WHAT ARE SOME OF THE IMPACTFUL LESSONS YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM COACH SUMMITT?
This answer could be extensive…in the 8 years I worked with Coach Summitt I can honestly say that I learned something almost every day we spent working together. She is truly one of the best teachers and coaches of all time and I am INCREDIBLY THANKFUL for the opportunity to have served on her coaching staff. I will humbly attempt to identify the 5 most prominent lessons I learned from my time with Coach Summitt.
Lesson #1: I have already stated this in #4, but Pat was constantly reminding players and staff that we “never arrive” in this game. Learning more, improving, doing things a little better, pushing ourselves is a MUST and it is something all champions must accept.
Lesson #2: BE A GREAT COMKMUNICATOR. This is one of Coach Summitt’s “Definite Dozen” which you can find in her books and in many coaching articles about her, but she is absolutely one of the BEST communicators I have been around. Her messages were always clear, simple and direct. She was completely HONEST in all her interactions and she developed a high degree of trust and credibility because of that. Her genuine humility combined with her expertise helped her to connect with people and she had a terrific rapport with people.
Lesson #3: WORK HARD and SMART. Here again, this is another of Pat’s “Definite Dozen” but it is a principle she lives by to this day. Pat will THROW herself and her abilities into any task, and she NEVER asked anyone to do anything that she wasn’t willing to do herself. She also believed in working smart and with a plan — not randomly spending hours on something but thoroughly understanding what needed to be done and then working at it harder and better than anyone else.
Lesson #4: BE UNCOMPROMISING ON YOUR STANDARDS. Pat is truly amazing in this regard — she went to practice EVERY DAY with a firm resolve to “hold the fort” in all areas of importance. Players were not allowed for even a second to take a shortcut, take a possession off, or give partial effort. Coach Summitt has a real gift for being relentlessly demanding and not missing a thing when it comes to proper execution. She would be demanding of players to the point of exhaustion, (Theirs not hers!!) and at times I KNOW our players thought she was crazy and perpetually unable to be pleased as a coach. But these same players eventually saw the growth in themselves and in their games and the way these demands paid off in the long run…and they came to respect her tremendously for it. Pat has a knack, and a real talent, for the getting the absolute best from her people.
Lesson #5: TRUE LEADERS ARE SERVANTS AND THEY CARE FOR THEIR PEOPLE. Yes, Coach Summitt is tough. Yes, she is incredibly demanding. Yes, her standards are non-negotiable. Yes, she is ferociously competitive. But these are FAR from ALL that Coach Summitt is. Behind these required elements for champions, Coach Summitt was also extremely loyal, very caring, and very committed to her players and staff. She was THE FIRST to express care or concern if someone had a problem, and she would do anything in her power to help. She would always inquire about family and how things were going for her people on a personal level. She would repeatedly go to bat for players or staff to help on jobs or projects with which she could help. She would ALWAYS take time for fans, guests and others who sought her out. She was not afraid to make tough decisions, but would almost without exception be willing to explain her decisions. She disciplined out of love; she wanted the best for everyone within her sphere of influence and she was motivated by this daily. It was never about her, it was ALWAYS about the team and others. Coach Summitt was the consummate giver.
Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach
University of Tennessee