As I write this, I have just learned of the passing of Pat Summitt. This is a loss not only to women’s basketball, but to sports in general and beyond. Tennesseans and Vol fans may be struck the hardest, but her loss is being felt around the country.
As a father of two daughters, I have long appreciated the leadership and example of someone as prominent and yet accessible as Pat. She represented the best of athletics and how that translated off the court. Following a difficult loss, she once said, “It’s a game, and winning and losing can be great ways to teach kids how to get ready for the real world.” Reporter Teresa Walker says, “Summitt used the sport and her demand for excellence to empower women and help them believe they can achieve anything, taking no backseat to anyone.” As I tried to instill that same belief in my girls, I appreciated the fact they could see a real world example of it in Pat.
Social media is full of Pat’s inspiring quotes and personal encounters this morning. One that stood out for me is from an old friend who is now the general manager at WUTK. Allow me to share some of his post from Facebook. “She truly put students and their academic and career aspirations first. We talked about the blessing of sharing that goal. During one of those interviews, she said ‘You know, I always believe that if you are going to do something, do it right.’ Simple, powerful words that stuck with me, and still inspire me everyday of my life. I use that quote often when teaching and training students.”
Her example goes beyond her players. We can all learn to be more disciplined in our lives. To pursue dreams with faith and hard work. To handle success with humility. To inspire and encourage others to achieve their own successes, even if that means competing with you. To keep fighting against tremendous odds. And, of course, if you are going to do something...do it right.
The Scriptures that come to mind at this time are from Second Timothy. Pat seemed to live by verse 2, “Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” She could do all of these things simultaneously with a single look! Now that she is gone, verse 7 provides a fitting epitaph. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I thank the Lord for a special life that had such a wonderful impact on so many other lives.