CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Tamika Catchings is one of the most decorated women's basketball players of all-time, but it's not individual honors and championships in which she takes the most pride.
The former University of Tennessee all-American and WNBA champion spends more time these days off the court helping children through her Catch the Star Foundation, where she feels every day is a victory.
"Really for me, it's been all about giving back," Catchings said Tuesday before taking the podium as the featured speaker at the annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Her foundation empowers youth to achieve their dreams through a variety of goal-setting programs, most of them non-sports related. She runs a mentoring program, provides scholarships to high school students in central Indiana (where she plays for the WNBA's Indiana Fever) and promotes literacy with a reading center in Indianapolis.
"We focus on fitness, literacy and mentoring the most," Catchings said. "It's great to have all these achievements that I've had, but really the best part is the platform they provide me to help all these young girls and boys that need somebody to look up to."
Catchings, of course, always looked up to Pat Summitt, the legendary Lady Vols' coach under whose guidance the 6-foot-1 forward flourished at Tennessee.
She credits Summitt for many of the principles she shares today and the success she's enjoyed over the years, and has maintained a strong relationship with the hall of fame coach through the years.
"Our relationship has been great. I've always been staying in touch with her once or twice a week, whether it's calls or texts or sending pictures, and not just because of what she's going through now," Catchings said. "Coach was always the person I'd call coming home from practice or a game if I wasn't playing as well as I wanted to play. She'd always calm me down and help me out."
Catchings boasts team championships on the high school, college, Olympic and professional levels, winning three gold medals with Team USA, one national title with the Lady Vols and a WNBA championship last season with the Fever.
She hopes her journey to hose achievements serves as inspiration to young athletes to set similar goals for themselves.
"I've had my ups and downs throughout my life and throughout my career, but basketball became the focus of my life," Catchings said. "There's a time when try to go against a lot of the things your parents have engrained in you to experience things for yourself, but then eventually you start to grow up.
"FCA and basketball helped me do that when I was at Tennessee by helping me find perspective, and I'm excited now to get to share that with others."
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