Pat Summitt’s life touched all of us because she stood for so much. She wasn’t just a GREAT basketball coach. She was a world bender: There aren’t many folks out there who get that title.
In today’s Washington Post, sports columnist Sally Jenkins writes a beautiful tribute to Summitt. It speaks volumes about the drive, dedication and impact of this woman, especially when Jenkins adds a letter Summitt wrote to a young University of Tennessee freshman named Shelia Collins. The coach wrote it on the occasion of Collins’ starting her first game. It may have been written for the freshman, but it resonates far beyond the basketball court.
If I didn’t know better, I’d have guessed Summitt wrote it to a cancer widow: there is so much wisdom here that applies:
From today’s Washington Post, June 29, 2016 (the letter is dated November 22, 1982)
Sheila, This is your first game. I hope you win for your sake, not mine. Because winning’s nice. It’s a good feeling. Like the whole world is yours. But it passes, this feeling. And what lasts is what you’ve learned. And what you’ve learned about is- life. That’s what sport is all about –life!
The whole thing is played out in an afternoon. The happiness of life, the miseries, the joys, the heartbreaks. There’s no telling what will turn up. There’s no telling how you’ll do. You might be a hero. Or you might be absolutely nothing.
There’s just no telling. Too much depends on chance, on how the ball bounces.
I’m not talking about the game. I’m talking about life. But it’s life that the game is all about. Just as I said, every game is life, and life is a game. A serious one. Dead serious. But here’s what you do with serious things. You do your best. You take what comes. You take what comes and you run with it.
Winning is fun…Sure.
But winning is not the point.
Wanting to win is the point.
Not giving up is the point.
Never letting up is the point.
Never being satisfied with what you’ve done is the point.
The game is never over. No matter what the scoreboard reads, or what the referee says, it doesn’t end when you come off the court.
The secret of the game is in doing your best. To persist and endure, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
I’m proud to be your Coach,
Pat Head Summitt
So many jewels of wisdom inside this letter: tape it on the wall, fold it and put it in your wallet or keep it at work to share with your colleagues.
Pat Summitt was so much more than her success on the hardwood..