Women’s basketball star Tamika Catchings was born with a hearing impediment that affected her speech and required her to wear clunky hearing aids.
“I didn’t really talk when I was young,” Catchings said. “Everybody always made fun of me. So I tried to be invisible, which is pretty hard when you’re taller than everybody.”
But the 6-foot-1 Catchings, who told her story as the keynote speaker for the WIN for KC luncheon on Friday, created the perfect response: She excelled in sports.
Her path went from soccer to softball, then basketball. There was a sense of inevitability about hoops, with her dad, Harvey, an NBA veteran.
“I learned if I practiced I could get really good, and the next time somebody made fun of me, what did I say?” Catchings said. “Let’s go play basketball.”
Catchings got so good, she was picking the teams for the playground games. She went on to win a national championship at Tennessee — at the 1998 Final Four at Kemper Arena — three Olympic gold medals and, in 2012, a WNBA title with the Indiana Fever.
“It was my passion for sports that grew my self-confidence,” Catchings said.
Recognized at the WIN (which stands for Women’s Intersport Network) luncheon were:
• Tristen Stuteville, a Platte County High senior and soccer standout who has tutored more than 100 goal keepers for free. She purchases the training equipment for her lessons and has bought equipment for players who couldn’t afford it.
• Mary Mahoney, the Girls Fastpitch Commissioner for the Amateur Softball Association, who works with about 900 area softball teams and coordinates numerous tournaments.
• Cindy Smith, who has helped bring top sporting events to Kansas City and has served as a liaison between the city and the Big 12 and NCAA and other organizations and is retiring in April. She’s also an accomplished triathlete.
• Kylee Bliss, who suffered two concussions that ended her high school basketball career. She has started the Heads Up Foundation to help raise awareness of the effects of concussions.
• Dan Dickinson, a volunteer who has emptied his garage of bicycles on several occasions to help participants continue along the WIN for KC Triathlon route at Smithville Lake.
• Mia Schloegel, a swimmer who was diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis when she was 13. She later underwent experimental surgery that placed a spinal tether along the curve of her spine to guide remaining growth.
• Anna Kropf of St. Teresa’s Academy, who accepted the Evelyn Gates Award as Kansas City’s top volleyball player.
• Molly Krause and Grace Li-Haug, who were recipients of the Scott Pioli Family Scholarships.