Is it really February? It seems like just yesterday I was looking forward to the Catch the Stars youth basketball camp I host after Christmas. Now I'm just a few months away from the Indiana Fever's season opener and, Lord willing, about six months out from my third trip to the Olympics. At this rate, both will be here before I know it.
The U.S. Olympic team is looking great this year, and I'm incredibly blessed to (hopefully) have another opportunity to take part in the opening ceremonies with athletes from around the world -- some from countries that I'll admit I've never heard of! It's an amazing feeling when that booming voice introduces the United States of America! In that moment, it's not about me. It's not even about our basketball team. It's about every single athlete who represents our country. We're all one team, walking out in our red, white and blue. I get chills just thinking about it.
But this time will be a little different. Now, I'm the veteran. I remember being a rookie on the team back in 2004, when my teammates were players like Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Dawn Staley -- people I have always admired. Now I'm the one that the younger girls look up to. The Olympics seems like a fitting place to pass the torch to a new generation of players.
After capturing four consecutive Olympic gold medals, there's definitely significant pressure on our team to perform. Right now, I'm working to make sure I'm as prepared as possible to help my teammates. I've been on the court just about every day with my trainer and some local guys who volunteer their time to whup up on me. I'm also working on improving my mental game. As I get older, I can't always do things the way I used to. My only option is to get smarter, not only for myself, but also for my teammates. It's all about visualizing and being able to talk through things that will help me be a better player. We have a sports psychologist, Chris Carr, with whom I have been working since my first year in the league.
I'm especially eager to get the Fever season started after a torn plantar fascia factored into my decision to stay in the States this offseason instead of going overseas to play. Injuries are never fun, but staying home in Indianapolis has allowed me to become more involved in the everyday operations of my Catch the Stars foundation. I've also been doing some cross training, including swimming and Buda Khi, which is intense martial arts-type movements with lots of kicking and punching. L.J. Easley, a former karate world champion, introduced me to it.
I know there will be lots of excitement and anticipation leading up to the Olympics this summer, but with all that I have going on, my only option is to stay in the moment. In January alone I traveled to my alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to train with the team. (Coach Summitt looks good out there -- yelling at the girls just like she used to!) Then it was off to Denver for a basketball camp and New York for ESPN's Newsmaker Luncheon and to visit with some WNBA peeps. This weekend, the Super Bowl comes to my hometown in Indy and I'll be there to play in the Gridiron Celebrity basketball game. It should be a great game and a lot of fun.
Whew! Gotta love the schedule. I lose focus if I think too far ahead, so all I can do is my best, one day at a time. I look forward to catching up with espnW again in the coming months!
Tamika Catchings will be blogging for espnW throughout the year. Check back in March for more on her WNBA and Olympic journey.