Standing front and center on the blue and purple-lit stage, Tamika Catchings stepped forward parallel to a 15-foot crucifix, picks up a basketball and twirls the orange globe in her hands.
Grasping the ball, her voice echoed as she talked about the most basic facet of the game — free throws.
Catchings went through the routine arm motion and shot the ball into the crowd — one shot with her eyes open and the next closed.
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“There’s no one around you. You have a wide-open opportunity to make the basket,” Catchings told the crowd. “When you shoot with your eyes open, you can see the goal, the net, the follow through — everything. When you close your eyes, you have to trust that everything that you practiced will allow you to make that same shot over and over and over again.
“Every time I have an opportunity to speak, I have a theme,” she said. “The theme for today is ‘Have a little faith.’”
On Sunday morning, the former Indiana Fever superstar relayed testimony to two services at Seymour Christian Church.
Catchings broke the speech down to the acronym FAITH — focusing on your vision, always having a goal and vision, igniting others, trusting the process and holding on and enjoying the ride of life.
Catchings, whose illustrious career includes four Olympic gold medals, a WNBA title, a WNBA most valuable player award and a pair of NCAA national championships, now spends most of her time giving back statewide and nationwide.
At the service, Catchings told the crowd about her life and how faith has shaped the person she is today on and off the basketball court.
She said she grew up in the church but briefly strayed away once she got to college at the University of Tennessee.
After finishing 39-0 with an NCAA national championship her freshman year (1997-98), Catchings said she felt like she was on the top of the world.
The following season, the Volunteers started losing games, and some hardships ensued.
One day, a billboard with a religious message on the side of the road caught Catchings’ eye.
“How many times do we pass by signs and not realize something’s there?” Catchings asked the crowd.
Catchings said she convinced some of her teammates to attend the revival service, and visiting with Pastor Ken Johnson pointed her back to church.
At each service’s end Sunday, Catchings took photos and signed autographs with fans.
In the front row of the second service sat members of the 2016-17 Crothersville High School girls basketball team.
Catchings invited the Tigers after hearing about their accomplishments through various platforms. That included winning the school’s first sectional title in any sport.
“Some of it was through social media, and then a lot of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) people told me about (the Tigers),” Catchings said. “I’ve done a lot of speaking in areas around Indiana who have shared their story and impact. The first, girls or boys, who won a sectional, using their faith to accomplish that.”
Two years ago, Catchings visited Seymour Christian Church and relayed a similar speech.
Lead Pastor Bill Lockman said they hoped Catchings, who first got in touch with the church through Seymour’s Donna Sullivan, would visit again after giving a compelling message the first time in town.
“People were blessed by her testimony and were encouraged, especially the young people,” Lockman said.
With her status, Catchings has the power to influence a multitude of people, Lockman said.
“(Catchings) just won her fourth Olympic gold medal, has two NCAA championships, was an All-American and WNBA MVP,” Lockman said. “Someone like that people listen to because of their platform. Sometimes, that can be bad. We have a lot of bad role models on national platforms that do stupid stuff. Our kids get identified with that, and it’s not good. To have someone like Tamika, it’s 24-karat gold. It’s good for kids to be able to identify with her.”
Aside from giving speeches in her retirement, Catchings works with her organization, Catch the Stars Foundation, a charity that provides basketball camps, mentoring and literacy programs to underprivileged children. She also became an analyst for ESPN’s SEC Network.
“Through our foundation, Catch the Stars, we do a lot of things for underprivileged youth aged 7 to 18,” Catchings said. “We focus on fitness, literacy and mentoring. A majority of it is central Indiana, Indianapolis, and we’re looking to branch out.
“Last year, we did more of a legacy tour through the WNBA. In every WNBA city, we did a postgame party,” she said. “This year, we’re going back to each city and doing a camp or clinic. Here in Indianapolis, I would like to do more. It’s easier to kind of have one home base, but these types of opportunities (Seymour) allow me to speak and share my message.”
Catchings also recently purchased Tea’s Me, a tea shop at 140 E. 22nd St. on the north side of Indianapolis. She said she would visit the shop with her mother and sister, so when she heard it was going to close, she made the decision to purchase it.
Part of owning Tea’s Me will coincide with Catchings’ foundation.
“We want to hire juniors and seniors in high school and teach them the importance of serving others, looking them in the face, presenting yourself, etc.” she said. “That’s a big part of how people perceive you, and one day, that will be a big part of their lives.”
While her 15-year career with the Fever has closed, Catchings doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.