Tamika Catchings’ Legacy Tour, part II: giving back

As basketball legend Tamika Catchings prepared to retire from the WNBA last season, she raised money in each WNBA city for youth as part of her“Legacy Tour.”

The deal was that she’d return to each city and conduct a fitness clinic, and this summer she’s been doing just that. Friday afternoon, the Catch the Stars Foundation stopped in Los Angeles and visited the Challengers Boys and Girls Club.

Tamika opened the camp with a talk and some instructions. Her first rule was to have fun. Her stipulation was that no one was allowed to say “I can’t” for the duration of the clinic. Anyone heard saying those two words would have to do ten pushups.

“Saying ‘I can’t’ means you won’t even try,” Tamika told the kids.

I smiled like a Cheshire cat as I had Pat Summitt flashbacks.

Tamika led an icebreaker game that got everyone laughing. Then participants were lined up in age groups for a warm up. Before they began, she asked them how many WNBA teams there were. Everyone started throwing out guesses except a fourth-grader I ended up talking to for a while later, when she came through my station. This girl was looking at the back of the T-shirt on the person in front of her in line, where all the teams were listed, and she was counting them.

“I’m using my resources,” the girl explained when I asked her what she was doing.

I told her to keep it up; that she would take over the world someday.

We then broke out into five stations, where myself and four other coaches guided participants through drills and exercise for about an hour. Tamika’s assistant told the woman running the layup station that No. 24 would probably find her way there first, because she’s very particular about layups and how they are taught. Sure enough, that was Tamika’s first stop. But she made it around to all the stations and jumped in for a bit to add to the instruction.

Tamika is great with young people. She has a friendly, warm manner that is expertly mixed with high expectations. She puts kids at ease, yet pushes them to be their best at the same time. It is something to behold.

Participants and coaches at the conclusion of Tamika Catchings’ Legacy Tour Clinic Friday.

The coaches, with Tamika Catchings and an LA Sparks staff member, right.

After the event Tamika talked to us coaches for a few minutes and then started cleaning up shop. She and her assistant knelt on the floor and repacked the leftover camp T-shirts into a USA Basketball suitcase that looked like it might have gone to both London and Rio. They left in their own rental car to go back to the airport.

It is said that character is revealed by your actions when no one is watching. As Tamika always showed great character on court, she is exhibiting even more off of it. In her retirement from basketball, she’s expanding the reach of her 13-year-old non-profit foundation to other cities, and she makes it happen with no fanfare. Los Angeles was the eleventh stop on part II of the Legacy Tour, as she has quietly visited other cities to bring awareness and raise money. She does it because it’s the right thing to do.

How many other retired professional athletes have chosen this career path? And one of the best that’s ever played the game of basketball? I’d venture to say, not many.

Last year, as her final season wound down, I was worried about missing Tamika on the court. For her hustle, her leadership, her selflessness, her statistical dominance in multiple categories, she is my favorite player ever to suit up for the WNBA, hands down. But last night after the clinic, I reconciled two things.

The first was that Tamika will always be around. She’s everywhere, has multiple projects in many places, and she is not the kind of person to just disappear into the sunset. She likes to help people. The second thing was that all the things Tamika used to do for fans with her intense drive and commitment, she now does for a different audience: kids. I can live with that.

Donating to Catch the Stars is as easy as going here.