Wisdom from the Sportswoman of the Year

Wisdom from the Sportswoman of the Year

Pat Summitt. The name brings to mind excellence, championships and that steely blue gaze that quickly motivates others to perform. She unquestionably set the standard for what every coach in America seeks to create: a winning tradition.

Last fall, she courageously made her diagnosis of early-onset dementia public, causing players and fans alike to rally around her. It would have been easier to keep it private, but leaders like Pat Summitt know the power of influence and willingly step into arenas where that influence can be used for the greater good.

Sports Illustrated named Summitt Sportswoman of the year last December. The article by Alexander Wolff highlighted some of the lessons Summitt learned along her coaching journey and the adjustments she made. There’s so much for us to learn from leaders like Pat Summitt!

A few points from the article that stood out to me (my short thoughts in blue italics):


To practice their craft, both [Summitt & Kryzyzewski, the SportsMan of the Year] reach beyond athletics to borrow from the worlds of management and psychology…For Summitt to coach this way means having team members bring in family scrapbooks to pass around. It means taking personality inventories and sharing the results among players and coaches to sensitize everyone to one another’s peculiarities.

Love this because I use something similar (Real Colors) with teams.
I built a wall of reserve and thought that reserve was the same as authority…I was so busy being tough, I didn’t understand the value of getting to know the players on a deeper level, their real strengths and vulnerabilities.
Can’t overstate the value of getting to know your players as people! Builds trust.
It took a dozen years for Summitt to realize she would get more from her players if she didn’t browbeat and overcoach them.
Most athletes respond better to a more positive approach.
She figured out how to frame criticism as a challenge, to bring out the competitor in each. She spared them the humiliating practices in unwashed game jerseys after they returned home from losses, and introduced the scrapbook sessions and personality profiling tool.
Showing respect and love motivates better than humiliation.
I worked everybody so hard because I thought it would make up for my youth and deficiencies. [Now] I was secure in my abilities and I was secure in our players. I had developed relationships with them so I sensed what they needed.
Knowing who you are and who you’re not frees you up to be yourself and focus on your players.