Pat Summitt, the influential coach of Tennessee’s Lady Vol basketball team, has positively influenced more than just the girls on her team. Since 1974, Summitt has led the Lady Vols to win more titles than any other NCAA basketball team. As the sad news of her early onset of Alzheimer’s Diease becomes a reality, we are beginning to better comprehend the widespread affect she had upon her fans, followers and athletes. The countless wins on her resume may provide statistical proof of her proficiency as a coach, but it is the guidance and wisdom imparted on her team and her fans which elevates her to such a high status among sports fans across the country.
Good coaches, it would seem, teach more than technical skills and impact more than just the individual players.
Kayaking, a sport that fluctuates between an individual pursuit and group effort, also depends on leadership and guidance similar to coach Summitt’s. She and the best kayak course instructors share a commitment to the sport from the beginning – no matter what lifestyle sacrifices come along with it – and a lasting popularity and demand amongst would-be athletes and adventure seekers.
Sacrifice and Commitment to the Sport
Pat Summitt began playing basketball when women did not play basketball. Title IX legislation changed that, and in 1974 she found her role as a coach. She took the newly open door in women’s sports and shouted through it for more females to come into the game. Of course, this meant living off of an incredibly low salary, performing every job required to maintain the team and even sleeping in the opponent’s gym with her team during road trips just to be able to help these girls play and compete.
Teaching kayaking is no more glamorous than Pat’s early days of coaching in Tennessee. Instructing whitewater kayaking requires a paddler unmoved by the realities of the lifestyle this position affords. The best instructors may live out of their vans for a portion of the year or pick up minimum wage work in the off-season to make ends meet, but return every summer to lead new students on the rivers.
For a leader to truly guide and teach others, he or she must be committed to those that wish to follow and learn.
Demand for an Influential and Inspiring Leader
Players on the Tennesee women’s team not only have advanced their skills to play ball, but also have gain confidence and unity under the guidance of Pat Summitt. Many of her pupils talk about their lives being changed in a way that transcends the game. She expressed her gratitude to those who never played on the team, but helped the girls nonetheless. Pep band members and others admit that her presence alone could inspire an individual to value themselves more. Everyone in the Tennessee basketball community will admit how valuable Summitt is to women’s basketball.
The intensity of whitewater can overwhelm a beginning kayak student. A good kayak instructor must prepare a student for the technical challenges of moving water, but also the mental challenges of working with the dynamic natural force of the river. Students who never kayak again will attest to the benefit of a weekend learning how to kayak can bring to their lives. Through this, the best kayak instructors grow a repuatation for teaching that spreads throught the small whitewater community fast. These instructors advance the entire community in kayaking and the sport as a whole, rather than just a single student.
Importance of Choosing a Coach or Instructor
Learning how to perform a new skill and work in an alternative setting as a team can open up unexpected doors in the self and the community. Whether learning how to move together as a team across the court and shoot a solid 3-pointer or traveling down a whitewater river with others and catching eddies with confidence, a good leader will help a student take these skills into their everyday lives.
We know that a good kayak course starts with a good instructor. Pat knew that it took more than being a good basketball player to leading her team. The kayak instructors at Wet Planet know that a good instructor helps every student find their own potential out on the river.
Author Susan Hollingsworth writes for Wet Planet Whitewater, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, American Whitewater, and any other river-related publication she can find.