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The NFHS Voice

Tamika Catchings Delivers Stirring Speech at Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS Executive Director

Two important themes have emerged over the years as individuals being inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame have spoken at the annual press conference and awards ceremony.
Many athletes who have moved on to highly successful college and professional careers talk favorably about their years in high school sports.
Between the relationships formed with coaches, teammates and other students, to the opportunity to be a part of a team and learn valuable, lifelong lessons not available through the classroom, some of these top athletes know that if it was not for their successful experiences in education-based high school sports, they would not have made the “big stage.“
Earlier this month, Tamika Catchings, one of the greatest female basketball players in our nation’s history, delivered the acceptance speech for the 2023 class of the NFHS National High School Hall of Fame. And most of her comments were not about her time at the University of Tennessee or with the Indiana Fever or the four Olympic teams. She talked about her time at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, and Duncanville High School in Texas.  

“After our press conference earlier this afternoon, I am more in awe of these Hall of Famers that are in this room tonight. I’ve gone back and forth thinking about the impact of what playing high school sports meant to me, and all I can think about is how different life would have been without it. I was one of the fortunate ones that got to experience two different high schools with amazing administrations but also multiple sports being played – basketball, volleyball, and track and field. To say that sports saved my life is an understatement. But, more importantly the people around the sports who kept me motivated, locked in and helped me find my purpose and space during some crazy years . . . THAT IS what it was all about.
For me, high school sports gave me a place where through my ‘differences,’ I could fit into the norm. I could work hard and get pretty good to be on the team, but then the people around me pushed me to be even better outside my sports – they cared about my development. They cared about my future. That’s what I heard when I listened to the coaches earlier.

“Through the sport itself, it’s all about the physical and mental preparation. It’s the life skills and the joy we get in participating in our respective sports. Servant leaders are built, and sports is used as a vehicle to give our young people a seat at the table to give and receive directions and ultimately advocate for their own lives when they face the real world. Sports is about building the relationships and mentorships and showing the value of the word RESPECT. And, in the game it’s about the X’s and O’s that are included in the execution plan that help provide the overall discipline and life directions.

“At the end of the day, through all of the grueling practices, workouts, training sessions, one-on-one’s, motivational talks and so much more, you look up one day and you see, we see, I have become … players becoming coaches, mentors, administrators, mothers, fathers, teachers, speakers … and so much more. And, even better than that – using the skillsets they learned through sports to achieve their own versions of excellence.

“For all of us, we are a testament to the adversity we have faced in so many ways. We’ve broken down barriers, we’ve helped to grow our respective areas and we stand on our commitment with an extreme passion to not just focus on the wins and losses . . . but we stand in OUR ROLE to continue IMPACTING the next generation. We possess the fortitude to stay in the trenches with our young people through the highs and lows. We want to show and share with them in the experiences of a lifetime through our games won, team championships, policies and rules changed and high band ratings.

“I love what Ted Ginn Sr. said about why we do what we do: It’s to change lives and teach the fundamentals – the core values of life . . . love, passion and understanding. There may be different words in your own core values of life, but the most important one in there is LOVE.

“We are all here and connected through one thing – the love of our sport(s) or our roles around it. The athletes, administrators, coaches, faculty members, officials, fans, parents, teammates . . . the people that made our experiences what they are. The reasons why our participation in high school sports has been and continues to be successful.
“leave you with this – when people ask me what I miss most about playing the game of basketball, I honestly can’t tell you about a certain play, my best game, how many points I averaged or anything of the like. What I remember is the RELATIONSHIPS – I’m blessed to have my husband here along with a few of my teammates and fans that have supported me along my journey. From high school, to college, to the pros and the Olympics, as the legendary Coach Pat Summitt said, ‘No matter how many wins I’ve had, I remember the faces!’ I remember the laughter, jokes and life lessons shared in good and bad moments.
“Tonight, we celebrate the Class of 2023 - Carlos Boozer, Maranda Brownson, Barbara Campbell, Dave Carlsrud, Clarissa Chun, Ted Ginn Sr., Sue Butz-Stavin, Dave Stead, the late Allan Trimble and family, Bill Webb, and Sister Lynn Winsor.

“Thank you for your commitment to changing lives, for your fight to make change in the world, and for just being you. What we do during our dash is not our legacy – our legacy is how the dash continues when our time is up. I’m honored and so proud to be in this moment, with this group of people. Thank you to the National Federation of State High School Associations for believing in each of us through our journeys and allowing us to join the 40th class of Hall of Famers.”

High school sports – raising up leaders like Tamika Catchings to positively impact our world each and every day.

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff is in her sixth year as chief executive officer of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the first female to head the national leadership organization for high school athletics and performing arts activities and the sixth full-time executive director of the NFHS. She previously was executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference for seven years.