She Changed the World
Fond Memories of Legendary Coach Pat Summitt
By Debbie O’ConnellFounder & President, Golf Positive
It was 1982 when I watched the first ever NCAA women’s basketball tournament on television. The Final Four semifinal game was between Tennessee and Louisiana Tech. I remember being in awe of the coach of Tennessee, Pat Summitt. She was tough, intense and motivating. I thought, “I would love to play for her.”
When I went to basketball camps where college coaches gathered to analyze the talent for their recruiting process, I remember looking into the stands, seeing Coach Summit, and hoping she would notice me. As it turned out, I was not recruited by the legendary Pat Summitt, but our paths crossed two times during my four years at Western Kentucky University. My freshman year, 1986, I was fortunate enough to compete in the NCAA Final Four with USC, Texas and Tennessee. We lost in the semifinals to Texas, whose team went on to win and complete the first undefeated season in women’s NCAA basketball. Tennessee lost to USC with star Cheryl Miller leading the way. It was an amazing experience in my life!
Two years later, the Tennessee Lady Vols traveled to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to play a regular season game in our home arena. As a point guard, I felt the intense pressure of the Lady Vols defense. I imagined as Coach Summitt prepared for our game, she must have watched films of me playing. It was incredible to think that she might have mentioned my name and planned a strategy to play us. We lost the game, but it was certainly an honor for me to shake hands with Pat.
I’m so thankful to Pat for transforming women’s basketball and bringing it to the forefront. She was a pioneer who made an incredible impact on thousands of lives. Her reach went beyond basketball! One of my favorite quotes from Pat is: “The world isn’t a place you live in. It’s a place you change.” Pat changed the world.
Her fierce competitiveness and tireless work ethic made her successful. She brought that same intensity to the golf course. She loved to play golf – even making a hole in one – and as always, she loved to win. I heard a story from a dear friend of hers who was on her team in a golf tournament. This gal had a 5 foot putt the team needed her to make. As she analyzed the putt, Pat gave her that famous stare and said, “You will make this putt!” Fortunately for her, she made it!!
We can all learn from Pat. If you want to achieve a goal, work hard! If you want to win, out-work your competition. Another quote from Pat: “They don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.”
Thank you, Pat, being an amazing example for all of us to live by!
Debbie O’Connell Founder & President, Golf Positive
LPGA Professional, Professional SpeakerGolfPositive.com