As the WNBA prepares to celebrate its historicÂ 20thÂ season starting May 14, one of its greatest players will also commence her last season. Before her final lap, three-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings has released Catch A Star: Shining Through Adversity to Become a Champion, an autobiography chronicling her journey.
Below, Catchings shares insights on her new book, overcoming being born with a profound hearing loss, and how the WNBA continues to inspire the next generation of female athletes.
Blackenterprise.com: After playing in the WNBA for 16 years, what made you want to release a book now?
Tamika Catchings: Over the years, Iâ€™ve done a lot more speaking, and everywhere I go people always say, ‘I wish you had a book or CD, DVD or something that I could take to my family or friends.’ So for the last couple of years Iâ€™ve been like, ‘Hold on itâ€™s coming!’
How did you overcome a hearing loss to excel at sports?Â
When I was younger, it affected me more because I got bullied and made fun of and didnâ€™t understand why I was different.Â Over the years, I ended up throwing my hearing aids out. I began when I was in second grade and literally didnâ€™t start wearing a hearing aid again and going back to speech class until my freshman year in college. I wanted to fit in, and I felt like my hearing aid, because it was big and bulky, made me a target and visibly different from everybody else. Having to go through that is really where sports became important to me because I knew that if I could play sports and get really good, people couldnâ€™t make fun of me.
We also know that you had a few painful physical injuries. How did you surmount those challenges?
I tore my ACL my senior year in college. My goal was to play in the WNBA so I thought â€śOh my gosh, no one is going to draft me.â€ť Iâ€™m a very faith-oriented person so Iâ€™m like, ‘OK God, whatâ€™s the plan? Whatâ€™s going on?’ Even though I was able to come back from that and get drafted, I still struggled because I got up to Indiana and didnâ€™t know Indianapolis because I had never been here.
Then, I tore my Achilles in 2007, which was the year before the Olympics. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I really want to play.’ So I did the same thing during that rehab process as I did during the first. I was grinding and thinking every single day, I had to be better than the day before. That was my mindset.
What does the WNBAâ€™s 20th anniversary mean for you and women overall?
For me, thinking back to the beginning of the W, looking at the success of the â€™96 Olympic team and how that translated into the WNBA, itâ€™s been cool to be a part of the journey. I remember even when I came inâ€”this will be my 16th yearâ€”there were so many people that said, ‘The WNBA is never going to make it.’ So from that standpoint, itâ€™s like wow, you can see weâ€™re still here. Not just we barely made it and weâ€™re struggling; no, weâ€™re here and we are strong and have great players that are coming up.
I think about the young girls that are training to one day have the opportunity to play in the WNBA, thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m here. Iâ€™m so proud to be a trailblazer and we are allowing them the opportunity to dream the way I did.