With Mother's Day on Sunday, espnW asked Tyler Summitt what one lesson he has learned from his mom, Tennessee head coach emeritus Pat Summitt. Here is his answer:
Asking me to highlight one lesson I've learned from my mom is a paralyzing and unfair question. There would be no way for me to explain how much of an impact she has had on my life. However, if I were forced to choose, the lesson would be an overarching philosophy for life: "Always do things the right way." Not only did she repeatedly tell me this but her actions gave me an example to live by.
The only way to do things the right way is to know how to make it happen. I can sum up my mom's coaching style in one word: accountability. Every single morning, my mom came to work and prepared as if the national championship game was the following day. She held every single person in her program accountable, from top to bottom. It didn't matter if you were an All-American or a walk-on, my mom's standard did not waver. She had a vision of the "right way" to play basketball, with toughness and competitiveness, and she held everyone accountable.
After being a student-assistant for my mom, an AAU head coach, a walk-on for Bruce Pearl and Cuonzo Martin, and an assistant coach at Marquette, I have experienced firsthand some of the difficult decisions my mom had to make. As a coach, it is easy to get hungry for power and fame. Leaders have to make ethical decisions every day. My mom taught me how to handle everything with class and integrity. She set an example, staying true to her principles and doing what was "right," no matter the consequences. One example came on the trip with my mom's team to DePaul University. Candace Parker was from the area, and the arena was going to be full of her friends, family and fans. However, Candace missed curfew the night before the game. My mom, who will hold every player accountable for doing things to her standard, didn't play Candace the entire first half. Not only did she upset Candace's supporters but she also lowered her team's chance of winning the game. It was a memory that will serve as the epitome of doing things the right way. I've learned to put discipline and culture above winning and success -- which helps in my decision-making every day.
As a part of doing things the right way, my mom taught me to make relationships a priority. First and foremost is our relationship with God, which she showed me through her family's dedication to going to church, praying and reading the Bible. I have become strong in my faith and treasure my relationship with the Lord. Then comes our dedication to our family, which is especially helpful since I am marrying the love of my life, AnDe Ragsdale, this summer. My mom showed me what true dedication to family was by always cooking dinner at night. As a coach, I can understand the nights when you simply want to go home and relax. No matter what kind of day my mom had, we ate a family dinner. As I go through life, I will know what the "right" decision is and keep relationships as a priority because I saw my mom's example.
Relationships are also a crucial part of our careers. The life philosophy my mom taught me guards against focusing purely on success and the bottom line. Though my mom hated losing -- to the point that my bedtime lullaby was her screaming at her players on the television -- she showed me that mentoring her players was important. The lessons my mom taught her players on the court have transferred over to their lives. If you look at the Lady Volunteers who were successful on the court, you will most likely find they are successful businesswomen today. No matter where I am coaching, I will remember to keep my focus on teaching others how to stay true to their principles and standards.
If you ask my mom to sum up her career -- it wouldn't have anything to do with numbers. Not the wins, not the championships, not the awards. It would be the relationships she built and the opportunity to teach people, like me, to always do things the right way. Thank you, Mom, I love you.