The Michael Jordan of women’s basketball
Jordan Raynor sits down with Tamika Catchings, Hall of Fame Basketball Player, to talk about how Tamika and Jordan became friends over Called to Create, her surprising answer to the key to mastering her sport, and how mastery and joy have opened up doors for Tamika to share the gospel.
[00:00:05] JR: Hey, everybody. Welcome to The Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others. Every week I’m hosting a conversation with a Christ follower who is pursuing world-class mastery of their craft. We’re talking about their path to mastery, their daily habits, and how their faith influences their work.
Today I’m thrilled to share this conversation with my friend, Tamika Catchings. Man! If there’s ever been somebody on this show who is an unequivocal master of their craft, it is her. She’s widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, male or female. She’s appeared in more WNBA playoff games than any player in history. She’s the only player in WNBA history to appear in 10 All-Star games. She’s one of only 3 American basketball players, male or female, to earn 4 Olympic gold medals and, it goes without saying, she’s a member of the women’s basketball hall of fame. Now, today, she retired as a player a few years ago, today, she’s the general manager of her former team, the Indiana Fever.
Tamika and I recently sat down. We talked about how we became friends over my book, Called to Create, a few years ago. We talked about her surprising answer to the key to becoming the greatest of all time in her sport, and we talked about how mastery and Christ-centered joy has opened up doors for Tamika to share the gospel.
You guys are going to love this conversation with my friend, Tamika Catchings.
[00:01:51] JR: Tamika, my friend, thanks for doing this. Thanks for being here.
[00:01:54] TC: Thank you for having me. I’m excited.
[00:01:56] JR: So we’ve known each other for a few years now. We hung out in Indi, where you live. We hung out in Tampa. And to be honest with you, I don’t entirely remember how we met for the first time and how you came across my work for the first time. Do you remember?
[00:02:11] TC: I do. It was the Multiply Conference.
[00:02:15] JR: That’s right. Yeah.
[00:02:16] TC: And I was telling DJ, who does help with both of our book. And I’m talking to him, I’m like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to the Multiply Conference. And so and so is going to be there.” I’m like, “Jordan Raynor,” and he was like, “Oh my God! Jordan is one of my clients.” I’m like, “Oh! Okay.” He’s like ,“You got to go up. You got to talk to him. I represent both of you guys, so it’d be a great connection,” and it was like a match in heaven.
[00:02:37] JR: That’s funny. I forgot that DJ is our literary agent for the both of us. He does our books. By the way, I have a picture from that conference of you standing next to me that my friends cannot get enough of. I look so tiny compared to Tamika Catchings. They love it. They love it. They rag me about it all the time.
So, your story is way too long and story to fit into a podcast episode. You played at UT under Pat Summitt. You went to four Olympic games and won gold. You dominated the WNBA. I’m curious though, as you look back along your career as an athlete, do you have a favorite memory that you think you’ll just like never ever forget? What really stands out in your mind?
[00:03:20] TC: Wow! My favorite memory honestly is – So I tore my ACL in my senior year in college, and got drafted. My goal in 7th grade was to be a professional basketball player. And fast-forwarded, I wanted to be in the NBA, because the WNBA wasn’t around. So fast-forward my freshman year in college at University of Tennessee, the WNBA started. And I literally just remember like, “Oh my God! This is my dream. This is what I want. I want to go and I want to play.”
My father played in the NBA, so I wanted to follow in his footsteps by playing in the W. So senior year I tear my ACL. I get drafted. So, I don’t play the first year. I mean, this is the thing that I’ll never forget, because when you play a lot of games and you get to do a lot of really cool things the Olympics, and W, and college, and overseas. You get a lot of opportunities. But I would say like the memory that I will never forget and I’ll probably talk to my kids about the most is the first time stepping on the floor, my first time, 2000 when I got drafted. So, I didn’t play that year until 2002, like my two rookie season.
The first time I stepped on the court and just the response from the fans and hearing my name getting announced. I don’t remember anything about the game, but I think just like when you have a goal and you work so hard and you put so many hours and just everything to see it coming to fruition. That was the thing that I remember the most.
[00:04:41] JR: That’s awesome. I didn’t know your dad played in the NBA.
[00:04:45] TC: He played for 11 years. He played for Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
[00:04:51] JR: Wow! That’s awesome. So you grow up going to games and seeing these legends on the court. That’s awesome.
[00:04:56] TC: Yeah. I mean, it’s crazy because like when you’re in that world and even as a player when you’re in that world, you kind of live in a bubble. When people are like, “What’s it like?” I’m like, “I love it.” Obviously, you work so hard to get to that point. But you’re in a bubble. I mean, it’s kind of like you go from team to team. For the WNBA players, we play in America during the summertime and pretty much fall and spring we’re overseas in different cities. So I played 9 years overseas as well.
[00:05:25] JR: Wow! So I love that from the 7th grade you knew like, this is it. This is your thing. The WNBA didn’t exist. You were like, “I’m going to get into the NBA. You were like it’s set up.
[00:05:37] TC: Yes. I am very determined, and I’m sure you know I’m determined and I’m very passionate.
[00:05:43] JR: Yeah. I know that about you. Was your dad like, “Tamika, come on. A woman is never going to play in the NBA.” Or was he really encouraging of you?
[00:05:51] TC: Oh man! My mom and dad were awesome. I remember, I was sitting in my room and I always have a notebook, even right now. I’m sitting here with a notebook right next to me. But I tore a piece of paper out. I wrote down on a piece of paper just what I wanted to be, like “One day when I grow up, I want to be in the NBA.” And I remember running down the hall to my brother and my sisters going, “Hey, guys. I know what I want to be when I grow up.” And they were just like, “Oh man! What?” And I showed them my paper. And they just said, “Oh! My God! Have you told mom? Have you told dad?”
I’m running down the stairs, I’m like, “Mom! Dad! I know what I want to be when I grow up.” And I showed them the piece of paper, and my mom and dad, both of them were like, “You know, honey. If anyone can do it, you can.” And just hearing those words, whether they believed it or not, it didn’t matter.
[00:06:36] JR: Right. Didn’t matter. When you were in the 7th grade, it doesn’t matter. Yeah.
[00:06:39] TC: Yeah. It doesn’t matter. I swear, like every day, I was outside playing basketball. Like during the school year I would go outside, I would shoot hoops if I could in the driveway or around the corner. We had a basketball hoop. I would shoot. I come back and I get ready for school. I come back home from school and do my homework. We would go and do whatever sport we are involved in. I played three sports all the way through high school and obviously stopped when I got to college. But basketball was like my love. That was the thing that I knew I was driven to do.
[00:07:10] JR: So this is going to be laughable to you, since you and I have met in person a couple times, but my dream up until the 8th grade was to play in the NBA. That’s the proper response, “Oh, cute little Jordan [inaudible 00:07:26]. Yeah. No. I was obsessed. All throughout elementary school, all I did was play basketball. Very similar story. And then I capped out at 5 foot 6, and realized this is totally inconceivable.
I tell that story a lot to illustrate the point that, like, you can’t be anything you want to be. There are natural limitations that God has placed on you. If you’re 5 foot 6, you’re probably not going to play in the NBA.
[00:07:53] TC: I mean you just have to be really good. Like really good.
[00:07:57] JR: You have to be really good.
[00:07:57] TC: I mean, look at Nate Robinson. Nate Robinson was short. There’s quite a few of them. Muggsy Bogues. I mean, you just got to be really good.
[00:08:05] JR: Oh, Muggsy was a hero.
[00:08:07] TC: Yeah.
[00:08:08] JR: So you are one of, if not, the greatest women’s basketball player of all time. Like I keep reading these articles, it’s like Tamika is the best ever. If any guest on this podcast is an unequivocal master of their craft, it’s you. So, I’m just curious, during your career as an athlete, what did you learn were the keys to mastering your vocation as a player? What’s the delta between hall of famer and somebody who’s not in the hall of fame?
[00:08:35] TC: I think the attention to details, and being very devoted, very dedicated, very attentive. How many times – I know even for me now, like in my role with the Fever, I will walk in a gym and I will watch players workout. I’ll watch them train. I was very particular on the way that I train. It took me minute. I can’t say from day one, like, this is what popped out. But from the way that the simplest thing to a jab step, the simplest thing, as you’re going through a lot of things that happened. What happened when you’re working out? The coach would say, “Hey, I need you to do a jab step to the middle with your left leg,” and there’ll be a cone a couple feet ahead to do a jab step to take two dribbles with your right hand, do a crossover to your left, one dribble, into a pull up.
Even as you’re thinking through it, like I would walk through it. And then when I would actually get into it, everything had to be done game-like. So in between my reps, I might walk around. I might take a break. I might shoot free throws. But as I was going through the drill, I was very deliberate and very attentive to the small details. I think that, really, the difference between being a good player and being a great player is those small attentions, those small details.
[00:09:57] JR: I know that’s great. I’m surprised by that answer a little bit. Obviously, I know like discipline over time counts, and grit, whatever. But attention to detail – I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. When I was writing Master of One, I talk to Tony Dungy. I talk to a few other people from the world of athletics and sports. And this theme kept coming up as like, “Yeah, excellence is mundane.”
Excellence is just doing the drill the right way over and over and over again. It’s a lot of repetitions. I think you framing it as attention to detail is a good way to say it. It’s like doing everything, even the little things, like a drill, perfectly, with excellence every single time.
[00:10:37] TC: Yeah. And I have to be careful, because like my little nephews will come and my brothers will come over here and they’ll be playing outside. They’re young, but they all have goals to be in the NBA. I have to be careful though, because I didn’t start getting mindset really till probably later in my college and even going into being a professional. I still grew every single year. My dad always said, “Every year that you come into a season, you have to bring something different. It’s not that you don’t work on the good things and the great things that you did the year before. It’s just you have to add an element to your game.”
Every year, like, in the off season when I would go overseas I would have a specific thing that I wanted to work on to add to my game coming in. But I got to be careful, because I can’t push them to do that right now. Right now, it’s more important for them. They’re in high school. The oldest one next year, he’s going to be a junior in high school. My little nephew is going to be a freshman, the one that lives here would be a freshman. But I don’t want to push them to the point of you got to do everything perfect. You got to do this. Now I want them to have fun.
[00:11:46] JR: Yeah. You want them to love the game.
[00:11:47] TC: Yeah, love the game. Have fun. You want it. When you want it, like I wanted it, I wanted to be the best. The best I could be. I’m not comparing to anybody else. I wanted to be the best that I could be. Every day, it was really about what are the small things that I knew to do to be the best.
[00:12:03] JR: I love that. I talk about this in Master of One, this idea of frequent discomfort. So masters never plateau. They always put more weight on the bar and do it really specifically, right? So they set specific goals. It’s like, “Okay. I want to add this element to my game.” Or for me as a writer, it’s like, “Oh man! I really want to get better at making transitions with words from chapter to chapter,” and purposely practicing that. So for you, you would just go into a season and be like, “Oh, yeah. I specifically want to do this.” What’s an example of that?
[00:12:34] TC: So shooting. I would say – What year was that? I got drafted 2001. Probably around 2006, 7, somewhere around there, when the NBA All-Star game was in Houston. I remember, up until that point, like I shot the ball okay. I wasn’t terrible, but I wanted to be better. And got down to Houston, I think flew back from – I was playing at that point. I would play overseas somewhere. I got back to Houston for the All-Star game and I was trying to find somewhere to workout. They were like, “Okay. Well, you can go and workout in the Houston Rocket gym. Just you have to go early every single day.”
I was talking – At that point in time, the Houston Comets was still here. I was talking one of the assistant coaches, Kevin Cook, and I was like, “Look, I want to workout. Can you get the balls? Can you have everything done? All I want to do is just come.” He was like, “Hey, I have this guy, the shooting coach. I don’t know if you’d be interested in working with him? But he can come, and at least if you want to workout with him, you can.”
Literally brought Marvin Harvey, a.k.a the Shot Doctor. I call him Doc. So like I started working with him during the three or four days that I was there for the All-Star game. And then I went back oversees. I went through the season. And after the season I went and I trained with him for about two weeks straight, and then I left for a week, and then I went back down. But it’s just like I was so – At that point, when you know how you’d learn something, and our training time was from 8 AM to like 12. We had an hour for lunch. And then you would come back and go from 1 to 5. But you know when you were learning something, and you’re so hungry to learn, the time goes by so fast that you don’t even realize how long you’ve been in the gym. When you come out, you’re exhausted, but you want more.
I started working with him, but that was my thing. Like I wanted to become a better shooter, and my shooting percentage continued to go up, and he would come overseas and spend time with me there, and watch my games, and we would train. But like after I met him that one year, thank God for Kevin, because it wasn’t for Kevin I wouldn’t have met Marvin. I wouldn’t have met Doc and just improved my game.
[00:14:45] JR: Yeah. And you’ve heard Master of One. I talk about apprenticeships. I talk about purposeful practice. When you identified a weakness in your game, like shooting, did you set really concrete goals where you’re like, “Oh, I got to get my shooting percentage from X% to Y%.” Did you think about it that way?
[00:15:03] TC: I didn’t. He did, I’m sure. Mine was more just eliminating. You talked about this in your book, like how you start shaving off. So when you watch different shooters shoot, not everybody shoots the exact same way, but Doc studied Michael. He studied MJ. The Jordan shoes, the Jordan pants, the Jordan hat. Like he studied Michael Jordan. And when you think about the great, you look at the Last Dance and how many people tuned in and just watching Michael go through. It was awesome.
That was my thing. How do you eliminate the extra movement? How do you eliminate some of the things, my arms shooting out, my elbow pointing out? How do you get that underneath? I mean, probably the first two or three days, think about the hours I just gave you. The first two or three days, we actually practiced without a basketball.
[00:15:55] JR: Wow! Interesting. You were just doing laps and stuff?
[00:15:57] TC: Just working on form. A lot of like mirror stuff. Watching, being able to see your form. Being able to see your knees bend, the release at the end, and then walking around the court. Just doing the same things, like two, three step, stop, shoot. Two, three step, stop, shoot. And it’s like, yeah.
[00:16:16] JR: It’s just building the muscle memory. Yeah.
[00:16:16] TC: Yup, building muscle memory, and then getting confident. They say you have to do something the same way, like the repetition, I think it’s 24 times. I don’t know. It’s like a lower number. But then to be excellent at something, you have to put 10,000 hours. At least 10,000 hours into. I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Definitely have done that.”
[00:16:36] JR: So you’ve definitely done that as a player. But now – you’re such a great example to somebody who is going to master different things in different seasons of her career, right? Versus a player now, you alluded to this a minute ago. You’re mastering the art of managing the basketball organization. You were recently named GM of the Indiana Fever at such an ideal time, right? Pre-COVID. That was awesome. Great introduction to managing a team.
I’m curious, as you’ve made this transition from player to GM, what are the things where you’re like, “Oh, okay. I really have to work hard at this skill as I make this transition to managing a team.”
[00:17:12] TC: I would say communication. 2004 was probably the first time, as a player, the first time I was around Dawn Staley, with the Olympic team. That was my first experience with the senior teams from the Olympic standpoint. Watching the way that she was able to direct and communicate all the players on our team. I was just like, “Man! This is amazing.” So coming out of that, I came back to Indiana. That was something that I worked on. Not just being a leader that said, “Hey, just follow me.” I wasn’t really good at communicating. It was more like, “I’m going to get in the gym. I’m going to go hard. I’m going to do all the things that I need to do. If you want to workout with me, come, but if not, I’m not going to tell you what to do.” But I learned after that.
I think, in making this transition, it’s really been about communicating effectively. You got to communicate with the players. You got to communicate with the agents. You got to communicate with the lead. You got to communicate – I have a boss and I have bosses. So being able to communicate and knowing their style and the way that they like to be communicated to. Because I can’t speak to my boss, Dr. Barber, in the way that I speak to Harvey, different than the way I speak to Rick Fuson, who is the president of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, and then the owner, the Simons, there are a lot of different ways of being able to communicate. Really learning how to do that. How to be transparent, because from a player’s standpoint, that was something that I wanted. And like I wanted somebody that was transparent. I want you to be honest with me. If I’m not doing something, tell me I’m not doing something. You don’t beat around the bush. Just be direct.
Really trying to learn, I think, the benefit I do have is that I was a player. So I know what it feels like to be on that side. And now that I’m on this side, being able to understand what I felt and I what I wanted. But also I’m in the front of it. So there are some things that I can change. There are some things that I can’t. But I want to be a transparent as I can with the information that I have.
[00:19:14] JR: How have you done that in the wake of COVID? I mean, leaders right now I think are trying to figure out, how do we project hope? But also be transparent about the reality of the economic climate, and what that can mean for our organizations or basketball organization. How have you thought about that need for transparency during this time with your players and the whole organization?
[00:19:36] TC: Well, one thing we’ve set up right away. I would say – So, right before COVID hit, the one thing we were all preparing for from the WNBA standpoint is the WNBA draft. Initially when it hit, like we put all eggs in our basket. We had one basket. Everything, like everybody working around the clock focusing in on the draft.
Draft happened in April and then it’s like, “Okay, now what? When are we going to play? When are we going to play?” We’re just now getting ready to start our season. I would say during that timeframe, especially being in COVID, it was really about communication. I mean, we set up weekly calls with our players. We broke them down into different groups so that we could communicate effectively based on, our older players maybe don’t need as much, and they want a different type of information, and they want more job security and there are other things that they’re focused on. Where the younger players are like, “Okay, I’m ready to play. This is my dream. This is what I’ve been looking forward to.”
Really trying to focus – My standpoint is, all of our players, and this is something that I stress. All of our players need to be multidimensional. I don’t want you to just be basketball players. Basketball is what you do. It’s not who you are. God given us all individual talent. That was something that he gave, but there’s something else that you have in you as well. So, really trying to use this time to, “Let’s talk about where we are. Let’s talk about COVID.”
Then George Floyd happened. So even in the wake of COVID, already being frustrated of being pent-up in the house, then now we get to social injustice and oppression and how do we communicate that. How do we talk about that? How do we as a team, as an organization, wrap our arms around majority of our players, from the Fever, Indiana Fever side and the Pacers’ side, or African-American. And so we’re all impacted to some capacity. I think for me it’s been a lot of juggling, but I’m learning.
I feel like God has had placed me in this time with such a time as this. And while sometime I know I feel like, “God, I’m not the one.” He keeps pushing me.
[00:21:42] JR: Yeah. So, as an African-American woman, leader of this organization, how have you responded to the George Floyd situation? What lane do you feel like is appropriate for you to occupy and communicate about this, inside and outside of the organization?
[00:21:58] TC: I think it’s really using my platform to create positive change. So, I’ve been able to use my voice inside of our organization and outside the organization. I’ve participated in a few marches and we did our march, and we did a sit-in, and protest, and really getting our organization and getting people to understand what it’s like. But now it’s like when you get to the hope part, what are some things that we can do and be hopeful for? Not even be hopeful, but pressed forward and be energized.
I’m blessed, because not only am I the GM and the vice president of basketball operation for the Fever. I also own my tea shop. I own Tea’s Me Café Indi, and through that, we’ve been able to do – we do community conversations. The month of June, we did one every Friday. Moving forward, we’ll do one every second Friday of the month, just talking about racism and education. This month we’re going to focus on racism and education, and talk all about education part two, because we did one portion of it in June. It went so well, and people were so excited, and everybody were chiming through our Facebook Live. I was like, “You know what? We need to continue the conversation.” People are looking at what are we going to do about school moving forward?
I feel like I have had a lot of different avenues. My sister and I, we have our Catch the Stars Foundation, so we’re about to do a back to school celebration and we are able to do good. And I think that’s what it’s all about: being able to do good, but also realizing, “Okay, what happened in the past,” you don’t forget about it, but how do we recreate history?
COVID-19 is already recreating our history book, because this is something that you’re going to have to write about. The history books that we’ve previously had are not going to have this information in it. How do we deal with this time? What’s happening to our economy? What’s happening to unemployment, and politics, and all the things that are going into this period of time? This will be something that we’ll go in the history books. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor will go in the history books, and now there’s more of an emphasis on, which I hope, and I feel energized to make sure we keep the conversation going, but also that there’s action with the conversation.
[00:24:15] JR: Yeah. And it all comes back to one of the core skills you got to have as a leader, as a GM, and just being able to communicate effectively to different stakeholders, and translating messages into different languages for those different stakeholders. Like you said, you talk different to players than you do the outside world, than you do to owners, etc.
So, going back real quick to one element of mastering your role as a GM, a big part of being a leader is coaching, right? I got to imagine that, if you’re not already, you’re going to be doing a lot of coaching of your managers, of your direct reports, within the organization. And you as a player sat under some of the greatest coaches of all time, the legendary Pat Summitt at UT.
What lessons are you applying form your experience being coached to now coaching others within your organization?
[00:25:02] TC: Oh, that’s a good question. I think it’s interesting, because I don’t know there is one thing. I’ve been blessed because Pat was a great leader. For me, I found myself, as a player, just watching her without really watching her. Like I wasn’t intentionally watching. Subconsciously, you’re always watching the people that you look up to, and she was like one of the leaders that – I mean, she would walk into a room and the way that she responded to people. She never met a stranger. That was her personality. Just greatness. I mean, she wanted us to be great in every facet of our life. That was something she consistently talked about is how we’re going to be great.
I think moving forward, I had a general manager that, when I played in Kelly Krauskoph. Even to this day, I mean, she’s across the street now, and I mean that literally, because she is the assistant GM for the Pacers now. I talk to her quite a bit and just like, “Hey, in this situation, how do you handle it?” So, I’m not afraid, and I think that the sign of a great leader is not being afraid to ask the people that came before you for advice.
Now, it doesn’t mean I’m going to follow everything that she tells me to do. But getting a different perspective from somebody that’s been in this seat, and maybe not that she hasn’t been through the COVID situation. But she’d been through a lot of other fires that have happened. And so really being able to talk to her honestly and raw, like I’m just sometimes like, “Man, I just don’t know what to do,” and to have encouragement.
I think that allowed me to take that and do that with somebody else and be able to encourage them and be able to talk them off the ledge and be able to kind of walk through, talk through different situations.
[00:26:45] JR: Yeah. I think one element of being a good coach is having a good coach, right? If you’re constantly being poured into by somebody who’s a few steps further down the road, you’re going to pick up lessons on how to be a good coach to others.
Tamika, let’s talk about your daily habits and routines. What is your day typically look like from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. And let’s go pre-COVID, since this current time is insane. But typically what does your day look like?
[00:27:11] TC: Pre-COVID. So I would normally get up, Tea’s Me opened at 7AM normally. Now we open up at 9. I would normally get up around 6. Of course, right away, I would say prayers and get ready for the day. Leave the house roughly like 6:30, 6:45. Get in the car, same thing. I never really ride around with music playing, because that’s really my time to tune in to God and just talk and thinking about –
[00:27:39] JR: Yeah. I think that’s really wise. Really wise.
[00:27:40] TC: Yeah. So I’ll get to Tea’s Me, 7:00, where I spent a couple of hours there. I could get to the office by 9:30, 10:00 depending on if we’re in season or off season. So we’ll talk about off season. Yeah, I get to the office around 9:30, 10:00, and then just a lot of meetings, a lot of talking, a lot of meeting. Our players on there working out, going down to the gym, and make sure that I get a chance to talk to them. Get a chance to just hang out for a little bit, and then I’m in meetings.
By the time the day is over, like if I’m able to leave early, I might go back and hang out at Tea’s Me for a little bit. At the end of the day, I may go back and just help them clean up the café, and then I come home. When I come home, my husband work from home, so come home, I try to make dinner. What I’ve really got into during COVID times, not necessarily before COVID. So I am thankful for this. I really got into bike riding. So now I ride. I’ll put a podcast on or listen to some inspirational music. I’ll ride for about an hour, hour and a half, and then come home, and, if I don’t cook dinner before. I’ll cook dinner when I get back, and after I take a shower.
Then my husband and I will eat. We might play a game. We might watch a show on TV. Then it’s time for bed.
[00:28:54] JR: That’s it. I love it. I think there’re a lot of habits that people are going to keep post-COVID that they developed during this time. Maybe for you it’s biking. I also love, you clearly don’t have to go into the tea shop to clean up the café. But like that’s fun for you, in a way of serving your team. I really like that.
Hey, go back to something you said a few minutes ago. It sounds like Pat Summitt did this for you. It sounds like you do this for your team now. But just making sure that they understand that they have value and worth outside of the contributions that they make in basketball. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Is there something personal in your story and journey you had to make on this topic?
[00:29:34] TC: Pat always said, “We’re going to be great on the court. We’re going to be great in the classroom, and we’re going to be great in the community.” Overall, her main goal for each of us were to be great people. To be great citizens. I always – I mean, even when I talk, like this is what I talk about. So, it’s been ingrained in my mind. When I got to be a professional athlete, my initial goal was to be a general manager. And probably – So, from 2001 to probably around 2014, that was my goal, and then all of a sudden it switched because I was like, “Gosh! I’m looking around at all of these WNBA, NBA, just professional athletes in general. When they’re finished playing, whatever sport, they have no idea what they want to do.”
I always said, my whole career, I was like, “I’ll never coach, and I’ll never commentate,” because in my mind I have it blocked of most players transition to that, because they don’t know what else to do. They don’t really want to coach. It’s just they only know basketball. Or they don’t really want to commentate, but they only know basketball. I didn’t want to get stuck in that rut. I figured out – So about 2014, my goal really switched where I really wanted to help players figure out what they wanted to do post-basketball, while we were still playing basketball.
When I retired in 2016, that was actually my first role. My first role was director of player programs and franchise development. I started with the Fever. Then I went to the Pacers. And then I went back to the Fever. Then I went to the Mad Ants, which is our G League team. And then I came to the Fever in a new role. For two years, I really wanted to lock-in to help our players figure out, “Okay, great. You’re a basketball player now. Right now is when you hit. Right now people want you to come and speak. They want you to show up. They want you to start networking, start trying to figure out what you want to do, and put you in position where you can.”
Even in those two years doing, what I learned, is that you can take somebody to the water, but they have to drink it. They got to use their hands. Pick up the cup. Fill it up and actually put it to their lips. You can’t do it for them. I find myself getting frustrated, because it’s like, “God, you guys are going to retire or something is going to happen and you’re not going to have anything to fall back on.”
When I got this role, I’m like, “You know what? Now I have the opportunity to do the same things, but now it’s like I’m in a different role.” So, finding people that can come in and talk to our players and finding people that can – Through COVID-19, that was the focus. We did podcasts. The players had to listen to podcasts and then we would talk about them in our team meeting. What did you learn? Why did you pick this podcast? Oh, you’re interested in real estate. Great. Have you listened to this person? I’m interested in real estate too. So, like, being able to tap into our players and figure out what are some other things that you enjoy, and how do we connect you with the right people?
You don’t want to connect with me, because you see me all the time, but how do we connect you with people within the city that, even in your own way, you can still communicate with them and they can help you kind of like the apprenticeship and the mentorship. They can help you through those.
[00:32:50] JR: Yeah. I love that. It’s just like coaching people as like whole people, not just players. And it makes you complete. I think in Master of One I talked a little bit about this. But like when we are world-class at whatever it is we do, whether it’s a player, or a GM, or whatever, it makes us winsome to the world. It makes us interesting to other people that want to be around us, and it opens up very personal conversations about other career interests, and sometimes about faith, right? Issues of faith.
I’m curious, do you think you’ve had opportunities to talk about your faith with teammates and coaches because of the fact that you were such a high performing player?
[00:33:28] TC: And because consistency. Being consistent – I mean I always say, like the book Audience of One. In everything that I do, I want to do to please Him. I don’t have to act one way over here and a different way over here. I’m always the same person no matter who I’m around, whether that’s the first time I’m around you or the hundredth time, I’m always the same.
I think the consistency piece really help, but also like my faith is embedded in my life. I don’t have to go around screaming, “I’m a Christian.” I don’t have to do that. I think probably the biggest – and I don’t want to say reward, because I don’t mean it like that. But the biggest – I’ll just like one of my teammate, while we were playing together, she was always wanted to be the center of attention, and like some of the stuff she talked about and the language she use, she didn’t really use it around me per se, but it was an inappropriate. I was always steady. I went in and I would correct things when I saw them, and I was a leader in the sense of not wanting to accept certain things.
But a few years after she retired she called me up one day like out of the blue and she was like, “Hey, are you busy this Sunday?” Or whatever Sunday it was, and I was like, “Oh, I don’t know if I’ll be in town.” She’s like, “Well, I’m getting baptized. I’ve given my life to Christ.” And I’m like, “What?” So it’s cool because we talked about. I’m joking, I’m like, “No! This isn’t the same person,” and she was like, “I know. I know. I know. I’ve changed. Watching you was a big part of it. The person that you are and the way you carried yourself and how consistent you always were. You always had a joy about you. And I want that.” And it’s awesome.
[00:35:10] JR: Joy is such a rare commodity in this world. And when people see the real thing, people just have to have that, right?
[00:35:18] TC: Yeah.
[00:35:19] JR: So I’ve been really digging in the life of C.S. Lewis lately, and he used this word a lot. Like from a young age, he would have these epiphanies of like joy. We get a taste of joy. It was like always on this life-long quest to find it. Ultimately, obviously, he found it in Christ alone.
Tamika, in Master of One, I shared a bunch of stories from a few people from the world of sports who you know, Coach Dungy, David Boudia on the US Olympic team, Cynthia Marshall of the Dallas Mavericks. I kind of made the point that there’s no evidence in the scripture that God demands that we win, or achieve any sort of excellence, or master of our crafts, but there are loads of evidence that he’s glorified in our pursuit of victory, right? So it’s not about the obtainment. It’s not about actually winning, but it’s about the striving to win, and doing everything we can to the best of our ability for his glory.
Is that kind of how you thought about this topic, as a Christian in this highly competitive sport?
[00:36:17] TC: Yeah. I think along with that though, Jordan, is while you glorify Him, that you don’t put your sport or your one thing above Him. Because, I can even go through my life, in my freshman year of college, basketball was my everything. We went undefeated. We won the national championship. I just remember sitting back like, “Man! This is how college is going to be, whoa! This is going to be amazing.”
Then sophomore year came and we lost a couple games, and just, like, the world was coming apart. Like, the world was on fire, and it’s just a basketball game. But I found a church and we went to a revival and all four of us, we came in as the fab four for our freshman class. At that point we were sophomores, but we dedicated our lives to Christ. And at that moment it was like, I would never let basketball be my God.
[00:37:10] JR: I have a very similar story. I’ve heard about this thing, Called to Great, but I had a business that ended up having a happy ending, but there was a period of time where it was like really, really bleak. It was my first professional disappointment. I was a wreck. It’s the only time in my life where I could genuinely say I was depressed. Yeah, I’m so grateful for that time. That was probably – I don’t know, 6, 7 years ago. Because the Lord just revealed this like really ugly idol in my heart and I was looking to my work and my professional accomplishments for something that ultimately only he could provide. It sounds like a very, very similar story. So I bet looking back on it, you’re probably grateful for that pain and those loses, right?
[00:37:51] TC: Oh yeah. I mean, that, and I was introduced to AthletesinAction. So being able to be around like-minded athletes in college, it opened my eyes. I always say this, even in basketball, sometimes you need to lose in order to win long-term because, if you don’t know going back to the good habits, having good habits. If you don’t know the thing that you need to work on. If you don’t know the mistakes that you’re making because you’re winning games, it gets smashed, but when you lose games, and you go back and you watch the film, you’re looking for all the small minor things that we can do to correct, to win.
[00:38:28] JR: I love that. You got to lose in order to win long-term. That’s really good. What do you think will be different about your work as a GM specifically, if you weren’t a follower of Christ? I know you’re new to the role, right? You’ve been in 9 months or so. But what do you think will be different about the organization? What do you hope is different because you are a follower of Christ?
[00:38:47] TC: Because I’m a follower, I’m very optimistic. I don’t believe in chance happenings. I believe that God, like even COVID, God is shifting. Like it’s just shifting. There are so many negative things and so many impurities that have happened in our world. I just feel like there’s just a shifting going on.
I think in my role in particular, the optimism, the hope, the joy, the happiness, just the positivity that we have. Even as we go to different situations, and we’ve been to a lot in our organization. It’s almost like when you go in a locker room, “Oh my God! I don’t feel like practicing.” And then what happens? And the person next to you is like, “Oh my God. I don’t feel like practicing either.” And then pretty soon the whole team is like, “Oh, I don’t feel like –” Well, I stopped that. Like, “Nope. I want to practice. I want to be great. I want to be the best. I want our organization to be the best. I want to be best general manager. What do I need to do to be the best? I have to communicate. I got to be here. I got to do this. I got to do that.” We got to look at our players holistically and not just as basketball players coming here, just do your job and get out.
I think that we’ve added a different element, and I think the unfortunate part is even through this, we’ve had to cut players. Even through doing that, the way that we’ve done it I think has been really professional. And being able to communicate with those players effectively, but also letting them know, “Hey, you never know what could happen in the future. You might end up back here.”
But there are certain things, as a player, to got to work on, and this situation this year, we didn’t really get a chance to see players before we had to cut them. Even through building the relationship and through all of the other stuff that we were doing with our players, even when they got cut, it’s like, “Look, you never know when you’ll be back. You never know when the opportunity will present itself.” We’ll continue to check in on you. We’ll continue to look out for you as a person. Not necessarily just as a basketball player, but I want to see you succeed. And how can I help you do that?
[00:40:42] JR: Yeah. And I think a big part of it is just like being transparent. So the business that I’m executive chairman of, Threshold 360. We’re in the travel and tourism space, and we had to make a few layoffs. Just being transparent with the team, and they got it. They were just like, “Yeah, we’re in the travel space. There’s no travel industry. We totally get it.” You’re in the entertainment industry, sports. People get it if you’re just honest and direct with them. And if you can shed light of hope, of potential of the future, that’s great.
Tamika, three questions we love to end every episode with. Number one, which books do you tend to recommend or give away most frequently to others?
[00:41:18] TC: Ooh, that’s a good one. I will say there’s a book that I have and I’m going to actually get up and get it. But there’s a book that I have. I don’t know where I found it. But it’s called Image of Excellence, and it’s a treasury of wisdom and inspiration for today’s business women. That’s what it says, but I don’t think it’s just for women. You probably can’t find them, I think I’ve searched high and low to find everything single book to be able to give them out.
I have a couple that are sitting over here. But every day, they have different things, but then it’s like facing controversies or different parts of scriptures, businesswoman and her attitude, her career, time management, all of that. And then it has one where you could do like all the way, an actual 31-day devotional at the back of it. So I’ve done that a couple of times.
[00:42:07] JR: Yeah, it’s awesome. That’s good recommendation. I like that.
[00:42:10] TC: I like your book too, Jordan, and I like the book that I’ve written as well. So I recommend all of them.
[00:42:14] JR: I know you’ve recommended all the great ones. Because I’ve heard from – I don’t know, a half dozen people. It’s like, “Oh yeah, Tamika gave me your book,” which I love. Who would you most like to hear talk about how their faith influences their work maybe on this podcast?
[00:42:27] TC: I love Priscilla Shirer. So, I am all about her.
[00:42:31] JR: Yeah. She’s amazing. I like that answer a lot. All right, last question. One piece of advice you’d like to give our audience who, like you, are just trying to do their most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others?
[00:42:43] TC: I think it’s just being intentional. Be intentional on what it is that you want to do and you want to change. I feel like I’m juggling a lot, but even through people, “How do you juggle? How do you deal with all of that?” I think it’s really, I have to sit and be intentional about my time for the Fever. I got to be intentional for Tea’s Me. I got to be intentional for Catch the Stars, and intentional for everything else that I got going on through different phases. But being intentional, and then being 100% there. I hope, obviously right now, it’s a hard time with COVID-19 and getting our season kicked-up, but one thing that I really try to focus on through COVID-19 is being present where I am.
[00:43:24] JR: Yeah. So much wisdom in there. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot lately about time management and the word that keeps coming up in my mind is just intentionality. Like just living on purpose. You deciding ahead of time. Where are you going to spend this precious time that God has given you?
Hey, Tamika, I just want to commend you for following God’s call to mastery on your life and for striving for excellence in everything you do as an act of worship. Thanks for being salt and light in the world of sports. And on a very personal note, I just want to thank you for all of your encouragement to me and my work over the last few years. I’m so grateful to call you a friend.
Hey, if you guys want to learn more about Tamika, you could find all of her incredible initiatives at tamikacatchings.com. Tamika, thanks for hanging out with me this morning.
[00:44:12] TC: Thanks for having me, Jordan.
[00:44:14] JR: Such a big Tamika fan, and wishing her all the best in her new role as GM of the Fever. Hey, if you’re enjoying the Call to Mastery, make sure you subscribe so you never miss an episode in the future. And if you’re already subscribed, do me a favor. Take 30 seconds and go leave a review on the podcast. Thank you guys so much for tuning in to the Call to Mastery. I love making this show. I love making this show for you guys. I was just telling my wife this morning, I can’t believe I get to have conversations with these people and share them with the world. So thank you guys so much for tuning in and being an encouragement to keep going and keep producing this thing. I’ll see you guys next week.