Pat Summit - Women in Sports

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Thomas Courtney

May 12, 2011

Patricia “Pat” Summitt was born June 14, 1952, in Clarksville, Tennessee. Pat is currently head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team and is renowned for many different achievements including being the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history out of any division in both men’s basketball and women’s basketball. She is one of the most successful and most achieved coaches out of coaches in any sport, holding over 1000 victories under her coaching record and she is even listed as number 11 in the 50 Greatest Coaches of All Time.

Pat grew up with four siblings, three older brothers named Tommy, Charles and Kenneth, and a younger sister named Linda. Growing up with three older brothers her whole life led Pat to take an interest in athletics at an early age. She loved the game of basketball ever since she was a child and when Pat went into high school she and her family were forced to move from Clarksville to Henrietta due to the fact that Clarksville did not have a women’s basketball team and Cheatham County in Henrietta did. Pat played throughout high school and in her senior year she got into the University of Tennessee-Martin. Although all three of her brothers received athletic scholarships to go to college, Pat did not due to the fact that Title IX was not passed yet and there were no scholarships available for women in 1970. She played on the women’s basketball team at the University of Tennessee which is called the Lady Vols. While studying at the University of Tennessee Pat became a member of a notable sorority called Chi Omega. She also won All-American honors playing under the coaching of the Universities first women’s basketball coach, Nadine Gearin. Being coached by the school’s first women’s basketball coach Nadine Gearin definitely had a strong impact on Pat Summit in becoming a women’s basketball coach as well. At 22 years old Pat Summitt became a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee and she was also named head coach of the Lady Vols basketball team after the previous coach suddenly quit due to unknown circumstances. Pat married R. B. Summitt in 1980 and unfortunately they were divorced in 2007. They did have a child together in 1990, his name is Ross Tyler Summitt and he now plays at the University of Tennessee on the men’s basketball team and hopes to become a coach one day himself.

When Pat first started coaching women’s basketball in 1974 the sport was still not an NCAA-sanctioned sport. Women’s basketball was still considered to be in its infancy and was poorly funded by the University. In a Time Magazine interview Pat stated that “when she first began coaching she had to drive the van herself to get her players to games”. She also stated how “one time, for a road game, she and her team actually slept in the other team’s gym the night before on mats and sleeping bags”. These statements from Pat just shows how small of a part women’s basketball played in the University’s athletic programs at that time. When Pat began coaching she was so young that four of her players on the team were only a year younger than she was. She coached her first game on December 7, 1974 against Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. Although the game was very close, the Lady Vols lost 84-83. Pats first win as a coach did not come until about one month later when the Lady Vols defeated Middle Tennessee State 69-32. During this season the Lady Vols won the Tennessee College Women’s Sports Federation (TCWSF) East District Championship for the third year straight. In Pats second season of coaching she coached the Lady Vols to a 16-11 record while simultaneously earning her 1976 masters degree in physical education. During this season Pat also was training as the co-captain of the 1976 U.S. Women’s Olympic basketball team which won a silver medal in Montreal that year. During Pat’s 1976-77 season she directed two 20-win teams to back-to-back AIAW...
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