you remember key moments and being in certain settings and just the feeling of everything you went through, how you felt about the people you shared it with and who were always there for you. People of different ages will read this book and apply it to many things they may be going through.
Q: What are the main things you want them to take away from it?
A: My faith is very important to me, and the book is based on my life through my faith principles. But I think the biggest thing is when I was in school, I had hearing problems, speech problems, I wore hearing aids, and I got bullied when I was young. So I feel like, when I speak to people, I relate to everybody in the room with something I've dealt with. It brings us closer together.
Q: Was that your primary motivation for doing this?
A: Yes. One of the main reasons I wrote the book was so many people would say, "I wish I could take your message with me, that there was something tangible I could refer to in sharing it with somebody else." And that's what got me thinking. We already did a kids' book, "Dreams are for Catching." Now I want people to go through my journey with me through this book.
I try to be very straightforward and direct in the book. Nowadays, so many kids want stuff given to them. It's not that easy. You have to work for every single thing. Some people look at us, as professional athletes and all the great things we have done, and I'm explaining that this happened because of doing A, B, C, etc., and not just randomly.
Q: When you are a successful athlete, do people, especially kids, see you as "powerful" and not think you could have been bullied?
A: Exactly. That's why it's so important to me to also have my Catch the Stars Foundation. Through that, we are able to reach a lot of kids, whether they play sports or not. A lot of them look at me like, "That happened to you too? It's happening to me now. How did you deal with it?" The questions that you get after you share your story, that's the most rewarding part of sharing it.
Q: Your book is also a how-to for elite athletes. It explains that they have to keep growing as they reach new levels and challenges. Your alma mater, Tennessee, has been going through some tough times of late, with more losses than the program is used to. What does this book tell athletes facing issues such as that?
A: For everybody who goes through high times, at some point you're going to hit some lows. That's the cycle; it's just how life works. Play with pride, and be grateful for the opportunity and all the things that you get from it. Have pride in your journey, whether you're on top or in the middle or trying to work up from the bottom. You still have to take pride in what you do."