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Pat XO: ESPN’s Love Letter To Pat Summitt

imagesI consider myself to be one of the luckiest sports fan. My life has been touched by legendary women’s basketball coach, Pat Head Summitt. Not once, but twice.

The first occasion occurred in the early ‘90s when I attended a girl’s basketball camp at the University of Tennessee. That summer I was introduced to Lady Vol basketball. Summitt’s words of wisdom gave me confidence, and made believe that I could do anything that I set my mind to. That experience fundamentally altered the trajectory of my life.

The second instance was a chance encounter earlier this year when I attended the Tribeca Film Festival screening of ESPN’s Nine for IX documentary,Pat XO.

The film, produced by Robin Roberts and co-directed by Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters, is one of nine documentary films about women in sports inspired by the 40th Anniversary of Title IX.

Pat XO airs tonight (Tuesday, July 9, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN) and tells the story of Summitt’s unprecedented 38-year coaching career, which was abruptly cut short after her diagnosis of early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

“There is none higher than Pat Summitt when it comes to women’s sports and for what she’s done for athletes, coaches, and not only for the world of sports, but women in general.”

If you could turn a love letter into a film, it would be Pat XO. Summitt’s closest friends, family, colleagues, and former players provide personal accounts of their relationship, all the while showing their love and appreciation for a coach who laid the foundation for where women’s sports are today. ESPN describes Pat XO as a film by those who were coached, taught, transformed and elevated by Summitt.

No one has been more impacted by Summitt’s achievements than her son, Ross “Tyler” Summitt. Ever since Tyler’s birth, which nearly occurred during a recruiting trip, he has been by her side and a major focal point of her coaching career. Whether it was his presence on the bench or standing next to her as she was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he has seen it all. So it’s fitting that Tyler, one person who without question is Summitt’s rock, narrates and candidly interviews her throughout the documentary.

“We thought the most comfortable she’d ever be is sitting with her son Tyler,” said filmmakers Lax and Stern Winters. “We put our heads together, and we thought of the idea of making a scrapbook compiled of imagery that could spark stories and memories.”

Tyler delicately guides Summitt through her fondest memories of being the winningest coach in NCAA history for men’s and women’s teams, which includes 18 trips to the Final Four8 NCAA National Championships, and 16 SEC titles.

Yes, Summitt taught her players X’s and O’s. But the film illustrates that her coaching legacy goes far beyond 1098 victories. She changed lives for the better by instilling values and teaching memorable life lessons.

Summitt taught lessons in leadership. She led by example and never asked anyone to do anything that she would not do herself. She taught the value of being accountable, and she made sure that her players understood their role and did it well. And Summitt taught the importance toughness. She often told her players that they could decide right off if they were going to be soft or tough, and they were not allowed to give her excuses or play the victim.

Summitt herself has chosen not to play the victim. In a rare moment during the film, she was quite emotional describing her departure from coaching. She said, “It was hard because I didn’t want to, but I felt like I needed to step down.” But in true Summitt fashion, she declares that the Pat Summitt Foundation is a new opportunity to accomplish something even bigger in her life.

“There are very few people who have the impact that she has had on so many,” said Roberts. “The beauty of Pat Summitt is that a great leader doesn’t tell you, they show you, and she is continuing to do that.”

At the conclusion of the screening, I approached Summitt and thanked her for revolutionizing women’s sports. I told her my story, and I shared how much her coaching meant to me all these years later. Summitt listened attentively, congratulated me, and gave me what I was not expecting – a hug.

It’s the same hug that she gave to her 161 players and countless supporters throughout the years. Even though Summitt is no longer on the sidelines, she is still coaching and teaching us to live like champions.

Pat XO

Good Night Sports Fans, 

Alana

Coca-Cola And The NCAA Celebrate The 40th Anniversary Of Title IX

Sports transcend cultural barriers. It teaches us life lessons, from the young to the old. It is blind to color, disability, and thanks to Title IX it is blind to gender.

These powerful words were shared by Sharon Byers, senior vice president of sports and entertainment marketing for Coca-Cola North America, at Coca-Cola’s and the NCAA’s 40th anniversary celebration of Title IX.

The Coca-Cola Company has a history championing female athletes. Whether it’s sponsoring NASCAR driver, Danica Patrick, or helping 2012 Olympians go for the gold, Coca-Cola is consistently at intersection of sports and entertainment.

Its recent collaboration with the NCAA brought sports enthusiasts, executives, and pioneers together to commemorate Title IX and its empowering impact on athletics and education. The evening began with an all-star panel presentation that included Billie Jean King, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Summer Sanders, and Cheyenne Woods. And capped off with a screening of the Title IX documentary Sporting Chance presented by Northwestern Mutual.

“Title IX is the women’s Magna Carta, because it had that kind of transformative effect on our society,” said NCAA President Dr. Mark Emmert.

Yes, whether sports fans realize it or not, Title IX has transformed our society and it has done so for the better.

Here are reflections of Title IX shared by legendary athletes of the past and present…

Billie Jean King, Tennis – Former professional tennis player who won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon. Founded the Women’s Tennis Association (1973), the Women’s Sports Foundation (1974), and Co-founded World TeamTennis (1974), the groundbreaking coed professional tennis league.

On the passing of Title IX in 1972…I always look at pioneers who thought about it and who imagined it. I really want to thank Congresswoman Edith Green from Oregon she was called Mrs. Education without her we wouldn’t have Title IX. Senator Birch Bayh who presented the bill in the Senate. Also Senator Ted Stevens, I am really indebted to him. Patsy Mink, a Congresswoman from Hawaii and Dr. Bernice Sandler who is a civilian who helped Edith Green so much with the bill. They are my sheroes and heroes. I thank them every day for having the vision and having the fortitude to make this happen and persuade others.

On the 40th Anniversary of Title IX…This is one of the most important pieces of legislation in the 20th century. You have the vote in 1920 for women. You have the civil rights laws that were passed during the 60’s. Sex discrimination in 1963 and then in 1972 we have this educational opportunity and no longer because of gender do we not get to have our opportunity.

On Title IX’s impact on corporate America…I remember in the 50’s and 60’s as a younger person thinking “why don’t we have more doctors and lawyers that are women?” It’s so obvious if you know the history, they didn’t have the opportunity. Because of Title IX women got their education. Over half of the workforce is now women.

On Title IX and professional sports…We wouldn’t have a strong WNBA if we didn’t have Title IX. We wouldn’t have the talent pool to fill those spots and the talent pool gets better and better every year. That means the WNBA gets better and better every year. We are only in our infancy. It took the NBA 40 years to average 10,000 people a night. No one remember those days. They almost went under in the late 70’s until Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and David Stern came along – they save the NBA. We’ve got to have professional leagues make it. We have to have people that want to invest the monies and the human capital to make it happen. Unless they see us and get to know who we are we don’t have a chance to be popular. It is very important that we have professional opportunities.

On the future beyond Title IX…We are the torch bearers for Title IX because we are visible. Women athletes are visible. We have an unbelievable opportunity to help change the landscape and climate as we go through life and to create opportunities for both girls and boys. Girls have a long way to go but it’s great to celebrate.

Summer Sanders, Swimming – At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona she emerged as the most decorated U.S. swimmer, winning four medals – two gold, a silver, and a bronze.

On the 40th Anniversary of Title IX…Title IX is plain and simple opportunity. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without sport in my life. What’s great about the NCAA and Coca-Cola celebrating the 40thanniversary is I celebrate it pretty much every day of my life.

On transitioning from swimming to broadcasting…Sport absolutely opened the door for me to fulfill my next dream. I wanted to work in television for as long as I wanted to swim in the Olympic Games. It was the next thing I wanted to do. I did swimming commentary at the NCAA championships right after I gave up my eligibility. Then I think through sport I got the guts and courage to walk into auditions.

On the legacy of Billie Jean King… I love the fact that Billie’s also teaching the next generation and giving them the words to say, things to stand for, and always remember to not take it for granted and to celebrate it.

On the future beyond Title IX…I would love to see more pro sports. I would love for women to really reach their potential and provide for themselves at the same time. I just want to make sure that we don’t go backwards. I just want to make sure that we slowly go forward and continue to educate. I want people to able to reach their potential whatever that is. It is not about money, it’s reaching your potential.

Cheyenne Woods, Golf – Professional LPGA golfer. Two-time All American from Wake Forest University. Finished her collegiate career with the lowest single-season (73.47) and lowest career scoring average (74.31) in school-history.

On the 40th Anniversary of Title IX…It means so much. I had the opportunity of growing up where female athletics were already established. There were a lot of organizations to help us, so it has meant a lot in my career growing up in women’s golf.

On beginning a career as a professional golferI just turned professional last month. Ladies golf is gaining popularity and it is really exciting to see people gaining interest and girls wanting to play golf. I want to be able to establish myself as an independent woman who is able to achieve my goals being a golfer. I feel that it is unique for a minority woman to be on the LPGA so that is one of my goals. I grew up playing in minority organizations and I definitely have a passion for seeing the growth of golf in the minority community.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Track & Field – Considered by many to be the greatest female all-around athlete in history. A four-time Olympian, who won the long jump gold medal in 1988, and long jump bronze in 1992 and 1996.  In Olympic heptathlon competition she won the silver medal in 1984 and the gold medal in 1988 and 1992.

On the 40th Anniversary of Title IX…Title IX means everything when it comes to sports and academics,and being able to go to college and continue to pursue my dreams. As a young girl growing up and not knowing the impact that Title IX was going to have on my career and then how it has continued to impact generation after generation.

On growing up in East St. Louis to being an Olympian…My dream was to go to the Olympics. I didn’t know that I would win gold medals or break records and people would want my autograph or interview me. I really want to bring some of that knowledge back into the community and try to inspire others to work hard, don’t set limits and don’t let people limit you in your efforts. I want to believe I have inspired others to just keep reaching – there’s no limit.

On the future of Title IX…I felt that I was a living example. I understand the women that came before me didn’t have the opportunities that I am blessed to have. And it is very important for the generation that follows behind me to really take up learning the history. As we celebrate we also know that there are people that are lurking or in the background trying to overturn the law or trying to find a reason to set us back. As we continue to move forward, for me it is about educating young people about what Title IX is all about.

Good Night Sports Fans, 

Alana

 

How Ann Meyers Drysdale Played Like A Girl And Won

 

You Let Some Girl Beat You? The Story of Ann Meyers Drysdale By Ann Meyers Drysdale with Joni Ravenna. Foreword by Julius "Dr. J" Irving. Behler Publications. Release Date: June 2012

Ann Meyers Drysdale has spent her entire life staring down the attitudes and misconceptions driving the phrase, “You let some girl beat you?”

She grew up in a large family where playing sports was like obeying the 11th commandment: “Thou Shalt Honor Thy Desire To Compete.”

Her talent and athleticism on the basketball court caught UCLA’s attention, and the university awarded her a four-year athletic scholarship. This historic feat made Meyers Drysdale the first female athlete to receive a Division I scholarship and one of the first beneficiaries of Title IX.

During her collegiate years,  she was a four-time all-American and led UCLA to its first and only women’s national championship in 1978. Off the court, legendary men’s basketball coach, John Wooden, mentored her, and to this day she affectionately calls him “papa.”

In 1979, Meyers Drysdale’s first job came courtesy of the NBA when she signed a $150,000 free-agent contract with the Indiana Pacers. While her contract didn’t lead to a roster spot on the team, she courageously opened the door for future female professional athletes.

In her new book, You Let Some GIRL Beat You? – The Story of Ann Meyers Drysdale, she opens up about her controversial NBA tryout; life with legendary Los Angeles Dodger and Hall of Fame pitcher  Don Drysdale; her career as a sports broadcaster; and her current roles as a Vice President with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

Meyers Drysdale’s memoir is a stunning portrayal of one of today’s legendary women’s basketball treasures, and a candid look at the courage, faith, and determination that it takes to be a champion on the court and in life.

Recently, I spoke with Myers Drysdale about her journey as a women’s basketball pioneer. Here is what she had to say…

On writing “You Let Some Girl Beat You?”…

 Meyers Drysdale: To me the book is for any gender, race, or age. I think it shows that we’re all able to accomplish the things that we want to. Anybody can achieve anything they want to be; whether it’s your social background or economic background. I think it’s important to show children and parents how important sports are in a child’s life. Whatever your dreams are or aspirations are after you get out of high school or college, the road to the boardroom is through the locker room. Sports teach so much character, teamwork, leadership, self-confidence and self-esteem. There are so many important lessons learned from athletics. They can take you to the next level.

On playing basketball at UCLA and Coach John Wooden…

Meyers Drysdale: It was a great time in my life. My brother David was there and coach called all of his players “his boys.” I feel so blessed that my brother was able to be one of his boys. He won two NCAA championships with him and was able to be on his last championship team. There was something special to be at UCLA during that time in the 70’s. My Olympic coach, Billie Moore, was my third coach at UCLA; and to be able to win a championship at UCLA in my senior year, everything came together. And to have someone like Coach Wooden say that I was instrumental in helping grow the women’s game stands for a lot.

On being a women’s basketball pioneer…

Meyers Drysdale: I look at the women before me that were pioneers and opened the door for me. I came around the time of Title IX and I think of the women that sacrificed so much before me and didn’t receive the recognition. I feel like I was part of the change that happened. We all make sacrifices, and women today have to continue to make sacrifices for the next generation that is going to come up.

On being the first woman to sign a free-agent contract with the NBA…

Meyers Drysdale: My tryout was received with a lot of hostility. It really took me by surprise because I had been so well received by UCLA and winning a championship; then all the sudden I was doing something that was not acceptable. I was surprised and a bit overwhelmed by the negativity. I was just doing something that I had always done my whole life. It was just difficult for a lot of people to accept that. The media was not very kind and certainly I did have some supporters. A lot of people were not keen on the idea, and the coach certainly as I mentioned in the book was not pleased about this. So it was difficult for everyone because it was a first and they didn’t know how to deal with it.

There were the stories of she’s taking a job from a guy or how can she be in the locker room. I just tried to block it out. I remember one guy saying she’s good, but she doesn’t deserve to be here. It made me sad, but it also fired me up. This was the beginning of my road. This was my first job. I was 24 years old and did not work in high school or  in college because I was always playing USA basketball. I was not familiar with being turned down because I had been successful through sports. It was a great learning lesson.

On being one of the first female sports broadcasters…

Meyers Drysdale: Back in the 70’s it was a field that was sprinkled with a few women. I recognized that there weren’t many women. We all knew that sports were great but it would be a short in your life. In my contract with the Pacers, my brother Mark put in that I would do broadcasting. Just the fact that I would get the door open and broadcast Pacers games was huge. I just feel blessed to be in the position to be good enough to be able to broadcast, and the people who have had faith in me to be able to do it.

On a woman playing in the NBA one day…

Meyers Drysdale: It takes a special person, not everybody is going to play in the NBA as far as talent is concerned. It takes somebody that is going to have a thick skin, sense of humor and can deal with the pressures of what the media and players are going to say.

On being an executive in WNBA and NBA…

Meyers Drysdale: I’d been asked since day one when the WNBA first existed to go with a franchise whether as a broadcaster, president or GM. Phoenix was persistent and I was fortunate to step into the role as a GM.  I think that I do have a good sense of the game, not just the women’s game but the game of basketball. I’m not always going to be right, I have made some bad choices in my position; but if you don’t take chances you’ll never know. If someone gives you an opportunity, don’t worry about failing. You have to have the courage to do it- fail or succeed. The position that I’ve been with the Mercury as the President and GM and now Vice President, I have learned that you have to make choices and they are not always going to be good ones.

Meyers Drysdale’s choices have not only impacted her career, but they have also created opportunities for countless female athletes and executives. She has shown the importance of gender equity on and off the court, and to this day she is fighting for the day that the phrase: “You let some girl beat you?” becomes obsolete.

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

 

Baylor’s Griner Takes Her Game ‘Above the Rim’

Baylor’s undefeated Lady Bears are rolling through the NCAA tournament. In case you’ve the games the biggest highlights have come from their starting center Brittney Griner. Griner wrecked havoc in the Big 12 all season and she’s been an unstoppable force on offense and defense.

While women’s basketball is known primarily as a “below the rim” game, Griner has been taking women’s basketball to new heights. Here are two video highlights of her tournament dunks.

 

Pat Summitt’s Winning Ways Continue At Tennessee

For 38 seasons and counting, Patricia “Pat” Head Summitt has been at the reigns of the University of Tennessee’s Women’s Basketball team.

Summitt was named the 16th head coach when she was just 22 years old, and only slightly older than the players on her team.

Since 1974 she has remained an institutional legacy in Knoxville, and after announcing in August 2011 that she’s courageously battling early onset dementia her reach is broadening beyond sports.

In the early days, Summitt earned $8,900 annually and operated the team on a “shoe string” budget. Back then the games weren’t televised; there wasn’t a generous booster club or 300,000 loyal fans breaking attendance records each season. Instead, Summitt washed player uniforms, drove the team to games, and was determined to build a tradition.

Gradually Summitt built the program into a women’s basketball powerhouse. She has won a record eight NCAA National Championships, and last night brought home a 16th SEC Tournament Championship. Not to mention Summitt stands as the all-time winningest college coach in NCAA basketball history with 1,095 games.

In the 2010-2011 Equity in Athletics data from the U.S. Department of Education, the total expenses for the 14-participant women’s basketball team was$ 5,892,060 ($76,243 per participant), and its total revenues were $4,958,365. While the 18-participant men’s basketball team $13,785,893 earnings surpassed the women’s team, its $6,863,233 expenses ($75,781 per participant) were comparable; thus demonstrating that Summitt has succeeded in establishing gender equity at Tennessee.

No coach has demonstrated a bigger influence on women’s basketball than Summitt.

74 coaches in the professional, collegiate, and high school levels have trained under Summitt. This figure includes 46 former players, 16 former graduate assistants, six assistant coaches, three basketball operations directors, and three managers.

And her players have been inspiring girls and boys to follow their dreams for decades. 44 Lady Vols have played professionally, including Candace Parker, Tamika Catchings, and Ashley Robinson who are among the 11 Lady Vols that played during the 2011 WNBA season.

What’s even more remarkable about Summitt is that her reach goes far beyond Knoxville.

Just look at me. I met Summitt for the first and only time during the summer of 1994 at her annual basketball camp. The coaching staff that summer was a women’s basketball “who’s who” ­- Nikki Caldwell, Holly Warlick, Mickie DeMoss, Carolyn Peck, and Nikki McCray.

In a quiet moment between drills, I asked Summitt what someone like me could do in order to get recognized by college coaches. Summitt smiled and shared her advice as if I was one of her players; that summer with Summitt and the Lady Vols sparked my love of basketball.

There are countless other girls, boys, men, and women who are also diehard women’s basketball fans; and someway somehow Summitt’s influence on the game has impacted them.

No one  knows how long Summitt will be on the bench instilling her values of hard work, and preparation; her “million dollar” contract expires in 2014. But we all know it will be Summitt and only Summitt who decides when it’s time to walk away.

Good Night Sports Fans, 

Alana 

UCLA’s Nikki Caldwell revives the Bruins

When I was 15 years old Nikki Caldwell was a Lady Vol and my summer basketball camp counselor. I will never forget Coach Caldwell teaching me how to shoot so the ball would actually go in – especially my free throws.

Stand at the free throw line with my left toe directly in line with the rim. Line my fingers along the seams of the ball. Behind my knees like I’m sitting in a chair, then stand on the balls of my feet. Flick my wrist like I’m waving good-bye.  Put back spin on the ball. Hold my follow-through while saying confidently “1 pt.” 

Not only did she teach me how to have faith in my shot, but she taught me how to have faith in myself.

Now Nikki Caldwell is UCLA’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach, and she is molding the next generation of great collegiate and WNBA bball players. Surely any WNBA owner will want one Coach Caldwell’s players on their team – trust me!

 Today ESPN LA posted a great story by Blair Angulo about the Bruins. Check out this  link to learn more about this great coach and role model. http://sports.espn.go.com/los-angeles/columns/story?id=6038973

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