October 2010

It might sound crazy, but tearing my ACL in January 2001 was a good thing. At the time, however, I wouldn’t have agreed.

Wooden’s Wisdom
“I wanted my players to become men of integrity. When we have integrity, we are not going to do anything that will be demeaning to anybody else, either on or off the court. And with integrity, we will never consider letting our teammates down.”

The timing was horrible. My dream was to play in the WNBA, and, with just five months until the draft, I knew the injury would cost me my dream. But God was faithful, and, despite the doctor’s report that I would sit out an entire season, the Indiana Fever took a chance on me with the third overall pick.

Even while I was still recovering, I was calm and had peace because I knew that God had a purpose for me to fulfill by playing in the WNBA. He was with me every step of the way.

That entire season, I went to practice every day and just watched. There were days when I woke up and didn’t feel like doing it anymore. I’d cry myself to sleep.
But, deep in my heart, I knew I could make it. I’d been through a lot of adversity before and knew that God had used those experiences to strengthen my faith in Him.

Eventually, my injury became such an opportunity. During my basketball career, I’ve suffered other injuries, like a torn meniscus and a torn Achilles. When I faced those tough times, it would have been easier to give up. But no matter what the circumstance, I have a strong desire to remain loyal to myself, to my family, to my teams, and to our fans. Most importantly, though, I want to be loyal to my values and loyal to God. I represent Him in everything I do.

The foundation for my loyalty to biblical values started with my parents. I received even more preparation for life at the University of Tennessee from head coach Pat Summitt. Some have called her the “John Wooden of women’s basketball.” Not surprisingly, she talked about Coach Wooden often and shared his character-building principles with us.

For more personal stories from athletes and coaches regarding the coach’s influence, buy your copy of The Greatest Coach Ever: Timeless Wisdom and Insights of John Wooden at fcagear.com.
Coach Summitt wanted us to be more than just basketball players. Most coaches recruit players to play basketball and do well in school. But to her, it was also about being active in the community and preparing us to be better once we left school.

From everything I’ve seen and read, Coach Wooden was the same way. He had a power about him. It was not a demanding presence, but, even through just a smile, his spirit shined through. Yes, he had incredible success on the basketball court, but most people now talk about his character.

One story that stands out took place when he first got to UCLA in 1948. Coach Wooden had been led to believe that there would be a new basketball facility built, but it didn’t happen right away. Many coaches today would have left under those circumstances, yet Coach Wooden showed amazing integrity and loyalty to those who hired him.

In the book Coach Wooden One-on-One, he talked about how his teams practiced in the “old barn” and how he swept the floor every day before practice to clear off the dirt. The Bruins didn’t even have their own home court throughout those early years, and they played in different arenas all around town.


1. How have you responded in the past when you were tempted to cut corners and compromise your beliefs?

2. Reflect on Coach Wooden’s question: “Will I compromise my integrity when temptation is great?”

3. What are some practical ways you can stay loyal to biblical truths and God’s purpose for your life?

“Father, thank You for giving me a purpose and goal for my life. Fill me with Your peace as I remain loyal to You and Your plan for me. Help me to avoid compromising my integrity and beliefs when temptation is great.”

That’s the kind of integrity and character that I want people to see in my life. I’ve played all over the world in many different countries and with many different teams. When I leave those places, I don’t know if I’ll ever see those people again, so I want them to remember that I had a certain kind of strength about me and that I lived by my Christian principles. Whether I’m playing in Korea, Russia, Turkey or right here in the United States, my faithfulness to my values boils down to one huge question posed by Coach Wooden: Will I compromise my integrity when temptation is great?

Esther was a brave woman in the Bible who had to answer that same question. An orphaned Jewish woman, Esther was chosen by the Persian king Xerxes to be his queen. When one of the king’s men plotted to destroy the Jews, she was warned by her cousin Mordecai, who told her she could stop this from happening.

At that point, Esther could have easily turned her back on Mordecai and her own people. She could have said, “No, I’m fine. I’m here in the temple. I don’t need any help.” But instead, she took a stand and risked her own life in order to save the Jewish people.

In Esther 4:14, Mordecai suggested to Esther that perhaps she had been raised up by God “for such a time as this.” But that wouldn’t have mattered if she had allowed fear and selfishness to compromise her beliefs.

In the basketball realm, I look to Coach Wooden as an example of someone who never caved in to the pressure of compromise. His example teaches that, when you stay true to your values, there’s nothing nagging at you. When you know what you’re doing is right, you have peace.

Tamika Catchings is an All-Star forward with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. An All-American from the University of Tennessee, Catchings has also won two Olympic gold medals as a member of the USA women’s basketball team (2004, 2008).

--For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To subscribe to STV, click here.

Courtesy Indiana Fever; Regal Books