Summitting a Career   3 comments

(The University of Tennessee College of Communications and Information, where I attended graduate school, was in the shadow of the football stadium. At the time, the Volunteers were the nearest thing in the state to a pro team. Close as I was to the gridiron, I never attended a game. Instead, my attention was drawn to the Lady Vols basketball team because the coach, then in her fifth year, and I shared a name. I’ve followed Tennessee women’s basketball ever since.)


Nearly two years ago, Pat Summitt who coached the Lady Vols for 38 years, announced that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She continued to coach for a year, but last season handed over the reins to an assistant. Although still involved in the program, Summitt spent a large portion of the past year writing her memoir, Sum It Up with Sally Jenkins. It’s subtitled “1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective.”

Her records aside, what is particularly noteworthy is that when she began coaching, Tennessee high school girls were still relegated to playing half-court ball. Summitt recounts growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee, and after graduating from college initially being offered an assistance coaching job at UT. That never happened. Instead, she became head coach where,  in the beginning, she did everything except sell tickets. Ultimately, she was instrumental in drawing national attention to women’s basketball.

Summitt’s accolades include Olympic medals, as a player and coach, national college championships, and the fact that 100 percent of all of her athletes graduated from college – many of whom went into teaching or coaching.

The latter and her love for her son are what fuel her passion for life. Anyone who’s seen Summitt pace the sidelines during games knows her as a no-nonsense, disciplined and demanding coach. What many don’t know is the depth of her compassion for her players, colleagues, and women’s sports. In an honest, unsentimental voice, this is what comes through in her book.

Sum It Up
Four Bookmarks
Crown Archtype, 2013
385 pages, including appendices


3 responses to “Summitting a Career

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  1. Isn’t she also the coach who was in labor on an airplane during an athlete recruitment trip?

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