When I was a kid, my dad coached women’s basketball at the high school. I grew up surrounded by the Lady Tigers. I think I spent more time at basketball games and practices than I did at church, and we spent a lot of time at church. It was a great way for a girl to grow up. I always had role models of young women who were working hard and learning to function successfully as a team, and who were proud of the things their strong bodies could do. Being around those athletes left a profound impression on me, one that I still value and credit many years later.
Not every generation of women had that chance. Female athletes owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneers who faced an uphill battle when it came to girls and sports. One of those pioneers died this week. Pat Summitt was an icon in the NCAA. As a player, she was a standout at the University of Tennessee and co-captain of the first U.S. Women’s National team. As a coach she had 8 national titles, 38 winning seasons, and more wins than any other college coach, men or women.
Five years ago, she announced that she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and last week that disease claimed her life. I’ve long admired Coach Summitt, and was happy to discover her book, Sum it Up, in our collection. Covering her childhood on a Tennessee farm to her diagnosis and decision to retire, it’s a book that offers insight to men and women, sports fans and non-sports fans alike.