Tamika Catchings looks back from the other side of a professional sports career and holds her hand out. She's ready to help.
One of the greatest women's basketball players of all time, Catchings retired from the game but hasn't slowed down. She believes there are enticing paths in a post-playing career. Helping retiring athletes see the possibilities is part of her job now with Pacers Sports & Entertainment.
“For so long, your life revolves around your sport, from junior high to high school to college to those that have the opportunity to go to the pros,” Catchings said. “A lot of times, when they're done, players can't figure out what interests them. They don't really know.”
One of Catchings' new roles as director of player programs and franchise development will be to help with the post-playing navigation.
Catchings, who retired from playing after 15 glory-filled years with the WNBA's Indiana Fever, and four Olympic gold medals, has tested all sorts of experiences. She bought the Tea's Me Café in Indianapolis, she worked as an analyst for the SEC Network, she guided her Catch The Stars foundation and she has been an active inspirational speaker.
Catchings will join Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to speak at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes “Night of Hope” at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Coliseum. (For tickets to the free event, visit www.indianafca.org/nightofhope.)
“One thing I'd love to do is figure out a way, with the Pacers, the Fever and the (Fort Wayne) Mad Ants, to find out what the players are passionate about, what interests them,” Catchings said. “There were things that I wanted to do, things that interested me and I thank God for that. A lot of players don't have that. I hope to be that bridge for them, whether they choose to retire or something happens where they have to retire.”
Catchings knows what it's like to work her way to the top of her sport. She played in 10 WNBA All-Star Games, won a Most Valuable Player Award and left the game with a number of all-time records.
She stepped away from the game and now, at 37, remains involved in a different way.
“The question I get asked the most is, 'Is there anything you would go back and change?' ” Catchings said. “There's nothing I would go back and change. What I do is look at certain stages of my life and the different people who came into my life and see those 'aha' moments where people came into my life at the right time and with the right things I needed to hear at that moment.”
Catchings, in turn, hopes to be the person who says the right thing or points others in the right direction.
That applies to her new job, and to her speaking engagements when people of all ages come to hear what she has to say.
Her Christian faith has guided her, and continues to guide her, as she will point out to those who attend Friday's event.
“You realize first off, it's not all about you and about what I want and what I want to do,” Catchings said. “It's ultimately what God has in store for you.”
Catchings says sometimes the path can be surprising.
“Two things I said I'd never do was coach and commentate,” she said. “I took a stab at commentating this past offseason with the SEC Network and I fell in love with it. So if God has (coaching) for me at some point, I'll have to follow and listen to that, too.”
Catchings has been to Fort Wayne several times and will return for her work with the Mad Ants as part of Pacers Sports & Entertainment.
Her bookings with Fellowship of Christian Athletes were in place prior to accepting a position with the Pacers organization.
“A lot of people put professional athletes on a pedestal and don't realize the journey behind it,” Catchings said. “I get excited to share my testimony. There will be a question-and-answer format, so I can only imagine the type of questions I'll be asked. I hope to be a positive, bright light for somebody.”
There's no doubt Catchings brings a positive light wherever she goes.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Night of Hope
Speakers: Kirk Cousins and Tamika Catchings
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Coliseum
Tickets: Free, available via www.indianafca.org/nightofhope