I remember when Pat Summitt was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers disease and had to step down from coaching at Tennessee. I remember being saddened that such a young, vibrant woman had to face this cruel disease. Then, life went on and I didn’t think much about her anymore. Recently, I was saddened to read that Pat had passed away. Her battle with Alzheimer’s was brief. She was diagnosed in 2011 and passed in 2016. I truly had hoped she’d fight this disease as she fought so many worthy opponents on the basketball court. But, as anyone who is familiar with this disease knows, it doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t lose. With Pat’s recent passing, I decided to read her book, Sum it Up.
This book is incredible. It is a memoir that Pat worked on shortly after retirement perhaps to capture her memories. We all knew what an incredible woman she was, but I had no idea what her life was all about. Pat tells of her demanding, poor, farm upbringing with a demanding and often distant father. It wasn’t until Pat was 43 that she got a hug and an I love you from her father. Something she worked for her whole life, but something which also shaped the coach she became.
This book was well worth reading. What an amazing life this women had. What humble beginnings she came from and what a triumph her journey was. There are so many lessons to be learned from Pat, the ultimate teacher. She really at heart was a gifted teacher. There are so many passages I’ve underlined and will use in my life. She truly captured what I believe about education in this quote:
“My demandingness was based in a fundamental sense that every kid had potential greatness in her–and they understood that, because I made it clear to them. I’d learned the single most important principle of teaching:they don’t care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.” Pat Summitt
In the beginning of the book, Pat describes Alzheimer’s and eloquently captures its devastation:
“Have you ever walked along a shoreline, only to have your footprints washed away by the surf? That’s what Alzheimer’s is like. The waves steadily erase the marks we leave in the sand, all the sand castles. Some days are better that others – the waves come in and they recede, bringing a fog with them that sometimes clears.” Pat Summitt
I highly recommend everyone, even non basketball lovers like me, read her memoir. If that’s not something you want to do, then instead make a donation to fight this incurable disease. I made my donation in Pat’s honor through her foundation at: