Coaches and their influence

Candace Parker played women’s college basketball at the University of Tennessee under former head coach Pat Summitt.

The current member of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks posted a Twitter picture of the letter she received from Summitt while being recruited, saying “You held true to your promises … and some. Thank you Coach for always being the perfect role model I love you. #RIP”

She wasn’t the only person who sang the praises of Summitt, who died Tuesday at the age of 64, five years after being diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

“It’s amazing when I came in, how many people were here honoring her at the statue,” said Tennessee women’s basketball coach Holly Warlick in an Associated Press article. She played for Summitt and worked as an assistant on her staff for 27 seasons before replacing her. “They’re not basketball players. They’re just normal people wanting to pay their respects. What a great tribute for her.”

Former Volunteers player Chamique Holdsclaw wrote a story about Summit for the Associated Press:

“I remember the first time I met coach Summitt. My grandmother and I were in awe of how powerful and sharp she was in person when she came to my projects in Astoria, N.Y., to recruit me to UT.

“She promised me three things that day: I would graduate college, I would always have my family and sisterhood at UT, and that she would always be there for me.”

Summitt was hired at Tennessee at the age of 22 and went 1,098-208, an amazing .814 winning percentage.

She was Tennessee basketball. She won a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics and coached the team to the gold medal in 1984.

Every player from 1976 to 2011 played in a Final Four and every player who completed her eligibility at Tennessee graduated.

Every player.

From Tamika Catchings:

“Over the last 20 years of my life, you have helped mold me, shape me and love me into the person that I am today. I’m so blessed to have had you in my life. While it’s not easy not having you here physically, I know you will ALWAYS be with me in everything that I do and all that I stand for. And, I also know that one day we will be reunited in Heaven. Thank you for everything that you represent and for always being my Calm through my Storms. I am forever grateful”

Buddy Ryan died Tuesday at 85.

Although a head coach in the NFL for two teams (Philadelphia and Arizona) he is best known for two things – being the architect of the Chicago Bears’ 46 defense in the 1984-85 season and trying to punch Kevin Gilbride on the Houston Oilers’ sideline in 1993.

“His knowledge, passion for football and the love he had for his players and coaches are traits that have shaped and influenced so many careers, including my own,” Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said in an AP article.

Ryan was the linebackers coach for the New York Jets in 1968. They led the AFL in defense and beat the Baltimore Colts, 16-7, in the Super Bowl.

“That’s something my dad was very proud of,” Rex Ryan said in the article. “When (former Jets coach Weeb) Ewbank hired him, he had to make a difference. If he felt he wasn’t making a difference, then his career as a professional coach would be short.”

Coaching is about a lot of things.

Mostly, though, it’s about relationships.

It’s about the locker room.

It’s about the laughs and tears 10 years later.

Or, 40 years later.

The same is said for high school coaches.

It’s about relationships.

Be caring. Be responsible. Be kind. Be accountable.

Know your role. Know. Your. Role.

Everyone has a role from the school superintendent on down.

A board of education member is just that – not a coach.

You hired the coach. Let the head coach be a head coach.

In one school bus is the head coach, the coaching staff, the players and the athletic trainer.

In another school bus is the superintendent, school board, administration and teachers.

In the third school bus is the cheerleaders and band.

The boosters.

Then, the parents and fans.

Know which school bus you are on.

Be on the correct bus and don’t try to sneak on another one.

The board members do not set foot on the team bus.

Neither does the superintendent, principal, teachers or parents.

Stay off the team bus.

Do you think a lot of moms and dads climbed aboard the University of Tennessee bus?

Once you hand your children over to the coach, hand them over.

Let go of the leash.

Let your sons and daughters create a healthy, positive, correct relationship with the head coach and the staff.

I am so thankful my parents, specifically my mom, stayed away from my coaches.

I chose to play and she let me play.

I was subject to the wrath of the head coach because of my choices.

“Playing time” was never uttered in our house.

Not once.

Not every kid will like every coach.

That’s human nature.

Don’t think for a second that every Tennessee player liked Summitt every second of every day.

Yet…

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com.)