Feminism Was What Drove Pat Summitt & The Coach Forever Impacted Women's Rights

Legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt has claimed a special place in women's history during her life and astonishing career. The winningest coach in college basketball history, Summitt lead her University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers through 38 years, 1,098 game wins, and eight national championships through her career. Besides the thousands of players she personally coached and impacted, she left an indelible mark on college sports by legitimizing women's basketball as a popular and financially beneficial sport. The only thing that could make these extraordinary accomplishments any sweeter is knowing that Summitt's intentions were rooted in an awareness and direct defiance of the sexism she faced her whole life. The driving force behind Pat Summitt's actions was her feminism, which is all the more reason to celebrate her achievements.

Summitt was driven by her need to defy everyday sexism and prove all that women could do, as she wrote in her 1999 memoir Raise The Roof: "Back then, there was no reward or reason for playing ball other than love of the game. There were no athletic scholarships for women, no money for decent uniforms, or hotels. On the road, we slept on mats in the gym of whatever campus we visited. But the thing about it was, I needed the game more than it needed me. I needed it to prove my worth in a family of brothers, who had never once cleared their own plates from a table or poured their own iced tea. And I needed it to earn something — anything — from my father in the way of attention."

Not only did Summitt help to change those conditions for female athletes and make women's sports just as competitive and beneficial for players, but by revealing her intentions, she sent a powerful and rare message to American women. In the sports world, it can be a career-defining mistake to be a woman, as the world was reminded earlier this year with the Erin Andrews case. Summitt not only addressed her rarity as a woman in college sports, but also spoke out about the sexism that she faced in her own life and how it inspired her to become the extraordinary women that she was.

Pat Summitt's accomplishments and her endless fight for gender equality had a positive impact on every American girl's life, whether or not most realize it. By combatting sexism through both her undeniably impressive coaching record and her vocal advocacy of women's sports, Summitt showed the world what women can do and embodied the true spirit of feminism.