Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pat Summitt: Changing the Game & Changing the World

March Synchroblog: All about Eve In honor of Women's History month, posts for this synchroblog will be "all about women". See list of synchrobloggers below.

Legendary Coach Pat Summitt can almost single-handedly be credited for changing the face of women's basketball. She is a leader with determination not only to win, but to win on a repeated and consistent basis.

Pat grew up with 3 older brothers(1 younger sister) and states that she can remember her mother doing everything for them and her dad. One example she recalls is her brothers holding up their tea glasses when they were empty and shaking them. A sign to her mother that they needed more tea. Pat would watch as her mother would serve them and she remembers thinking, "This isn't right!"

Was this a motivating factor to her success? Maybe. But, even if it wasn't, Pat Summitt has definitely changed inequality in NCAA basketball and now has begun to change the world with her foundation to increase awareness of Alzheimer's Disease.

The Numbers

Pat Summitt has had an extraordinary career as the head coach of the University of Tennessee (UT) Lady Volunteer's women's basketball team.  Her achievements are in the hundreds.  Here are just a few:

-She is the all time winningest coach in the history of men's and women's NCAA basketball.  Last count on her UT bio is 1071 wins to 199 losses (.843).  Mike Kryzewski, coach of the men's basketball team at Duke trails her at 833 wins to 274 losses (.752)
-She has coached 8 NCAA championship teams. Trailing only John Wooden with 10 NCAA titles
-She has 16 Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles and 14 SEC tournament titles
-She was named the Naismith Coach of the Century in 2000
-72% of her players have been Olympians, All-Americans, Academic All-Americans, and members of the U.S. National Team
-In 2009, The Sporting News named the 50 Greatest Coaches of All-Time.  She was 11th on the list and the only female on the list
-She was the first female basketball coach to earn a contract over a million dollars (compared to her salary as a coach in 1974 which was $8900)

The Motivator

Pat's peers describe her as well-respected, an educator, a role-model, a pioneer, ethical and a motivator.  Her players describer her as intense, determined, competitive, tough, demanding, strategic, caring and also a motivator.

"She genuinely thinks we are going to win every ball game.  She projects it.  She could say, 'Here's the game plan.  We're going to run backward down the court, and take our bras off, and swing them around our heads' And they'd(her players) nod their heads and say, 'Sounds like a winner, Coach. When do you want us to start running?'" -Mickie Demoss(assistant coach)

Pat believes ethics, principles and success should be inseparable.  She has developed her own set of principles that is called The Definite Dozen.  About these principles Pat states, "Long-term, repetitive success is a matter of building a principled system and sticking to it.  Principles are anchors; without them you will drift." 

The Definite Dozen (more description of each principle is found at The Definite Dozen):

1.  Respect Yourself and Others
2.  Take Full Responsibility
3.  Develop and Demonstrate Loyalty
4.  Learn to Be a Great Communicator
5.  Discipline Yourself So No One Else Has To
6.  Make Hard Work Your Passion
7.  Don't Just Work Hard, Work Smart
8.  Put the Team Before Yourself
9.  Make Winning an Attitude
10.  Be a Competitor
11.  Change Is a Must
12.  Handle Success Like You Handle Failure
This system has definitely proven to be a motivator for her players on the court.  Off the court, this has proven true as well.  Pat has a 100% graduation rate for all Lady Vols who have completed their eligibility at Tennessee.

The Courage

On August 22, 2011 at the age of 59, Pat Summitt announced she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. In her true competitive and courageous style, she is determined to take on this disease. She started her own foundation dedicated to raising awareness and money for education, support and research of Alzheimer's. On November 27, 2011 her foundation gave $75,000 to the UT Medical Center and $75,000 to Alzheimer's Association of Tennessee. This foundation has had such a tremendous impact that the Mayo Clinic thanked her for her efforts and stated they would "wholeheartedly support her foundation".  (See The Mayo Clinic's Letter to Pat)

I really can't say enough about Pat Summitt. I would have to write an entire book to even begin to describe her role in the change of women's basketball and the change she has had in the lives around her.

As I type this, it is "March Madness" and ESPN and ESPN2 are televising the women's NCAA basketball tournament (it used to be that only the men's tournament was televised).  And, the Lady Vols are in this tournament.  Pat has had multiple appearances in the tournament with a record of 109-22(.838).

Lastly, one of Pat's recent accolades that I believe is definitely worth mentioning in light of Women's History month:

Pat was awarded the Alliance of Women Philanthropists' Brenda G. Lawson Legacy of Leadership Award at the group's annual Women and Philanthropy Symposium at the Knoxville Marriott on March 10, 2012.

The Awards Criteria:
• Committed to furthering the goals of the Alliance of Women Philanthropists
• Supports the University of Tennessee through contributions of talent, time, and financial means
• Dedicated to supporting UT in its instructional, research, outreach and fundraising initiatives
• Educates, empowers, and inspires women to be philanthropic leaders at the University of Tennessee
• Encompasses a variety of ideals including volunteerism, generosity, sacrifice, compassion, sensitivity, and humility

Pat is continuing to coach her team as her diagnosis was considered "mild".  I have no doubt that she will continue to succeed both on and off the court.  She has already left an insurmountable mark in the history of women's basketball.  And, I believe her mark on the world has only just begun. 

Links to other synchrobloggers:

Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women
Christine Sine –
It All Begins With Love
K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor


  1. Tammy, what a beautiful post honoring Pat

    1. Thank you for reading, Dan. I believe she deserves the honor.

  2. Awesome! I had not known about her - what a wonderful woman! Thanks so much Tammy!

    1. Thanks for reading, Ellen. Yea, Pat really kicks butt!

  3. Tammy,

    I never knew all that about Pat. Thank you! Many more reasons to respect her.

    1. Thanks, Jeremy. I believe she deserves a bit of respect. ;-)

  4. Tammy --

    Great post! My wife and I were both in individual and team sports well before Title IX, and have continued to follow women's sports over the years. We live in Southern California, and when I saw that the Lady Vols would be making a rare trip to play UCLA, there was NO DOUBT in my mind that we would be in attendance at that game. UCLA was smart, forcing people to buy a mini-season ticket package or more in order to get tickets to this game. I bought them--not even caring if we went to any of the other three games. (Melinda went to school at San Diego State, one of the other games, so of course we went to that one.)

    For the Tennessee game, we got to UCLA early enough to be at the front of the line. Everyone was in a wonderful mood because we were all there to see Pat Summitt--even the UCLA alumni who we chatted with waiting to go in. It was also great to see so much orange being worn--again, as a tribute to Coach Summitt (some people obviously had to dig deeper than others to find something orange to wear, finding things like Home Depot t-shirts or a safety vest out of their car emergency kits). It was open seating, so we situated ourselves directly across the court from the UT bench. I watched the game as much as I could, but I think that I spent at least half of the game watching Pat. Tennessee blew UCLA off the court, but I don't think anyone there that day cared.

    One more thing. Even more important than Pat Summitt's contribution to women's basketball is the way that she has been a mentor and friend to her players over the years. Many former players have talked about how they turned to her when they were going through life transitions, positive and difficult, years after they left UT. It's no wonder the slogan being used in support of this incredible woman is "We Stand with Pat."


    1. Wow...I'm jealous you saw her coach live! Yea, I want to sometime get one of those "We back Pat!" shirts! However, I laughed thinking about the Home Depot t-shirts...maybe I'll try one of those! ;-)

  5. Tammy - thanks for such a wonderful and informative post. I didn't know all of this about Pat and am blown away by all that she has already accomplished. She is truly a great role model!

    1. Yea, I am blown away by the fact that I only listed about 1/3 to a 1/2 of her accomplishments. I didn't think everybody wanted to read a 20 page post! ;-) Thanks for reading, Liz.