WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings: Advocating for Health, Fitness and Diabetes Awareness
It’s safe to say there’s no shortage of inspirational women in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)! Earlier this year I featured WNBA President, Laurel J. Richie and Chicago Sky Head Coach, Pokey Chatman. Today, I’m excited to introduce you to the WNBA’s 2011 Most Valuable Player, Tamika Catchings, who plays for the Indiana Fever. Additionally, she’s a Dribble to Stop Diabetes Campaign Ambassador and co-founder of the Catch the Stars Foundation.
Q: How did you get started playing basketball?
A: My father was an NBA player for eleven years, playing for various teams including the Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers. I really got started playing by watching my dad. I have an older brother and an older sister, so between the three of us we were very active and always playing sports.
Another reason I got involved in sports was because I was born with hearing problems, so I had to wear hearing aids and had a speech problem. Back then, I didn’t have the little hearing aids, I had the big ones and as a young girl that’s really not the thing that makes you popular. I remember just wanting to fit in and be normal and be like everybody else. I always got made fun of because of the way that I talked.
Sports really became an avenue for me just to be able to fit in and to be like everybody else. I knew that if I got made fun of off the court I could say, “Hey, let’s go play basketball” or “Let’s go play soccer.” I knew that some things in life I wouldn’t be able to change, but with sports I could always work harder and get better.
In seventh grade, I found my passion for basketball. I would go outside and play and play and play and it was just something that I loved. I enjoyed volleyball and still played until I went to college. I ran track and field into my junior year but during seventh grade, I decided that I was going to follow in my dad’s footsteps and play in the NBA. That was my dream.
Q: You’ve carried that dream through to playing in the WNBA. What are some of the lessons you have learned playing at that level?
A: The WNBA is very professional and, as a professional athlete, it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself and your body. In college you really don’t have a choice because the team does everything together, including eating. In the WNBA, you have a schedule of practice times and games. In between practices and games, it’s up to you to make sure you’re getting in the weight room. You need to make sure that if you need to get extra cardio, that you’re doing it. And you have to make sure you’re eating right. Unlike college, there aren’t people watching you and making sure you’re getting everything done.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your Catch the Stars Foundation?
A: We work with boys and girls ages 7 to 15 and we offer sports-related and education-related programs. In the beginning, my sister and I started by offering basketball camps. Eventually, we were hosting so many different types of programs, we decided to start the Catch the Stars Foundation and put all of our different programs under that organization. Since then, we have added mentoring programs and we’re continuing to grow.
I love being able to impact the kids, especially early on, when you can involve them and guide them and lead them, you can tell that it makes a difference in their future.
Q: You’re now a spokesperson for Dribble to Stop Diabetes. Why did you decide to become so involved in the program?
A: Diabetes runs in my family. My nephew has type 2 diabetes and one of my aunts has type 1 diabetes. I realize that diabetes affects all of us. For me it’s really important to know what’s in my family, to make sure that I stay active and eat as healthy as I can.
Plus, Dribble to Stop Diabetes correlates directly with what I’m already doing with my job so it is a perfect fit. This is about setting an example. Any time you have kids looking up to you, it’s important to share the right message. When parents ask questions about diabetes and I can encourage them to look at the website, take a risk assessment, and talk to a doctor, then I think we’re promoting the right behavior.
Q: You mentioned how important kids are to you, any words of wisdom that you share with kids you meet?
A: It’s all about dreams and setting goals. In all of the programs that I’m involved in, we have them sit down and write goals. We talk about short-term goals and long-term goals.
A lot of people think that setting goals has to be a big thing. It can be, or it can be a simple daily task. It can be as big or little as you want. I was in seventh grade when I made my goal. The WNBA wasn’t even here and I knew what I wanted. I had a dream of what I wanted to do. To think about what I wanted to do in seventh grade and to actually be doing it, it’s amazing.
It really is amazing! Tamika is such an inspiration and I think we can all take note from her experience and strive to accomplish our goals. All it takes is a dream and hard work. Thanks Tamika!
All the best,
Disclosures: Tamika Catchings is a paid Campaign Ambassador for Dribble to Stop Diabetes. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
The Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign is a Sanofi US Diabetes partnership with the NBA, NBA D-League, WNBA and the American Diabetes Association.