Catchings' Off-Court Accomplishments Many

WNBA Star Gives Back To Indianapolis

She's won an NCAA championship, two Olympic gold medals and was just voted the most valuable player this year in the WNBA, but Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings takes as much pride from her off-the-court work as her on-the-court accomplishments.

The standout basketball player aims to help Hoosier children with her charitable work, RTV6's Chris Pisano reported.

"I love being around kids, and I'm passionate about helping them make decisions and helping them achieve their dreams and their goals," she said.

Eleven years ago, Catchings started her foundation, Catch the Stars, and what began as a simple basketball camp blossomed into mentoring programs for at-risk children.

"When I speak, I always ask questions. I start if off (with) 'How many have speech problems?' You get some hands. 'How many of you have hearing problems?' You get some hands. 'How many wear glasses? How many wear hearing aids? How many have ever been bullied?'" Catching said. "How many maybe didn't do so well in school but turned it around? There's so many questions that you ask, and I've been through everything."

Growing up, Catchings moved around a lot, never really putting down roots as she followed the NBA career of her father, Harvey Catchings. It was through sports that Catchings found herself.

"One of the things that I knew in playing a sport is that I could get out here and I could practice and practice and get better," Catchings said.

Practice was a way to beat bullies on the court and gain acceptance. Being on a team provided a group of friends and showed Catchings that she could achieve her goal through hard work, a life lesson that she now shares with the next generation.

A decade ago, Catchings mentored two children from Indianapolis who took her message to heart -- Amber Harris and Ta'Shia Phillips, both now also in the WNBA.

Phillips met Catchings 10 years ago at one of her first basketball camps at Riverside Family Center.

"She comes up to me and says, 'Hi, I'm Tamika,' so we were all like, 'Hello,' and she says, 'What are you doing here?' I'm a part of the camp. At that time, I was actually taller than her at 13," Phillips said. "We've been friends ever since."

Phillips said she didn't think a professional basketball career was possible until she met Catchings.

"She would talk to me about more things than just basketball. She's always emphasizing it's about life," Phillips said. "She tells me all the time, "Sis, if you have something you want to do, work hard to go get it. Make sure you do it. Don't hold yourself to just basketball, cause that's not the end all be all.'"

When the season ends, most players enjoy some time off, but Catchings works harder on her off-the-court commitments.

"I'm very passionate about this, and I know that in having a foundation, there's a certain commitment level that comes with it, too," she said. "I can't just say I'm having a basketball camp and show up for five minutes and, 'OK, I'm done,'" she said. "My thing is, when I have my basketball camp, just like my fitness clinic, every single program that we have, I want to be there. I want to be involved. My name is on it, and I need to be there."

Catchings said she plans to keep running her foundation when her WNBA days are over, perhaps making some time to settle down, get married and have some children.

Catchings is holding her 10th annual Catch On To Fitness clinic for children ages 7 to 14 on Saturday at Guion Creek Middle School from 1 to 4 p.m.

Participants can register beginning at noon or by phone at 317-329-8424. The cost -- simply bring at least 10 canned goods for Gleaners Food Bank.

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