Thursday, April 19, 2012

Elder Belle's Blessing: Pat Summitt

(Photo by Patrice Carlton and published at National Geographic).

This edition of the Elder Belle's Blessing, an award given from time to time to someone who has enhanced the rights or well-being of elders, goes to Pat Summitt, who is stepping down as women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee after 38 years.

Pat Summitt is stepping aside as Tennessee's women's basketball coach and taking the title of "head coach emeritus" with long-time assistant Holly Warlick being promoted to replace the sport's winningest coach.

Tennessee released a statement Wednesday announcing the move.

The 59-year-old Summitt will report to the athletic director and help the women's program she guided to eight national titles. ...

Her impact reaches beyond wins and losses. Every Lady Vol player who has completed her eligibility at Tennessee has graduated, and 74 former players, assistants, graduate assistants, team managers and directors of basketball operations are currently among the coaching ranks at every level of basketball.
[Emphasis added]

Pat Summitt helped young women reach their potential both both on the court and in the classroom, starting at a time when women's collegiate sports just wasn't considered all that important, at least not important enough to justify scholarships which had up to that point been reserved for men only. She helped create winners and scholars, and did it with style and grace. Anyone who has ever watched her coach saw her dedication and her passion for the sport and for her team. It was written all over her face, especially when she had that icy stare reserved for blown calls by referees or sloppy play by one of her players.

But it isn't just her basketball record that won Coach Summitt this award, not by a long shot.

The move comes less than a year after her diagnosis with early onset dementia-Alzheimer's type.

"I've loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role," said Summitt.

"I want to help ensure the stability of the program going forward. I would like to emphasize that I fully intend to continue working as head coach emeritus, mentoring and teaching life skills to our players, and I will continue my active role as a spokesperson in the fight against Alzheimer's through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund.

Summitt revealed her diagnosis on Aug. 23 after a few months of trying coming to terms with dementia, which had caused her problems with memory loss both on and off the court during the previous season. Alzheimer's is a brain disease that destroys cognitive abilities over time. ...

With the blessing of University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, the Hall of Fame coach said she planned to continue coaching as long as possible and that she wanted to show the world that it was still possible to function, even in the face of dementia and Alzheimer's. ...
[Emphasis added]

Her honesty and openness about the disease which struck her at a relatively young age and then her work to raise funds for and awareness about the disease shows what a true champion she is.

Coach Summitt, may whatever stands behinds this universe hold you and your family in a loving embrace and assist you in the challenges which lie ahead.

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Blogger Charles said...

People think that one ceases to exist when one gets dementia. But even if the memories and the skills are taken, the underlying spirit remains and in some ways is purified. People who have lived lives of conflict and anger become patients who strike out and swear. People who have lived lives of peace and kindness become beatific.

The person you were before remains.

6:57 AM  

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