In honor of Pat Summitt

Courtesy of Sporting News

Photo courtesy of Sporting News

Last week, the sporting world lost a giant when longtime University of Tennessee women’s basketball head coach Pat Summitt died from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 64. Summitt’s accomplishments in the college game are well documented. Her 1,098 career wins over 38 years are the most in NCAA history; she also took home eight national titles. Perhaps most impressively, the graduation rate of her players who finished their careers at Tennessee was 100 percent.

Even more important than Summitt’s on-court pedigree, though, was the work she did to legitimize women’s sports. Judging from the amount of honor and respect being shown to her and her legacy by the media at this time, one would think that largely because of her, women are on an even playing field with men in public perception.

However, all it takes is one quick internet search to discover that isn’t the case. Nearly every tweet and article about women’s sports and the accomplishments of their athletes is met with derisive, and frankly, disgusting comments, not to mention the disadvantages women still face on the field. For example, despite the USA women’s national soccer team winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup, their third such title, the team is still dealing with subpar field conditions, aside from their ongoing battle for more equal pay to the men’s national team.

It’s past time to stop disparaging women’s sports, women athletes, and women coaches as somehow less than their male counterparts. There’s a lot to be excited about all across UVU athletics. If you’re disregarding the women’s sports as somehow less significant, you’re missing half the picture. The women’s soccer team brought home the 2015 WAC title and made their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.

I had the opportunity last season to spend much of the fall semester writing about the women’s basketball team. I can assure you that those coaches game plan and teach just as hard as the men’s team. Those players work just as hard and care just as much on the court as the men. One of the Wolverine basketball squads won their first WAC tournament game in program history last season. It wasn’t the men.

None of this is to say the women’s teams on campus are superior to the men’s. They’re all hoping to build toward something special as the athletic department grows alongside the university. But anyone who thinks the women’s teams are in any way inferior or less important simply isn’t paying attention. If we truly want to honor the memory of Pat Summitt, all we need to do is go watch some of the incredible female athletes, both around the world and here at UVU, hone their craft.

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