Basketball great Tamika Catchings remembers being teased as a kid. Born with a hearing impairment, her classmates made fun of the hearing aids and speech difficulties. But Catchings soon realized her classmates couldn’t make fun of her if she was kicking their butts at sports.
“That’s how sports first came into my life,” the four-time Olympic gold medalist writes in an essay for ESPN. “In the classroom kids could make fun of me for being different. On the soccer field (my first sport) and eventually the basketball court, they couldn’t. I outworked them, plain and simple. Eventually, I was better than them.”
Through sports, Catchings realized her hearing impairment didn’t have to hold her back. Much to the horror of her parents, Catchings once threw her hearing aid onto a soccer field. Doling out a little tough love, her parents refused to get her a new one.
“That decision helped spark a work ethic that has shaped me into the person and player I am today,” she writes. Catchings had to do extra work in classes and during practices to avoid falling behind because of her hearing.
Years before professional basketball even existed as career path for women, Catchings decided she would become a basketball player. She spent her 15 year career playing the Indiana Fever where she racked up a slew of impressive honors including a WNBA championship, WNBA Most Valuable Player Award , a WNBA Finals MVP Award and five WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards. She also served as the president of the WNBA Players Association from 2012 to 2016 before retiring.
A devout Christian, Catchings credits her success to her faith in God. When she was tore her ACL during her rookie year, she believes her faith helped her persevere.
“God is definitely my Savior,” she told CBN. “He’s the one that walks beside me through my ups and downs and the one that keeps me focused on where I am going in life. He protects me. He provides for me. He guides me and he leads me.”
When Catchings isn’t excelling on the basketball court, she’s giving back to her community. Her foundation Catch the Stars helps kids in Indianapolis by empowering them through “goal-setting programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring.” You can donate to Catch the Stars here.