Necessary Roughness Rules March Madness

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So I guess the Madness part is that I watched 8 college basketball games a day for two days straight this last weekend.  I know I’m an official Football Girl, but there’s something that grabs me about young men and women giving their all, playing a sport with all their heart 100 percent full out, without getting millions of dollars for their efforts.

And I like watching the women’s teams better.  Yeah, yeah, unlike my “watching” the spandex in the NFL, it’s not the body parts (although I would like to know where some of them get that waterproof eyeliner), it’s that I love seeing these girls epitomize my idea of “necessary roughness.”  On Sunday, the Maryland team beat last year’s reigning champs, Texas A&M, after being down by 18 points the whole first half of the game, and down by an average of 12 points in the second half.  Yes, they are used to second-half comebacks—they’ve been doing it all season—but it takes more than that.  It’s that tenacity I talk about in my book:  the ability to hold your score in the context of winning, never thinking you will lose—ever.  As the Maryland coach said to the interviewer after the win, “You can’t coach the amount of HEART in that locker room.”

As the Assistant Coach of another winning women’s team this weekend—Tennessee–the team “has resilience:  they never give up.  They keep going and going.”  One of her players added, “We came out with a lot of intensity.”  Now, that’s necessary roughness.  Also necessary was being able to count on everyone on the team—not just your starters. (Corporate people:  read “stars.”)  The “bench scoring” (scores by secondary players coming “off the bench”) was close to the number of the starters’ scoring!  43 points scored by the starters; 41 points scored  by the bench.  The Bench leader scored 22 of those points!

But look who I’m talking about.  Tennessee!  The Head Coach, Pat Summitt, has always been a role model for me.  She is THE winningest coach in college basketball history—men’s and women’s.  In her 38 seasons, this is her 25th time in the Elite 8 (the semi-finals).  She holds 8 National Titles, and is a pioneer and a motivator.  She elevated women’s basketball to the national stage, starting her coaching career at age 22, for $250 a month.

Yes, I am all choked up about her diagnosis this year of early onset dementia.  It could lead to Alzheimer’s, but so far, this woman is still on the sidelines, cheering on her team.  The TV coverage on Saturday included a locker room speech by Pat Summitt to her Lady Vols team, in earlier days.  I couldn’t resist writing it down:

“People who want a championship stand up and go get it!  They don’t shy away from it—they’re not nervous about it—and they bring a big ol’ ATTITUDE!”  Resilience?  You bet.  Summitt has always admitted using “tough love” on her girls, that culminates in “the stare,” and her players know when they get it, the check themselves and shape up.  That’s roughness that is necessary, and with over 1000 wins, Summitt oughta know.  Do you?

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