As it states SEVERAL times in the following article, I don't follow sports. I am however a citizen of the world and in awe of seeing someone who obviously loves what they do and who does it so well. It's inspiring to all those around and sad when, for whatever reason it goes away. I found myself surprisingly upset when I heard the news of Pat Summit's recent diagnosis with early stages of dementia. I felt like someone at my new Galtime Knoxville gig needed to write an article about her, the diagnosis, Knoxville's reaction, but I also thought (hoped, begged) that it wouldn't have to be me. No such luck. My idea, my story! I was so touched by the things that I found in my quick bit of researching that it not only helped to explain what i was feeling, but became an article I am rather proud of. Below is the exact same content that is currently running on Galtime. Enjoy and WEAR ORANGE on Friday the 26th!
When I heard the news about Pat Summit, I was moved to the verge of tears. It was a surprising reaction considering that I do not know much about Pat Summit, women’s basketball, or any sport for that matter. Living in Knoxville, everyone around me seems consumed with the major University of Tennessee sports of football and men’s and women’s basketball. I, on the other hand, only realize that it’s game day, because I find my car stuck in a sea of orange pom-poms and “Power T’s” decorating the cars on I-40. I am aware that UT has had some issues with the Men’s football and basketball coaches lately but I can’t say for certain whom the current coach of either team is. I couldn’t tell you how Knoxville (or any city for that matter) did last year in the playoffs for any sport and I don’t have a clue how we are expected to do this year.
So last Tuesday, while the East Coast was rocked by news of an earthquake, East Tennessee was rocked by the news of Pat Summit’s early stage dementia diagnosis. Facebook exploded as my Knoxville friends expressed their outrage and sadness. When I read the news on my phone, without thinking I lowered the phone and then lowered my head. Even as I write this, I am inexplicably holding back tears.
So why the extreme reaction for a woman I don’t know, who coaches a sport I don’t follow?
Pat Summit’s influence doesn’t just reach sports fans. It started there but she has come to represent, not just women’s basketball, but the concept of women in all sports, and even women in the world . Starting her coaching career in the 1970’s she symbolizes the dramatic changes that have taken place in women’s athletics (and women’s careers) in the last three decades. Pat Summit began coaching before Title IX, the law providing equal support to women’s athletics. In those days, she was not paid much. No one in women’s sports was given much consideration, financial or otherwise. Summit reportedly washed the team’s uniforms, drove the team van, and slept with her players in gym floors during away games. She was barely older than her players. She was also a student, earning a Master’s degree in Physical Education. After being a working student in the 70’s, by the 1980’s, like many woman of her generation, she became a working mother.
In her position as coach, teacher, mother, and mentor, the determination and resolve that Pat Summit expects of her players was evident, even non-sports people like me. As a result, our city has been deeply moved by her determination and her achievements. As a mother and a teacher myself, I am also deeply moved by the determination and the achievements that Pat Summit expects of her students, both on the court and in life. For these reasons, Pat Summit isn’t simply the coach of the UT Lady Vols. Pat Summit is and will always be “Knoxville’s Coach”. I can only hope that in return, the city of Knoxville will show Pat Summit the same dedication and desire to help her succeed now that the opponent is a mental disorder and not another SEC team.
According to the notices I have seen on Facebook, the time to rally around our coach has already begun. Friday August 26th will be “wear orange to support Pat Summit” day in Knoxville. I don’t dress in orange for game day (I don’t even know when game day is, remember) but you better believe I will be decked out in UT colors tomorrow. I may even have to track down some pom-poms and “Power T’s” for my car to help encourage “our coach” to fight the good fight.