If you know me, you know that I love Pat Summitt. Today my heart is broken, for we lost an incredible woman way too soon.
But in the same light, my heart is overjoyed for her. Because she’s now with our Lord, and she has back all the memories that Alzheimer’s cruelly stole from her.
Where It Began
When I got to UT in the fall of 1999, I swore I’d never wear orange. The color just wasn’t for me. I’d wear UT shirts, just not the orange ones. The me of 1999 would get a good laugh out of a look at my closet today.
Before classes even began, I made the decision to write about sports for the UT Daily Beacon. Little did I know what that decision would mean for my life. First I covered soccer, and then I was given the opportunity to cover the legendary Lady Vol basketball team.
One thing that’s repeated often about Pat is that she treated everyone as if they were important. That’s so true.
Sometime in November or December of that first year, I sat down in Pat Summitt’s office for a one-on-one interview. Can you imagine? I was 18-years-old and nervous out of my mind. But she put me at ease and treated me like a VIP.
That was lesson 1 that I learned from Pat Summitt. There would be many more.
Lessons for Life
If you haven’t ever read Pat’s books, I recommend you do so. Each of them—Reach for the Summit, Raise the Roof, and Sum It Up—contain lessons relevant to everyone, not just basketball players.
In Reach for the Summit, she shares her definite dozen, a set of guidelines for life and leadership. Sum It Up is different. In it, she shares her life’s story. I got caught up in emotion when reading about the years between 1999 and 2005. For those were the seasons I stood alongside her team.
If you’re ever gonna argue with me, I recommend you choose a topic other than the Lady Vols. During the six seasons I covered Pat and her program, along with the Lady Vol soccer program, I gained an in-depth knowledge of the principles that athletic department stood for. And after I finished college, that knowledge turned me into a loyal fan and a fierce advocate for the Lady Vols.
You see, Pat Summitt was so much more than a basketball coach. She instilled in her players a love of life, a passion for learning, and a drive for excellence. When I watch her former players now, whether on the courts of the WNBA, the sidelines as high school or college coaches, or paving their own ways in life as sports announcers or stylists, I see all those lessons…all the time.
She taught me about strength, courage, professionalism, leadership, self-confidence, kindness, respect for others, and the power of women. I carry those lessons with me every single day. I hope that you see them in me.
May we all live our lives the way Pat Summitt did: With unwavering courage, immense love for people, and a dedication to excellence. Rest in peace, Pat.