"She swings through the air until she touches the sky."
Words to a ditty my dad sang as he pushed my swing more than 60 years ago. He encouraged me to pursue outdoor activities, but he spent time with my brothers practicing ball drills, so they could make the teams. As I came through school, there were no sports available for girls. My years at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville pre-date the Lady Vols and the wonder of their success.
If you have any doubt of the far-reaching effects of women's access to athletics, please read Sum It Up: 1098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective by Pat Head Summitt with Sally Jenkins. You might want to start with the honor roll at the end; ii includes her list of championships and then the incredible list of young athletes and where they are in their careers.
For me, the descriptions of Pat Head growing up "hard-scrabble" in Tennessee, working and playing alongside her brothers, were most touching. I could lift a bale of hay, but I never contemplated slinging it up into the loft. I never dared played hoops 1-on-1 with my brothers. Pat, however, was a competitor from the "git-go." Her player-success led to her coaching position at the University of Tennessee, and "the rest is history" — the history of women's struggle for equality in athletics. It makes for fascinating reading.
I don't admire all of Pat's qualities, but who am I to judge? It took tremendous drive and tenacity to succeed against such odds. I love her mentoring of young coaches, her relationship with her son, and her confrontation with her own recent vulnerability. She is a sports legend. When I see the Chicago Sky muscle into the finals of the WBNA, I will salute Pat Summitt and all she has meant to the game of basketball.
At one point during my own daughter's athletic career, I heard a parent lament that the high school "just didn't have sportsmanship like they used to." I asked what he meant. He replied that the stadium was not full of fans screaming for the success of the football team. I responded it only meant that families were out cheering for their sons and daughters in a variety of sports, rather than cheering for 11 heavily-padded young men marching up and down a field. Dads can cheer for their daughters as they, too, reach for the sky.