hen I think of a coach that embodies the word character, I think of Pat Summitt. For any that don’t know who she is or may know her by name only, Coach Summitt was a true pioneer and icon in women’s basketball. She is most known for being the fiery head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols from 1974 through 2012 where she won eight NCAA championships and achieved 1,098 career wins which is the most of any college basketball coach, male or female. She also won two Olympic gold medals, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and was ranked number 11 on Sporting News’ list of top 50 Great Coaches of All Time (D’Alessio, 2009) and number 14 by the Bleacher Report (Pumerantz, 2012).
Aside from the accolades she received from the outside world, what is more important is what her players had to say about her. Holly Warlick, Summitt’s first player named as an All-American, shared that the “She [Summitt] taught me what character and integrity means. I think probably the most important thing she taught me is not letting anything break your spirit” (Voepel, 2016). Candace Parker, who now plays for the WNBA, shared that “She’s [Summitt] is not a person who just talks the talk, she walks the walk as well. She does exactly what she says.” (Litman, 2016).
It is these qualities that to me embody the word character. To be true to yourself and your values. To inspire others to be the best versions of themselves. To be trustworthy and fair. To respect and be compassionate towards others. To be authentic, and to always be improving.
I think that Coach Summitt says it best in a letter she wrote to a player prior to the player’s first NCAA game. She expresses that,
“Winning is fun…Sure. But winning is not the point. Wanting to win is the point. Not giving up is the point. Never letting up is the point. Never being satisfied with what you’ve done is the point. The game is never over. No matter what the scoreboard reads, or what the referee says, it doesn’t end when you come off the court. The secret of the game is in doing your best. To persist and endure. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. I’m proud to be your Coach.
Pat Head Summitt” (Weeks, 2016).
D’Alessio (2009, July 29). Sporting News’ 50 greatest coaches of all time. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://www.sportingnews.com/ncaa-basketball/news/110278-sporting-news-50-greatest-coaches-all-time
Litman, L. (2016, June 28). Former Lady Vols share the most delightful Pat Summitt stories. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/06/pat-summitt-tennessee-memories
Pumerantz, Z. (2012, July 31). The 50 Greatest Coaches of All Time. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1277689-the-50-greatest-coaches-of-all-time
Voepel, M. (2016, June 28). Holly Warlick: Pat Summitt ‘taught me what character and integrity means’ Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/holly-warlick-pat-summitt-taught-character-integrity-means/story?id=40191941
Weeks, M. (2016, June 28). Pat Summitt’s character beams through letter to young basketball player. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://www.aol.com/article/sports/2016/06 /28/pat-summitts-character-beams-through-letter-to-young-basketball/21420528/