Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tough News for a Tough Woman: Pat Summitt

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at my desk when my chair began to shake and so did my computer. Only went on for about 10-15 seconds, by which time I realized I was experiencing my first earthquake. Dave didn't feel a thing in the shop; perhaps because he was standing on the concrete floor.

Later on the evening news there was a different kind of jolt but no less earth-shaking for me. Pat Summitt, the legendary coach of women's basketball for the Tennessee Volunteers, announced that she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. I also learned for the first time that she has rheumatoid arthritis and at first she thought her symptoms were side effects of her medication for that disease.

I've never been lucky enough to see the Vols play in person but I've been watching them on TV and admiring Summitt's coaching for years. She is a no-nonsense coach who gets the best out of her players, and yet she has such a rapport with them that they love her. Her assistant coaches have said they will help in any way possible. You can't buy that kind of devotion; you earn it by year after year of doing the right thing.

I don't know why I love basketball so much. After all, I only played in prep school and there we were forced to play girls' rules. Stupid game. Maybe it's because I understand the game and I've played just enough to know how hard it is to play well. Of course, it's a much more aggressive game now than I ever thought it would turn into but it takes tons of practice on top of talent. Not just anyone can play well.

As a Rutgers alumna, of course I admire Vivian Stringer, the women's coach there. But Pat Summitt has always struck me as the epitome of women's coaching, a person to strive to be like, a person who has found the exact place for her passionate approach to the game.

My father had Alzheimer's so I know too much about dementia, and I am deeply saddened by this news. Her approach to it echoes her life's approach to everything: toughness and determination to live every day to the limit of her ability. Best to you, Pat Summitt.


  1. I'm also a basketball and Pat Summitt fan. I'm so sorry to hear of her illnesses. She's been such a strong force for women and women's sports in her career. It really makes me sad to hear about this. I missed this on the news so I'm glad you mentioned it.