*This blog originally ran on SportsBlog.com. To view all of Tamika’s blogs, go to tamikacatchings.sportsblog.com.
It’s hard to believe that I started writing this blog yesterday while sitting at the airport in Atlanta between Rio de Janeiro and Indianapolis. The constant realizations that I have just ended my 20-year journey with USA Basketball. A day I knew would come, just not when… has officially come and gone.
Saturday was the last time that I will ever put on my #10 USA Basketball jersey and represent my country ON the court. A thought, that became a dream, which became a reality 20 years ago, officially came to an end. Gosh, where has time gone? Last week I started thinking about what my last day would be like, and Friday night and I forced myself to go to sleep early for fear my mind would wander aimlessly for hours and hours. Nonetheless, I woke up at the crack of dawn Saturday, replaying all of my years, thinking about the amazing players I’ve had a chance to play with, and even more so the great teams I’ve been apart of. Thinking about my journey of basketball and the impact that my fave coach ever, Pat Summitt, had on me. This whole last run- Gold and all, is for her : )
This trip to Rio has been a surreal one in thinking of the finality that it represents. At the beginning of the WNBA season everyone wanted to talk about what it would feel like playing in my last WNBA season and going through my last Olympics. Funny because back then it seemed like forever away… Now, it’s literally 36 hours past, and I feel a proud sense of closure.
Saturday morning I went upstairs to the deck to just enjoy the scenery and collect my thoughts and emotions one last time. As I was sitting there, one of my faves from USA Ball, Ellis, came over and we started talking and reflecting on our journeys within basketball. Ellis has been a part of USAB since 2005, so over the course of the last 10 years I have had an opportunity to get to know and hang out with him. It’s weird to think that I have been a part of USAB for more than half of my life. It has been a part of me, it has been in me, it has helped guide and mold me into the person and player that I am today. Wow!
So much has happened in my life over the course of 20 years. People and players have come, and some have gone. We have matured (some more than others LOL) and life has just happened. We went from the young wide-eyed ballers trying to learn the ropes, to the more experienced ones trying to leave our own handprints for the next generation to follow. We’ve been woven into the fabric of Team USA and what it means to represent something so much bigger than our respective WNBA teams, Collegiate teams, AAU, hometown, etc. We’ve gotten to represent the whole United States of America.
This last time around I told myself that I would get out more, that I would focus on things outside of basketball, and that I would spend as much time as I could with my teammates. Check, check, check… I feel like I have been able to “experience” it from a different light.
I’ve been able to get out and see different sites here in Rio while still staying caught up on all of my newfound friends via Team USA. Bonds have been created within the team and our families that will never be broken. Like I always say, “God puts us in places and situations for a reason.” For me, being here and able to spend my last Olympic journey with my husband and my family. This is the end of one journey, and the beginning of so much more.
The question I keep getting is “What was I feeling standing on that podium, and how do I feel now?” The tears were from the realization that this journey has come to an end. A legacy has been made, but my life off the court and in what ever’s next, has just begun. The emotions were just thankful ones of an opportunity to get to spend with such an elite group of the last 16 years representing the USA Senior Basketball Team. Tears of knowing my playing days with Sue, D and my other teammates have come to an end. Tears of all of the memories, all of the good times and more importantly of the legacy that I’ll leave for so many players that will come up behind me.
This Olympic experience, my Olympic journey has taken me to places that I never thought possible. It has provided me opportunities that I never knew I wanted, and it has given me friendships that I will forever cherish.
That makes FOUR Olympic #Gold medals for these legends!
— U.S. Olympic Team (@TeamUSA) August 20, 2016
So, the tears and emotions… it’s for the ultimate ending of one chapter. But, the beginning of so much more : )
Til the next time… Best wishes and God Bless!