Carl Mays: Remain courageous and steadfast

Jul. 10, 2014 @ 01:44 PM

Yesterday an associate and I discussed how God seems to send someone to lift you up, provide support, or give you a nudge in the right direction when you really need it. The conversation later helped me recall an article sent to me earlier this year. Written by Darren Reese, sports editor of the Greeneville (Tenn.) Sun, it opens with, “God has a way of putting people into your life right when you need them the most. Little did I know I needed Tyler Summitt.” He goes on to tell how the paper sent him to an awards banquet at which 23-year-old Summitt, recently hired to lead Louisiana Tech women’s basketball program, was the keynote speaker.

Reese and others were surprised to see Tyler had brought with him a special guest, his mother Pat, the winningest coach in women’s basketball history. Reese points out, however, that Pat was there as a mother, not a coach. And Reese says that was exactly what he needed to see – the strong-willed and fiery competitor suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who has refused to sit idly by – who, along with family, has faced the adversity head on and formed the Pat Summitt Foundation to fight the disease.

The reporter writes that he can’t say he knows what it’s like to be in their situation. But, with his own mother scheduled to undergo surgery for cancer she has been battling since 2007, he says he does know what it’s like to be a son feeling helpless as his mother fights for her life. As Tyler described how his family has dealt with Pat’s disease, Reese says he thought of his family’s own situation and found encouragement in the inspirational message.

The young coach said, "A lot of things happen every day that we can't control. The biggest example in my life is when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Everybody in this room is either coming out of a crisis, in a crisis, or about to be in one. That's just the world we live in. If you expect the world to be fair, sorry, it ain't happening. I've learned it takes mental toughness. If life knocks you down, get back up. If it knocks you down again, you get back up again. Do not let it keep you down. It takes an every-day effort."

Reese says it's not easy watching your mother, someone you've leaned on your entire life, having to suffer so mercilessly. He found comfort not only in Tyler’s inspirational words but also in the interactions between Tyler and Pat. Tyler often interjected growing-up stories, recalling being a young child around his mom’s Lady Vols' teams and feeling like he had "12 big sisters" every year.  

Tyler also talked about Pat attempting to give him advice when he first went out for the soccer team, even though she didn't know anything about the sport. He recalled her saying, “I don't understand how so many people can get so excited about almost scoring." (I think a lot of us soccer-illiterate folks can relate to that!) Reese reports that as Tyler entertained the crowd, Pat watched intently, often grinning with approval and even bursting into laughter on occasion. Reese saw Pat the mother rather than Pat the coach.

Reese says “As Tyler wrapped up his speech, he returned to his seat and gave his mom a subtle wink. She replied with, ‘Good job,’ and a look of proudness that can only be made with a mother's love. Tyler and Pat Summitt have one of the strongest bonds this earth can provide – that of a mother and her child. It's helped them remain courageous and steadfast in their fight against Alzheimer's. That's what I saw Thursday night. And that's exactly what I needed to see.” 

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. E-mail carlmays@carlmays.com or view www.carlmays.com.