June 7, 2023


Advocacy. Mediation. Success.

Teaching as Leadership: Lessons from Pat Summitt

When it comes to instructing as a form of management, couple of present a lot more worthwhile classes than Mentor Pat Summitt.

Michael J. Higdon

Professor of Regulation and the Affiliate Dean for Faculty Development

College of Tennessee College of Legislation

Proudly shown in my house office is a basketball autographed by Coach Pat Summitt.  Now, this could not seem particularly noteworthy—indeed, I visualize there are quite a few these basketballs adorning many homes and workplaces across the place.  If you understood me, nonetheless, you would know it’s pretty odd that I would even personal a piece of sporting memorabilia, substantially much less count it amongst my most prized belongings. The cause stems from the inspiration I have gained from Coach Summitt when it arrives to educating as a variety of leadership and, additional specifically, the monumental effect a leader can have simply just by concentrating on the desires of those people she serves. But in advance of I say more about that matter, permit me provide some history on how I came to take pleasure in this legend in the entire world of sport.  

Ideal about now, you may possibly be contemplating that I, as a faculty member at The College of Tennessee, chose Coach Summit as the subject of this guest post in an endeavor to curry favor with “VolNation,” the enthusiastic (to put it mildly) enthusiast foundation of The College of Tennessee wherever Mentor Summitt put in thirty-8 years coaching the Lady Vols to achievements far too many to depend.  Well, you will soon improve your mind when you read through what I have to say up coming.  Namely, when I moved to Knoxville in 2009, I had hardly ever even listened to of Pat Summitt.  And, no, I was not dwelling in a cave someplace or contacting into concern the extent of her superstar outside the house the state of Tennessee.  I just have never been significantly of a athletics admirer and, so, am fairly oblivious to points associated to that topic.

Nonetheless, a person simply cannot reside in East Tennessee and escape the legacy—richly earned—of Coach Summitt.  Indeed, she is in all places here—from an true statue of her on campus to the many individuals you cross paths with who will proudly share (typically with tears in their eyes) tales of interactions they after had with the woman Sports activities Illustrated called “a drive of nature.”  Despite my relative disinterest in athletics, I am a scholar of management and am fascinated by all those who direct successfully. Thus, intrigued by reverence that accompanied all points relevant to Coach Summitt, I made the decision a couple several years ago that I wished to study much more about her and what experienced encouraged so substantially admiration among the this kind of a wide cross-area of men and women.  I realized she experienced an outstanding file of success—indeed, at the time of her retirement, she experienced the most career wins in the historical past of school basketball—but I would before long study that there was so much more to this remarkable human remaining.  

I ended up reading a variety of textbooks, watching a number of documentaries, and even speaking with people who had worked intently with her.  What I discovered was another person experienced a deep appreciation for leadership (which she outlined as “a variety of short term authority that other people grant you”) but not as a implies of successful, but as a substitute as a signifies of inspiring many others to attain excellence in their individual ideal.  That, by by itself, was inspiring enough. Even so, presented that I consider myself to be initially-and-foremost a teacher, what most struck me most was the way in which she noticed her position as a trainer to be just an extension of her function as leader. To illustrate, take into consideration the subsequent quotes—some of my favorites—from Coach Summitt: 

  • 1. “The reward of getting a instructor is to view the widening of younger eyes when they expertise one thing new.”

1 of the items I enjoy most about Coach Summitt is that, regardless of her considerable celeb, she absolutely relished her part as a trainer.  And that pleasure came not from standing in front of these younger girls and basking in their worship of her (and, let’s be sincere, how could they not worship her?), but from the system her coaching part gave her to guideline these youthful individuals. She noticed her players not as tools that would assistance her secure another NCAA championship, but as persons who have been looking to make improvements to by themselves and essential her help. And help she undoubtedly did. Of study course, the players had to place in the perform, but she was there to enable tutorial them on their journeys. As Coach Summitt herself said, “I don’t forget how quite a few of them fought for a much better lifetime for on their own. I just fulfilled them midway.”

  • 2. “I’d uncovered the single most essential principle of educating: they never care how substantially you know except they know how much you care.” 

When I begun my possess profession as a teacher and was concerned about falling flat on my face in front of a roomful of college students, a sensible mentor (thank you, Professor Terrill Pollman!) advised me that learners would forgive virtually any oversight if they certainly believed you cared about them and ended up invested in their results.  It is crystal clear that Mentor Summitt adopted a comparable route.  When she unfortunately passed in 2016, innumerable previous players arrived forward to tell tales of how Coach Summitt experienced gone out of her way to get to know and to treatment for them as wholistic human beings.  She was notoriously tough on her gamers, but she often made guaranteed that they realized that she observed them and that she cared.  As Coach Summitt when explained, “[m]y demandingness was centered in a fundamental feeling that each individual kid experienced potential greatness in her—and they understood that, simply because I made it clear to them.”

  • 3. “When a participant can make a error, you always want to put them again in [the game] quickly—you really don’t just berate them and sit them down with no prospect for redemption.” 

For Coach Summitt, winning and getting rid of were being eclipsed by the individual journeys of the persons she led, and she endeavored to by no means dropped sight of that.  This quotation, which concerns the will need to give gamers a likelihood to redeem on their own, illustrates beautifully that factor of Mentor Summitt’s management. Inherent in that philosophy is how, the knowledge we as instructors deliver to our students indicates nothing if it isn’t in the long run currently being handed on those students in a way that they can wield it for on their own.  Opportunities for redemption are essential to the transfer of understanding, and so is feed-back.  Coach Summitt realized that comments was essential, having the moment reported that, “in the absence of responses, men and women will fill in the blanks with a negative.  They will suppose you really do not treatment about them or don’t like them.”  I visualize number of persons have the needs on their time that Mentor Summitt likely had throughout her career, which helps make it all the far more admirable that she would acquire the time to guarantee that her workforce was receiving the instruction and the opinions they desired.  

  • 4. “Winning is impermanent . . . what lingers is not the cold steel trophy but the experience of heat exultation you shared with a single another.”

I shut with this quote since it tends to make a person point abundantly and beautifully distinct. Underlying Coach Summitt’s full leadership philosophy (and, in fact, all the other rates I discovered earlier mentioned) is the being familiar with that management is not about the get it is about the relationships and the possibility a person has as a chief to elevate many others up.  Coach Summitt believed that, as lecturers, the most enduring legacy we can develop is by individuals we assist and encourage together the way.  As someone who lives in East Tennessee and is on a regular basis confronted with the reverence that carries on to exist for Coach Summitt, she has unquestionably verified herself suitable on that score.

When it will come to educating as a type of management, handful of offer you more important lessons than Coach Pat Summitt.  Indeed, for all that Mentor Summitt has taught me, and in spite of my relative ignorance of all issues sports activities-associated, I now think about myself a large fan of her do the job and her large legacy.  As I carry on on my have journey as a instructor, I hold that autographed basketball as a supply of inspiration for the obligations and, much more importantly, the prosperous leadership prospects that come with that role.