In a world where men continuously dominate sports, Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was a game changer. Summitt won eight national basketball championship titles with the University of Tennessee as well as more games than any other DI college coach. She brought women’s basketball out of the forgotten pit in the NCAA and into national spotlight. Whereas men’s sports dominated headlines across the U.S., Summitt made sure that female athletes received just as much attention and recognition for their accomplishments. Not only did Summitt teach her players to win on the court, but also in the classroom. It’s been said that her players sat in the front rows of class and were routinely academically checked.
After attending the University of Tennessee at Martin, Summitt became the team’s head coach at the ripe age of 22. She washed cars, held bake sales and even washed her own team’s uniforms in order to raise money for the players. With such a low salary, Summitt was forced to learn the importance of passion and hard work. Over the course of her career, she’s never received a handout and has taught her players the same truths she learned as a young coach. Summitt was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 and trailblazed her way to the top of the basketball society. After 38 seasons and 1,098 victories, Summitt stepped down from her position at Tennessee soon after being diagnosed with Alzheimers- the disease that would lead to her ultimate demise.
As a woman trying to find her big break in the male dominated sports world, Pat Summitt is my inspiration. She could have given up after not being taken as seriously as the guys or after losing a few games, but she never did. Summitt always taught her players the importance of strength and toughness. The lessons her players learned will stay with them for the rest of their lives.