May 27, 2021

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month
Many of us take our ability to communicate for granted, but the ability to speak, hear and be heard is much more vital to our everyday lives than most of us realize. A communication disorder can make everyday interactions a serious challenge. A communication disorder may prevent an individual from performing well at work, asking for help, hearing instructions at school or even saying ‘I love you’.

This month, we want to highlight WNBA champion and Basketball Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings.   At the age of three, Tamika’s family found out she had a hearing disorder and would need hearing aids and would need to learn other skills to improve communication. At a young age, she was bullied because of her disorder which led her to throwing her bulky hearing aids into a field one day while walking home. Her family was unable to afford new ones so Tamika had to learn how to read lips and use other observational techniques to communicate.

Communication was a challenge in crowded spaces, which led her to avoiding groups of people and being isolated. It was challenging for her to have a group of friends. She not only couldn’t hear but she lost her voice due to the challenges of being able to communicate with those around her. It wasn’t until she got introduced to basketball that she realized that her impairment wasn’t a barrier on the court. Body language was the quickest and most used form of communication - and she excelled. She no longer stood out because she was different. She stood out because she was great at basketball. She stood out so much that she received a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee, an elite basketball powerhouse, her dream school.
It wasn’t until she attended the University of Tennessee that she moved back to wearing hearing aids and engaging with a speech therapist. It was her Hall of Fame coach, Pat Summit, who motivated her to not be ashamed of her disorder or wearing hearing aids. Tamika reflected on a conversation where Summit asked her a series of questions like, “If a person has trouble seeing, what do they need?”, “If a person has a limp, what do they need?” and the last question, “If someone has trouble hearing, what do they need?” Summit then told her, “One day, your story will impact thousands, maybe millions, of people”; the coach wanted to help Tamika be the best version of herself.

Her freshman year in college marked the first time she wore hearing aids since the 3rd grade. That year, she averaged 18 points per game and led the University of Tennessee to a National Championship. Over her college career, she would go on to be a multiple time All-American and receive Player of the Year honors. Tamika played professional basketball for 15 years in the WNBA. While n the WNBA, she won a championship with the Indiana Fire in 2012 and was Finals MVP. She also became the league’s WNBA Rookie of the Year, 10-time All Star and 5-time Defensive Player of the Year. In addition to her collegiate and professional success, Tamika represented the United States of America as a 4-time Olympian leading the USA Women’s basketball team to 4 Gold medals. She was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

As her college coach predicted, her story will not just impact thousands. but millions and millions of people.

Please Listen:
Tamika Catchings – How I use my Voice – TEDtalk             14 minutes
Tamika Catchings – HOF Speech                                                    13 minutes

#DEIatCTI #tamikacatchings #hearingandspeechmonth #WNBA