Fever Trainer Plays Olympic-Sized Role
Being your best, even if you are the best young player in the WNBA, takes not only pure talent and practice, but expert training as well. WNBA All-Star forward Tamika Catchings, 25, who’s making her Olympic debut in Athens with the USA Basketball Women’s Team, playing against New Zealand on Saturday afternoon, August 14, is in peak form – thanks, in part, to the special attention she’s received from Holly Heitzman-Allison, a certified athletic trainer (ATC) for the Indiana Fever basketball team.
Represented by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), ATCs are health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur to athletes and the physically active. As the athletic trainer for the Fever, which Catchings joined in 2001, Heitzman-Allison caters to the special needs of the team.
Among her key responsibilities: instructing players on how to strengthen specific muscles through core stability exercises that can help prevent back and knee injuries; advising players on nutrition and hydration matters; determining how much rest players need between games; providing aggressive treatments for injuries; and supervising strengthening and flexibility exercises as part of the recovery process.
“When players are injured,” adds Heitzman-Allison, “it’s important for us to focus on what the athletes can do and how they do it. We help them redirect their energies, set realistic expectations of return to play, and start them on a proper course of rehabilitation.”
“Holly does a great job,” says Catchings. “She makes sure we follow a regimen which includes eating healthy, stretching, lifting weights and getting massages. If we sprain our ankle, which is quite common, she arranges immediate treatment for us to get the swelling down. And she doesn’t push us if we’re not ready to get back into the game.” Before joining the Fever, Catchings suffered from both a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn cartilage (medial meniscus) in her right knee. She underwent successful surgery in 2001.
Heitzman-Allison and Catchings have worked together for the past four years. “Tamika knows that I have her best interests at heart, and do my best as a professional to help her achieve her goals as an athlete,” says Heitzman-Allison.
Being a part of the U.S. Olympic Team is just the latest of many honors Catchings has received. In January 2004, President George W. Bush extended a personal invitation to her to attend the State of the Union Address at the U.S. Capitol, where she spent the evening with Laura Bush and other honored guests. In 1998, she was named the Naismith Player of the Year while attending the University of Tennessee, one of the nation’s premier programs. A four-time All-American, she was named 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year after joining the Indiana Fever. The daughter of 11-year NBA veteran Harvey Catchings, she made the All-WNBA first team the following year, averaging 19.7 points and eight rebounds.
Catchings is excited to be visiting Athens and playing with other basketball greats on her team, who include Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes. “This is not a sightseeing trip,” she says. “We all want to win the gold; we’re concentrating on that. We can always come back as tourists, but how many times can you compete to win the gold medal?”
About the NATA:
Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur to athletes and the physically active. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession through education and research. www.nata.org. NATA, 2952 Stemmons Freeway, Ste. 200, Dallas, TX 75247, 214.637.6282; 214.637.2206 (fax).