A Week in the Life of Tamika

February 1, 2005
Fever All-Star and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings followed a Monday afternoon photo shoot with Indianapolis Monthly by conducting a short interview for the Fever website. Here is a look inside Indiana’s star player, how she is spending her off-season, and some thoughts for the upcoming WNBA season.

After graduating as an honor student at the University of Tennessee, Catchings embarked on a master’s degree in sport studies, which she will complete this spring. [Be sure to check out the March issue of Indianapolis Monthly and learn more about Tamika’s “favorite chair.”]

Fever Website: What does an ordinary week look like during your current off season?
Tamika Catchings: “I normally go to Tennessee every Tuesday morning. I go to class Tuesday afternoon (12:40 p.m. - 1:55p.m.) and then go straight to workouts. On Wednesday and Thursday mornings, I workout and then go to night class on Wednesday and afternoon class again on Thursday. After class on Thursday, I fly wherever I need to go from there. Sometimes I have things to do in Indy, sometimes I go to Chicago for the Blaze (National Women’s Basketball League) and sometimes I have appearances or a schedule in other places. Nothing has been consistent so far. Last week I flew to New York after class and then spent part of the weekend in Memphis. The week before I flew to Chicago after class, and this week I’ll come back to Indianapolis. It has varied every week.”

FW: Where do you workout when you’re in Tennessee?
TC: “At Fort Sanders in Knoxville. I workout with Jackie Ansley and her staff doing anything from speed, agility and quickness training; to basketball; to swimming classes; to lifting weights. Anything she wants me to do—I do.”

FW: What do your weekends usually look like?
TC: “I spent one weekend in Memphis. I played with the Blaze another weekend, traveling with them to Dallas and then back to Chicago for a game on Sunday. This is the first weekend I’ll be able to chill at all, without traveling somewhere this month. It is always different.”

FW: How many games will you play with the Blaze?
TC: “I’m going to play in 13 games plus the playoffs. If there is a way, somehow, that I can make it to another game, then I will. But set in stone right now there are 13 games. I’ve pretty much looked at the schedule and chosen all the games that I’m available to play.”

FW: How many games does the Blaze play?
TC: “They play 23 games total, I’ll miss about 10. Most of the games I’ll play are on weekends. About the only way I could make another game might be on a Thursday. I get out of class at 1:55 p.m., and I might be able to fly somewhere to make the game."

Tamika left her Thursday afternoon class in time to arrive in Indy for an appearance at Lutheran High School.
FW: Do you miss any classes because of a travel schedule?
TC: “No, I don’t have any classes on Mondays or Fridays. I have a Tuesday/Thursday class, and a Wednesday night class. There are some times that I have stuff scheduled where I won’t make class, but I’ve already talked to my teachers. My Wednesday night class, though, is graded based on our participation in class. So I don’t want to mess with that. I want an ‘A,’ I want to go out with straight A’s. My teacher in my Tuesday/Thursday class said we can miss up to seven classes, but any more than that and we automatically fail. There are already five days where I know I’m absolutely not going to be there, so I’ll be at the rest!”

FW: Tell us about your two classes.
TC: “My Tuesday/Thursday class is my Sport Research class. I was kind of nervous about this class but now I think I’m going to like it. You do research on a topic that you think you’re going to enjoy. I actually have to give a presentation tomorrow in class. I picked ‘Girls’ Participation in Sports,’ for girls’ ages 8 to 13. With me doing my basketball camps and fitness clinics and trying to cater to different age groups, and figuring out what attracts girls to sports, I thought that was a good study for me. As I move forward, I’m hoping to do some studies on the Indiana Fever – looking at fan participation, why fans go to games, or figure out why they don’t come to the games. That is something that interests me. I think that will help me down the road, too, when I work my way toward being a general manager, here or somewhere else, when I’m through with my playing career!

“Wednesday night is Sport Ethics. I like that class! I knew I was going to like that class even though our classes are two hours long. I enjoy learning about different coaches, and different coaching styles, and different issues in sports. There are different ways that coaches treat people and players. We also look at sports in general, on TV, in the news, and we evaluate all sorts of different circumstances and situations throughout the sports world. In the end, everybody will determine their own morals and values, and that’s exciting to me.”

FW: Why were you so enthusiastic about your Sport Ethics class?
TC: “First, I like the teacher, Dr. DeSensi. Secondly, I enjoy being around so many different people. It is interesting to see other people’s points of view. There are 10 students in our class, but each one of us is so different. It’s kind of cool to go around the room and hear everybody talk about themselves and hear about the things that they do. We all have such different views on things. I might agree with something that someone else might not. Everybody has their own personal perspectives, and you learn to respect those.”

FW: Are you the only athlete in your class?
TC: (pause, thinking) “Yeah, I guess I am. But we have a lot of grad assistants that work with other sports. A lot of them are coaches. So they’re all involved in sports.”

FW: Was there any initial reaction to having you in their class?
TC: “Yeah, well, I think people know who I am, but we’re all back in class again, we’re all the same as students again, so it’s not something that anyone gets excited about. It’s not like, ‘oh, look, there’s Tamika Catchings!’ It’s not like that. At least they don’t treat me like that!”

FW: How does playing with the Blaze help you during your off-season?
TC: “I have played with the Blaze a little bit every season since I came back from my knee injury in 2001. So every single year, it’s been cool to get that run in. The best part for me is the opportunity to play with different people and play with a different coach every year.

“You go through it and experience it with the Blaze and learn how to play with different players and different coaching styles. For me, personally, I get the chance to be a part of a team and get some game experience. You can workout all you want by yourself, but when you’re not actually playing it’s hard mentally – you always want to play games. And you also play against good competition still because there are a lot of WNBA players in this league. Plus, when you’re playing against everyone trying to get into the WNBA, you know they’re always going to bring their ‘A’ game.

FW: Kelly Miller is playing with your former team in the Korean League. Do you ever keep in touch with your old team?
TC: “No, I don’t. I got an opportunity to see a lot of them in the Olympics when we were in Athens. Some of the players, I think four of them, were on the team in the Olympics. And Coach Park was the coach of the Korean Olympic Team, so I got to talk to him. It’s cool to have that relationship with the team. Korea is the only place I’ve ever played overseas and it is nice to get to talk to them when I can.”

FW: Any thoughts of going back to Korea to play again, or anyplace else overseas?
TC: “Definitely. I wanted to go this year, but I wanted school to be done. This is my last semester. I’ve been going to school ever since I graduated, but I wanted to finish off this master’s degree.”

Catchings and the Fever hope that continuity is a factor in returning to the WNBA Playoffs.
FW: Quick thoughts on last year’s Fever season.
TC: “Disappointing, is the one word that sums it up. Obviously, for our team to go from first to worst, to first to worst, in a matter of four months is very disappointing. Moving forward, looking at 2005 and having the second pick, I hope we can get somebody who is a really good addition that can fit in to what we want to do. We have a lot of people who are free agents, so it’s kind of up to Kelly [Krauskopf] and our front office to figure out what kind of players we want to represent the Indiana Fever.

"I’m excited about it. Coach Winters is in his second year. He got his feet wet last year, and yeah, we had our ups and downs, but I think he learned from it and moved forward. He had some meetings with everybody after the season and I think that is something that’s really important. When you try to advance a team into a championship caliber, you need everybody on the same page. You need that respect factor. I hope that 2005 brings a championship and the level of respect and support that we need.”

FW: How does continuity help the Fever for 2005?
TC: “I think continuity is huge. When you look at Houston, and L.A., and even Seattle, they pretty much have had the same core group that they’ve built on. Houston, shoot, they didn’t change but more than one or two players during the four years that they won the title. And the same with L.A. I think with us, we kind of have a core group right now, but we’ve had to overcome some changes, including a new coach. I think once we determine the direction that we want our team to take – and sign those free agents and get a good draft pick – then we should be a very good team.”

FW: Look back to Athens. Your thoughts?
TC: “It was exciting, a dream come true. It was something that you always dream about, and think about when you see it. To be honest, my dream to be an Olympian didn’t really spark up until 1996 – watching Lisa [Leslie], Dawn [Staley], Sheryl [Swoopes], during the tour and through the Games. All in all, it was just the greatest feeling to be in Athens with such an amazing group of women.”

FW: Do you ever wake up and think to yourself, “Wow, I’m an Olympic Gold Medalist?”
TC: “No, I don’t really. I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago at a Martin Luther King event in Memphis, to meet a lot of cool people and athletes that have paved the way for us. We all talked about the fact that you never realize how fortunate you are until you’re done, until you’re out of sports. Really, no, it’s not something that I ever really think that much about. But, one day I’ll be able to tell my kids!”

FW: Where do you keep your gold medal?
TC: “It’s upstairs on my trophy shelf where I keep my greatest accomplishments thus far.”