he's chasing dreams hitting seams.
she's chasing dreams talking sports.
Reaching the Summitt
On Saturday, June 25, the hashtag #PrayForPat was trending on Twitter. I clicked on the hashtag to find thousands of people tweeting about Pat Summitt being in the hospital and friends and family were preparing to say goodbyes.
Not seeing anything written or posted by any official news source, I kind of denied her condition was that bad. On Sunday, I woke to see several Knoxville news outlets and the Tennessean with confirmation the end was near.
Since Sunday, each time I checked the news or social media I was bracing to see the news. Well, this morning that happened.
I’ve never been the type of person who obsessed over “celebrities,” athletes, etc. But I have a very short list of people I would “fan girl” over if I met them in person. These people aren’t on my list just because they are successful athletes or professionals in their fields but because I view them as role models.
Pat Summitt is one of those people on my list.
She is the only person on my list I have been privileged to meet so far. And boy, did I fan girl. HARD. I remember standing in line for over an hour just sweating with her newest book (Sum It Up) in my hand. The book I downloaded first on my kindle (because I only buy books I will want to keep forever), read in a little over a day then bought a hard copy, so I could have her sign at it at a book signing in Nashville. While we were standing in line, the people in charge were telling us to not “chit-chat” with her to keep the line moving and because this was after she had been diagnosed. I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me?! This will probably be my only chance to get face time with Pat Summitt. I will chit-chat it up if I want.” I remember looking at my sweaty palms, questioning what I could say to be cool about it. It was my turn in line, and she looked at me and waved me over like she did with each person. I shook her hand, and she looked me in the eyes with those ever-so-famous blue eyes and said, “I like a girl with a hard hand shake.” I think I melted right there. I handed her the book. As she was signing it, she asked what I thought about it. I told her I read it in a little over a day, and I especially loved all the Martin references because I was from Dresden. She stopped mid sign, looked up at me, smiled real big and said, “I know where that is.” I started rambling about things I don’t even remember now, but she just nodded along while she finished signing. She asked what I was studying in school, and I said journalism with dreams to work in sports. She asked what I thought about zone defense, and I told her I hated it. Then Pat Summitt looked at me and said, “You’re my kind of girl.” In that short probably two minute exchange, Pat Summitt made me feel like we were best friends. She made me so pumped to keep chasing my dreams. And just to think that was while she was battling the awful disease that took her life this morning. But every story I’ve read or listened on the radio today, she made everyone feel that way.
A couple of years ago in my senior capstone class our professor gave us 15 minutes to come up with five people, deceased or alive, we would want to sit and have dinner with. I took the exercise WAY too seriously, but I just went with my gut.
I will explain why Pat Summitt though.
Why Pat Summitt? Really, HOW CAN I NOT?
When I think about my childhood, all I think about is basketball. My room had (and still has) a basketball border. I had this basketball decorative piece that said, “I only play basketball on days that end in Y.” Lady Vols posters and pictures hung on my walls. I always wanted my parents to build me a basketball court in our back yard. But settled with a just basketball goal..where I played for hours and shot hundreds of shots. I dreamed of playing for Pat Summitt. I dreamed of being a Lady Vol. I was privileged to be able to see Pat Summitt coach a few games, and I remember watching her on the sidelines more than watching the games. There was just something about her that’s indescribable.
My love for the game just ran in blood with my family background, and Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols just made the passion run even deeper. That passion led me into wanting to have a career in sports.
I always say I was coached in middle school by the closest thing to Pat Summitt who goes by the name of Coach Hart. I remember Coach Hart having pictures of her and Pat and other Lady Vols cutouts in her office, in the hallway leading into our locker room, and I swear they are sisters. I look back and feel like I was coached by Pat Summitt because I never wanted to disappoint Coach Hart. I wanted to play hard for her. She brought out the best in me like she did and does to so many of her players. She had a Pat Summitt like stare you didn’t want to get. She taught the fundamentals and pride and heart. All inspired by Pat Summitt. All the details and descriptions I read Pat Summitt’s players say about her reflected how Coach Hart coached.
Coach Hart sent me this message earlier today: I’ve spent the better part of today reading people’s comments, watching news footage and just reflecting on my own experiences with Pat. It seems so unreal to me that she is gone. I met Pat when I was in the 8th grade when UTM came to Memphis to play what was then Memphis State. My cousin took me to the game because she and Pat were friends. I had the opportunity many times over the next years to be around her and get to know her a little. I’ll never forget when I started coaching the big high 5 she gave me. In 1988 I went to Knoxville to attend her coaching clinic. When all the coaches signed in I was the only middle school coach there. During conversation I made the mistake of saying that I was just a middle school coach. She placed her hand firmly on my shoulder and preceded to set me straight telling me that I had the important job of instilling enough love and passion in my players to keep them playing. I’ve never forgotten that encounter!
I was blessed to grow up in Tennessee where every coach, player and person wanted to mimic Pat Summitt and admired her.
As I got older, I realized I wouldn’t play for Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols. I’ll never forget the Pat Summitt quote I read, “You can’t always be the most talented person the room. But you can be the most competitive.” From middle school on, I just wanted to be a competitor. And still do to this day. All of those important characteristics of a successful life–goals, practice, mistakes, respect, compete, determination, heart, pride, hard work–I learned through basketball. I learned through dreaming of playing for Pat Summitt.
Pat Summitt made women’s basketball what it is today. She changed the game of women’s and men’s basketball. She is winningest NCAA coach of all time, eight national championships, never had a losing season in 38 years, and the list goes on and on. EVERY SINGLE ONE of her players graduated. That’s one of her most important accomplishments in my opinion.
I’ll always remember having several conversations with a Lipscomb friend who is from up north. She always joked at me for being a Tennessee fan, but whenever Pat Summitt was brought up, the jokes stopped and the respect started. She didn’t even really keep up with basketball, but we could always agree Pat Summitt is a legend. That’s how Pat Summitt is seen around the nation. Everyone knows her. Everyone respects her. Everyone was inspired by her. And not just because of her coaching successes but because of the type of person she was, the things she did for women’s basketball and her determination to tackle the awful disease head on. She coached one year after being diagnosed. She began a foundation to bring awareness and raise money for Alzheimer’s.
She changed and impacted Tennessee, basketball and people all across the nation. Not many people can say that. But isn’t that what most people strive for?? Aren’t all the success stories and stats and legacy about Pat Summitt what people want to achieve in life? So, duh, I would want to have dinner with Pat Summitt and get advice and tips and whatever else I could get out of her.
That’s all I want once my life is over. I want to know I impacted, changed and inspired people in the best ways. I might not ever reach my career dreams or my life dreams, but I can guarantee you once I REACH MY SUMMITT I will have worked as hard as I can. I will have competed the best I could have. And along the way, I hope I can impact, change and inspire people just like Pat Summitt did.
Outworking–that’s how Pat Summitt has been quoted saying she’ll win–so if Pat Summitt can grow up as a poor, farm girl, begin her coaching career AT 22 when women’s basketball wasn’t even recognized as a sport, be a pioneer to turn it into what it is today, be the winningest NCAA coach of all time, have hundreds of athletes, celebrities and professionals across the nation write about her today in remembrance of what she stood for as a coach and person THEN any of us can put in hard work to make an impact and do something that matters.
So, thank you, Pat Summitt for helping me understand the important and best ways to Reach The Summitt.
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Matt & Jesica Beaty
Welcome in to dreams and seams! A tell-all blog about our career dreams and path to reaching those dreams with some commentary about sports and life plus some videos too.
"Strive for the impossible because it makes the possible seem effortless." -Matt Beaty