Pat Was the Summitt
Just before the calendar flipped to July, Alzheimer's Disease claimed the life of long time Tennessee Women's Basketball Coach Pat Summitt at the tender age of 64. To every girl or young woman reading this, pause right now and whisper "Thank you, Pat." You are playing and competing in your sport, you have the opportunity for advancement, you have the opportunity to play in college, you have the opportunity to earn a scholarship because of Pat Summit.
Pat Summitt drove the bus during the ascension of women's sports in the late 60's ,70's, through Title 9 and beyond. She did more for young girls self worth and confidence than any public figure I know. She convinced generations that the hoop in the driveway, the playground, the gym, or the YMCA belonged to the girls as much as it did to the boys. College scholarships became more than just a illusion. Yes she won nearly 1100 games and 8 national championships; she won the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
But Pat Summitt, daughter of a tobacco and dairy farmer, was driven at an early age. She worked all day on the farm chopping tobacco, bailing hay and plowing fields. She learned how to play basketball with her brothers, using a makeshift hoop in the hayloft of her family barn. From kindergarten through high school, Pat Summitt never missed a single day of school. She was part of the first Olympic women's basketball team and at the age of 22, became the head coach at the University of Tennessee where she remained for 38 seasons. She put women's basketball AND women's sports on the map. She fought for scholarships for women in all sports. Her successful teams packed gymnasiums and arenas. Soon the nation took note and a Women's Final Four blossomed. 100% of the eligible young women she coached graduated. 100% graduation rate!
Pat Summitt was a champion of not just women's sports, but a champion of opportunity as well. She spoke out when she saw injustice or unfairness in women's sports and all of that trickled down to the high school and youth level as well. So the next time you lace up your cleats, sneakers or skates remember the "tough as nails" young girl from Clarksville, Tennessee who never accepted "no" for an answer. The girl who dribbled through doors that had previously been locked, put out the welcome mat for all girls in all sports forever. Alzheimer's took Pat Summitt away but she left a precious gift - the chance, the opportunity to chase and reach your dreams.
Thank you Pat!