#58: Playing for Coach Summitt: Sydney Smallbone Storey’s reflections on a legend
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Sydney Storey (formerly Sydney Smallbone) was an exceptional basketball player at South Bend St. Joseph’s High School and the University of Tennessee. She went on to coach at St. Joseph’s, where she led her team to another Indiana state basketball championship. Sydney, who later earned an executive MBA from Notre Dame and transitioned fully into the business world, joined the SGG podcast to reflect on her experiences playing for one of the all-time great coaches, Pat Summitt. We discussed:
1. The first time she saw Coach Summitt at a summer tournament: “When Pat walked in, I think the gym pretty much went silent…She really was a show stopper…I instantly wanted to play for her.”
2. How Coach Summitt carried herself, her charisma and demeanor.
3. Why Sydney and her teammates referred to Coach Summitt as “Pat.”
4. “She really took the time to get to know you individually…She wanted to know about our daily life and not just our life on the court.”
5. Where Coach Summitt held individual players.
6. Coach Summitt’s emphasis on communication, something you can always control: “A noisy gym is a winning gym.”
7. Coach Summitt’s excellence in teaching: “Her practices were long, intense, and intentional. Everything we did had a purpose.”
8. “We were held accountable on every drill. Everything mattered. Instant feedback was something we always got.”
9. How Coach Summitt communicated roles to players, many of whom were challenged to accept supporting roles after having been stars in high school: “We all got treated the same.”
10. “She always had a pulse on how you were doing and how you were handling any given situation…Everyone bought in.”
11. The time Coach Summitt made the team managers run sprints.
12. How Coach Summitt handled losses. “She was really good at judging where we needed to go to work.”
13. “It truly was her life… So when we lost, she took it on her shoulders really heavily.”
14. Coach Summitt’s limitations: “Because she cared so much, it was hard for her to dial that down.”
15. How Coach Summit addressed the team at halftime when they trailed Rutgers by 22 points at halftime: “We’re going to win this game.”
16. How she developed her own coaching identity, know what to draw from Coach Summitt and what was not reasonable to expect of high school players.
17. Her emphasis on developing her team’s “knowledge of the game” while coaching at the high school level.
18. Sharing coaching responsibilities with her assistant coaches.
19. Why she chose to not continue on the coaching path (for now).
20. Leaning on and learning from her athletic director, former Notre Dame volleyball coach Debbie Brown. “I confided in Deb Brown, as my mentor, every day before practice.
21. Her favorite memory of Coach Summitt: “I just remember her walking up to me, gave me a big hug, looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘Thank you.’ And that was all she had to say…Those two words meant the world to me coming from Pat.”