Perhaps the two biggest names in women sports are Lindsey Vonn and Danica Patrick. Their wide-spread popularity is well deserved for their accomplishments, but as professionals, they should take a lesson from Pat Summitt.
Vonn divorce and taxes along with Patrick modeling paints old picture
Sports fanatics sometimes wonder why men have had trouble accepting women sports over the years. Sadly there are few arguments one could use without it sounding sexist. In truth the world of female sports has lacked accessibility through superstars. Mia Hamm was one of the first to gain notice when she led the U.S. soccer team to gold in the World Cup. Her pioneering ways led to other stars getting noticed. Danica Patrick is likely the most well-known name given her racing success. Fans also have found love for Olympic skiing champion Lindsey Vonn. So why, even now as women sports gain recognition, do they lack credibility? A major reason is, unlike Hamm, Patrick and Vonn can't stay out of the tabloids. Whether it's Vonn showing interest in media sensation Tim Tebow weeks after her divorce or paying back taxes to the government, her athletic talent doesn't overshadow the lack of respect. Patrick isn't as haunted by her personal decisions, but her modeling career and advertisements have turned her from a pure racer to another objectified athlete. For all their success, Vonn and Patrick lack credibility.
Summit was pure professional for NCAA basketball and Tennessee
One thing Coach Pat Summitt of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers never lacked was respect. In her 38 years of coaching, she piled up the most wins by any NCAA women's basketball coach and 8 national championships. In that time her program was a model for other schools across the nation. The closest she ever came to controversy was when word came out of her diagnosis with dementia. Her retirement from coaching came without tearful press conferences or bitter resentment towards her colleagues. Most of all, she never sacrificed her professional image to make an extra dollar. That is why she deserves far more credit for being a shining example to the positives and promise of women sports. Other athletes and coaches freely admit Summitt did more for women's basketball and women's sports than anybody in living memory. For that reason, young stars like Vonn and Patrick should take time to learn from her and about her.
Lindsey Vonn and Danica Patrick deserve their place among the best athletes in the world. That doesn't excuse them from making questionable choices that impact their professional images. Pat Summitt wasn't the most charismatic person, but her clean-cut approach to NCAA basketball and the Tennessee program is something every future female athlete should not take for granted.