Catchings takes timeout for education

By Amber Harding | June 25, 2009

After helping her team to its fourth straight win on June 21, Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings took a “timeout” on Tuesday to visit some of her younger fans.

As part of the WNBA’s Read to Achieve initiative, Catchings participated in the first of two Pitney Bowes Fast Break to Reading Time-Outs. She read to approximately 50 children from a local Boys and Girls Club, as well as around 30 children of employees of Pitney Bowes, the company that sponsors the program.

Marianne Stephens, site director for the Boys and Girls Club, believes that the reading corner provides an excellent opportunity for children to see that not only are their heroes great athletes, but they also love to read and learn.

“The kids look up to the players, especially anybody in the pros,” she said. “So it’s an awesome opportunity for them to give back to their community, and the kids really, really enjoy it.”

The kids weren’t the only ones having fun, however. As she laughed and encouraged the youngsters to become involved in the experience (including roaring like a dinosaur when they saw a picture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex), it was apparent that Catchings enjoyed the reading time as well.

“I like doing it mostly because I love to read,” Catchings said. “But also I think the kids get really excited having somebody out there to read to them. One of the things I like is getting the kids involved.”

Although Catchings’ readings of “Commotion in the Ocean” and “Hi, Pizza Man!” were a huge hit with the children, Freddy Fever also kept them engaged with his dance lessons.

“He made us laugh,” said Mackenzie Neal, one of the members of the Boys and Girls Club. “He kept shaking his hips, and it was funny!”

Neal was especially thrilled with the chance to meet Catchings, whom she notes as her “favorite basketball player of all time.” Catchings also chose Neal to hold up one of the books as she read it to the group.

Before she began the reading, Catchings emphasized the importance of education, regardless of one’s future career goals.

“One of the things I tell them is that reaching your goals starts with school,” Catchings said. “I wanted to be a professional basketball player, but I knew I couldn’t get there if I didn’t make good grades. We like to teach them the importance of school and listening to their parents and teachers.”

Fans will have another opportunity to meet Fever players at the Indianapolis Zoo on Sunday, June 28 from 11:30 until 1:30 p.m. Tamecka Dixon, Briann January, Shay Murphy and Christina Wirth will interact with the Dolphin Show and help celebrate Elephant Awareness Week.