Legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt – who passed away on Tuesday morning after a battle with early onset dementia – was known as a pioneer for women in sports throughout her astounding career as a head coach. In a 34-year-old letter shared by the Washington Post, Summitt wrote to a young basketball player who was preparing to play in her first game.
A fierce competitor and relentless trailblazer, Summitt was also a natural motivator. Her friend, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins, shared a letter from 1982 that speaks volumes about Summitt's character.
Summitt's letter to Shelia Collins, Nov. 22, 1982:
Shelia, This is your first game. I hope you win for your sake, not mine. Because winning's nice. It's a good feeling. Like the whole world is yours. But it passes, this feeling. And what lasts is what you've learned. And what you've learned about is — life. That's what sport is all about — life!
The whole thing is played out in an afternoon. The happiness of life, the miseries, the joys, the heartbreaks. There's no telling what will turn up. There's no telling how you'll do. You might be a hero. Or you might be absolutely nothing.
There's just no telling. Too much depends on chance, on how the ball bounces.
I'm not talking about the game. I'm talking about life. But it's life that the game is all about. Just as I said, every game is life, and life is a game. A serious one. Dead serious. But here's what you do with serious things. You do your best. You take what comes.
You take what comes and you run with it.
Winning is fun . . . Sure.
But winning is not the point.
Wanting to win is the point.
Not giving up is the point.
Never letting up is the point.
Never being satisfied with what you've done is the point.
The game is never over. No matter what the scoreboard reads, or what the referee says, it doesn't end when you come off the court.
The secret of the game is in doing your best. To persist and endure, "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
I'm proud to be your Coach,
Pat Head Summitt
Summitt helped grow women's basketball as her Lady Vols dominated the sport in the late 1980s and 1990s, winning six titles in 12 years. Tennessee — the only school she coached — won NCAA titles in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996-98 and 2007-08. Summitt had a career record of 1,098-208 in 38 seasons, plus 18 NCAA Final Four appearances.
Pat Summit legendary basketball coach
Pat Summit legendary basketball coach
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Former women's college basketball head coach Pat Summit attends the world premiere of ESPN movie 'Pat XO' on April 21, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: 2011 Sports Illustrated Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year, College Basketball coaches Pat Summit and Mike Krzyzewski accept award from Time Inc Sports Group editor Terry McDonell at the 2011 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award presentation at The IAC Building on December 6, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Tennessee head coach Pat Summit yells during the first half of a semifinal game in the NCAA Women's Final Four at the St. Petersburg Times Forum on Sunday, April 6, 2008, in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Pat Summit gives the team an earful during a time out during the NCAA Women's Basketball National Championship at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3, 2007. Tennessee defeated Rutgers 59-46. (Photo by Kelly Kline/WireImage)
Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt reacts to a foul on the court against Texas in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Chad Greene)
Pat Summit Tenn Head coach during the semifinal of the NCAA Women's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on April 1, 2007. (Photo by Kelly Kline/WireImage)
Pat Summit holds up the trophy and cuts the net during the NCAA Women's Basketball National Championship at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3, 2007. Tennessee defeated Rutgers 59-46. (Photo by Kelly Kline/WireImage)
10 Dec 1994: UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE HEAD WOMEN''S BASKETBALL COACH PAT SUMMITT ISSUES INSTRUCTIONS TO HER TEAM FROM THE SIDELINES DURING THEIR 78-74 WIN OVER PENN STATE AT THE ROBBINS CENTER IN RICHMOND, VIRGINIA.
1987: The Tennessee Lady Vols raise their arms in triumph with coach Pat Summit after winning the Final Four game against Long Beach State during the Women's NCAA Basketball Tournament in 1987. The Lady Vols went on to win the NCAA Championship against Louisiana Tech. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer, right, greets Tennessee head coach Pat Summit before an NCAA college basketball game in Piscataway, N.J., Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Tennessee women's head basketball coach Pat Summit talks with guard Shanna Zolman (5) during the Tennessee-Army NCAA Womens Basketball Champhionship first round game at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., Sunday, March 19, 2006. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Tennessee coach Pat Summit gives instructions against Mississippi during a women's college baskeball game in Oxford, Miss., Thursday, February 2, 2006. (AP Photo/Bruce Newman)
Tennessee's head coach Pat Summit gives instructions to her players during the second half of the game against Maryland at the Paradise Jam tournament in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005. Tennessee beat Maryland, 80-75. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Tennessee head basketball coach Pat Summit directs her team during the first half of their NCAA tournament second-round basketball game against George Washington at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., Tuesday, March 21, 2006. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)