November 1, 2006
The Indiana Fever's Tamika Catchings is annually regarded as one of the elite players in the WNBA. She is universally considered as one of the most complete, all-around women's players in the world.
Boys and girls look up to Catchings on the basketball court, and as she walks beside them in the halls of life.
Frank McGrath/PS&E Photo
Off the court, she is one of the league's most civic and community-oriented players, evidenced by the formation of the Catch The Stars Foundation
in December 2004. She was a personal guest of President George W. Bush and Laura Bush for the 2004 State of the Union Address and a year ago, she joined Donovan McNabb and John Smoltz as finalists for the Wooden Citizenship Cup, awarded annually to the nation’s most deserving citizen-athlete.
Catchings will play overseas in Korea, beginning in January, buy not before devoting time to her Foundation's activities in October, November and December. Prior to hosting her filled-to-capacity Catch On To Fitness Clinic (Nov. 11), she took time to answer questions for FeverBasketball.com. She will conduct a live webchat for fans on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. ET.
FeverBasketball.com: Your Foundation was established in December 2004. Now two years complete, is it progressing as you would like it?
Tamika Catchings: I definitely feel like the Foundation is progressing like I imagined. Of course, we are still very young as far as years are concerned, but I still believe that we have reached a lot of youth in the Indianapolis community. We have inspired them to catch their dreams one star at a time.
FB: What has been the most satisfying aspect of your Foundation, so far? Why?
TC: I can't think of just one satisfying aspect of the Catch the Stars Foundation. The biggest satisfaction I get comes from knowing that every program we have impacts young lives. Everything from our S.T.A.R.S. mentoring program, basketball camps, fitness clinics, IPS Scholarship Program and Reading Corners are all very important and special to me. Plus, there is nothing better than seeing smiles on kids faces while we’re interacting with them.
It’s also rewarding to run into kids that we’ve served outside of our programs. They’re always excited to tell me about how they’re putting to use the things they’ve learned and talking about their grades and accomplishments.
FB: Do you have one event or program that you concentrate on more than others? Why?
Catchings' offseason hours are spent in schools, on playgrounds, in hospitals and recently helping to re-build hurricane areas in the Gulf. Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images
TC: We concentrate on each one of our programs, individually, when the time comes. I think it's very important not to short change any of our programs, and to try to make them each the best that they can be. That's how I've always been in all aspects of my life. Never willing to give up, and always wanting to give 110% in all that I do.
FB: What program has been your most successful so far? Why?
TC: I would have to say our Catch the Stars Basketball Youth Holiday Basketball Camp has been the most successful because it's the one that we have been doing the longest. We started in 2001, and are still going strong as we enter into our sixth year this December.
I also feel that our S.T.A.R.S. mentoring program has been very successful. You know that you’re successful when the girls in the program continue to come back and bring their friends along. The program has grown three-fold in the year-and-a-half since we started it.
FB: The newest program to your Foundation was the establishment of the Reading Corner at Christel House Academy, with plans for future reading corners across Indy and the United States. Have you already taken steps toward establishing a second one? What are the next steps?
TC: Yes, we have taken steps toward establishing a second one, and possibly a third one soon after that. I definitely want to look at putting Reading Corners elsewhere throughout the United States. Of course, I would like to remain active in each of the Reading Corners we establish, but first we'll start with the one at Christel House Academy. We have joined forces with them to have volunteers attend their after-school program to read to the kids on a monthly basis.
We are also helping to throw a reading party at Christel House, at the end of the school year as an incentive for all students who read the allotted number of books per grade. That should be a lot of fun!!
FB: Your love of reading has been exhibited through the league’s Read To Achieve program, as well as your new Reading Corner program. Can you elaborate on what reading has meant to you?
Borders Books and the WNBA Read To Achieve program invited Catchings to discuss a bestselling book by renowned author John Steinbeck, in August. Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
TC: Reading has always been the way for me to escape the real world, and enter someone else's. I've learned so much, and have been able to travel abroad first through books, and now through basketball. It is definitely the key to success, and I try to make sure that each child that I have a chance to reach out to can see the importance of reading, and can develop that joy, if they don't already have it.
FB: What does reading mean to you now, as an adult, as opposed to when you began reading as a child?
TC: Now, reading is just as important to me. Someone told me that after a certain age, the only way to really gain knowledge, other than the things you learn through life, is by the books that you read. I totally agree!!
FB: How many hours a week do you spend with reading, writing or poetry – just for personal time?
TC: I probably spend anywhere between 6-7 hours a week with personal time for reading and writing. So much of my time lately has been getting our programs ready to run, and trying to get ahead of the game organizationally. But, when I get overseas, I go through books like crazy! I love it!
FB: You are typically busy with various Foundation events in the Fall. Next week, in fact, you conduct your annual fitness clinic. Can you talk a little about the clinic and your other events?
Catchings poses with a pair of Indianapolis youngsters while Fever players helped provide the finishing touches on the family's home provided by Habitat for Humanity. Catchings has teamed with Habitat for Humanity both in Indianapolis and in Mississippi. Julie Graue/PS&E
TC: Well, here is a little about each of our upcoming events and programs:
S.T.A.R.S. - "S.T.A.R.S. stands for Sisters Teaching and Reaching Sisters and provides girls with a unique journey of self-exploration addressing a variety of issues such as self-esteem, goal setting and much more. Our fall session is currently going on, and we have about 20 girls that are involved in this 8-week program. Next session starts in Spring 2007. I spend time with these girls every week and we talk and learn and explore a variety of topics not even related to basketball."
FeverBasketball.com Webchat - "This chat will focus mainly on off-season travels, what happened during our past Fever season, and what’s to come along with all of the work we’re doing with the Foundation. [I've been told that fans can ask questions for me in advance!]"
FCA Prayer Breakfast – "Next Thursday (Nov. 9), I will have an opportunity to share my testimony with FCA groups from Avon, Ben Davis, Brownsburg, Cascade, Danville, Decatur, Monrovia, Mooresville, Plainfield, and all the Tri-West High Schools. This will be great opportunity to let teens know about my walk with the Lord, and how He has blessed me tremendously!"
Annual Fitness Clinic and Gleaners Food Bank Contribution - "Our fifth annual Catch on to Fitness Clinic will kick off at Riverside Family Center on November 11th, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. At this point, we are actually full to capacity, and have a waiting list of kids to be involved – but if anyone would like to drop by and donate canned food items, it’d be much appreciated!! The Clinic is really a way to promote ways to improve overall health and an opportunity to help out those who are less fortunate. The admission to the camp is 10 canned goods, which are donated to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. We have done this prior to Thanksgiving each year, and we take as many kids to the Food Bank as want to go, to give them an opportunity to learn about giving, too."
Catchings' annual fitness clinics have always been a popular draw. Frank McGrath/PS&E
Pacers Thanksgiving Dinner - "I will be in attendance serving food, along with donating hats and gloves to the Pacers Thanksgiving Dinner. This is my third year being a part of the dinner through my participation and donations, and it is always a joyous time to know that you can make a difference in the community."
Tamika Catchings Basketball Clinic – "Our Third Annual Basketball Clinic in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. kicks off December 2 at Old Wando High School. This year, we have added a clinic for the boys and girls between the ages of 7-9, along with a clinic for boys and girls ages 10-12, and a clinic offered to high school girls only. For more information, and to register go to townofmountpleasant.com."
Catch The Stars Youth Holiday Basketball Camp - "Our Sixth Annual Catch the Stars Basketball Camp will take place this year from December 27-29 at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis. This camp is jam-packed with different basketball drills, plenty of games and a LOT OF FUN. For information and registration, go to catchin24.com."
FB: What other types of goals might you have for your Foundation?
TC: "Our goals are pretty simple:
To provide structure and positive mentors for at-risk youth between the ages of 9-16, to assist them in achieving their dreams and goals.
To build and encourage exploration and education via reading programs, book clubs and the availability of books.
To provide a nurturing environment that encourages growth and positive self-esteem.
To promote character development through exposure to facets of life outside of their comfort zones.
To encourage healthy lifestyles as well as the importance of visualization, goal-setting and overcoming obstacles through academics, fitness and sports related programs."
For further information about Catchings and the Catch The Stars Foundation, visit her website at catchin24.com.