Reach for the Summit: The Definite Dozen System for Succeeding at Whatever You Do

( 18 )


Pat Summitt, head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, is a phenomenon in women's basketball.  Her ferociously competitive teams have won three NCAA championships in a row--1996, 1997, and 1998.  The 1997-98 Lady Vols posted a historic 39-0 record, prompting the New York Times, among many others, to proclaim them "the best women's college team ever." Now, in this groundbreaking motivational book, Pat Summitt presents her formula for success, which she calls the "Definite Dozen System." In each of...
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Reach for the Summit: The Definite Dozen System for Succeeding at Whatever You Do

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Pat Summitt, head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, is a phenomenon in women's basketball.  Her ferociously competitive teams have won three NCAA championships in a row--1996, 1997, and 1998.  The 1997-98 Lady Vols posted a historic 39-0 record, prompting the New York Times, among many others, to proclaim them "the best women's college team ever." Now, in this groundbreaking motivational book, Pat Summitt presents her formula for success, which she calls the "Definite Dozen System." In each of the book's twelve chapters, Summitt talks about one of the system's principles--such as responsibility, discipline, and loyalty--and shows how you apply it to your own situation.  Along the way, she uses her own remarkable story as a vehicle for explaining how anyone can transform herself through ambition.  Pat Summitt will motivate you to achieve in sports, business, and the most important game of all--life.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you want to understand what makes a champion, in any field or on any level, read Pat Summitt's story."
--John Feinstein, author of A March to Madness

Pat Summitt is "a genius of a coach."
--New York Times

"[Pat Summitt is] one of the best coaches in basketball history--male, female, college or pro.  .  .  .  [She has] an extraordinary combination of grit and tenderness."
--USA Weekend

"If you want to learn about winning and the elements for success, Pat Summitt can provide all the data to tell you how to win at any level.  To put it in Vitalese, she is awesome, baby, with a capital A."
--Dick Vitale, ESPN sports commentator

"As a manager and master motivator, Pat Summitt transcends sports.  The most experienced CEO can learn from her contagious work ethic and ingenious methods."
--Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One-Minute Manager

Runaway New York Times Business Bestseller

New York Times Book Review
"Pat Summitt ... [is] a genius of a coach."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767902298
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 94,599
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Pat Summitt became head coach of women's basketball at Tennessee in 1974, and since then has won more national championships than any coach since the legendary John Wooden, including six in the last eleven years.  She is a sought-after motivational speaker for such companies as Proctor & Gamble and Kodak.  She and her husband, R.B., live in Knoxville with their son, Tyler.

Sally Jenkins is the author of Men Will Be Boys.  A veteran sports reporter whose work has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, she has worked for the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated and is now at Condé Nast Sports for Women.

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Read an Excerpt

Never Wait 'Til Next Year

When I get after something, the veins in my neck stand out.  The color begins to rise up from my collarbone, and you can see the pulse going in my throat, and my eyes look like the high beams of an oncoming car.  I am what you would call a classic Type A personality. An extremely demanding person.  Certainly the people close to me would tell you that, including my seven-year-old son, Tyler.  In whom, may I just say, I have met my match.  The other night, Tyler pulled out his own front tooth, and it wasn't even that loose.  The fact that it was his only remaining front tooth, and that it bled like a slaughtered hog, and that he reminded me more than a little bit of myself, may have accounted for the exorbitant fee of seven dollars he received from the tooth fairy.

"Mama," Tyler says, when I get that look in my eye.  "Please put your sunglasses back on."

That's who you're dealing with here.  Someone who will sell her house to own your farm.  Someone who will push you beyond all reasonable limits.  Someone who will ask you to not just fulfill your potential, but to exceed it.  Someone who will expect more from you than you may believe you are capable of.  So if you aren't ready to go to work, shut this book.

They tell a story about me back in Henrietta, Tennessee.  One day when I was about fourteen years old, I passed a neighbor boy who was struggling to load a forty-five-pound bale of hay on to a truck.  He was hot and sweaty, and trying to push the bale up onto the flatbed.  I was just a tall, stick-legged girl everybody called Bone.

I watched him for a minute, and then I said, "You want me to show you how to do that?"

I grabbed the bale from him and threw it four stacks high.

You're wondering what a bale of hay has to do with success.  Well, there's a trick to loading hay.  You have to use your knee.  What you do is, you put your right knee behind it and half kick it up in the air.  That way you get some loft on it.  It works with luggage, too.

My point is, there are certain ways to make a hard job easier.  Which is what this book is all about.  It's about some tried-and-true methods of success, applicable to any job, that I have found over the course of my career.

I can fix a tractor, mow hay, plow a field, chop tobacco, fire a barn, and call cows.  I can also teach, cook, and raise a child.  But what I'm known for is winning.  I wrote this book because I believe the winning formula we have created at Tennessee deserves to be documented.

I also wrote it because I'm not happy unless I'm driving myself to my limit, and driving everybody around me crazy while I'm doing it.  Fortunately, I have a loyal, long-suffering staff in my assistants Mickie DeMoss, Holly Warlick, and Al Brown, and my secretary of seventeen years, Katie Wynn.  I usually try to do five things at once--in fact, we remodeled our house at the same time I was working on this book.

I'm famous for putting my makeup on at stoplights.  I constantly drive barefoot, changing my shoes in the car.  I seem to arrive at my latest appointment still screwing in one earring.

My attitude is, why do things one at a time, when you can do two at once?  The more work I have to do, the happier I am.

In my opinion, too many people in this world are born on third base and think they've hit a triple.  They think winning is a natural state of being.  Take our team, the 1998 University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers.  Every year, we get one or two players who think that just being at Tennessee is enough, that all they have to do is stand on the basketball court, and breathe in and out, and we will win titles.  And why shouldn't they think that?  We've won five titles in ten years, and two back-to-back in 1996-97.  Fourteen times the Lady Vols have finished among the Final Four in the nation.  You could pull a heist in our locker room, it's so jammed with silver and gold hardware.

I promise you, I cure our players of this type of thinking.  It starts the moment they arrive.

On a mild Sunday this past August, the 1998 Tennessee women's basketball team reported to campus.  They gathered in a locker room that still bore the signs and slogans and newspaper clippings of the '97 national championship season.  The Lady Volunteers hadn't really been together since we had done the so-called impossible the previous March, when a team no one believed in, a group of classic overachievers, defeated Old Dominion, 68-59, to win a second straight NCAA title.

Now we were joined by four new players, a group that was being called the single best recruiting class in the history of women's collegiate basketball: Tamika Catchings, the Naismith Award winner for best high school player in the country; Semeka Randall, USA Today's Player of the Year; Kristen "Ace" Clement, a fluid point guard out of Broomall, Pennsylvania, who we jokingly call "Aceika"; Teresa Geter, the best player in the state of South Carolina.  The rest of the team was an assortment of underclassmen, led by junior All American Chamique Holdsclaw, the clear candidate for collegiate player of the year.

I had a lot to say to these young ladies.  A whole lot.  I knew that before the '98 season was over, I would probably say it with those veins standing out in my neck.

Everybody was talking "three-peat"--an unprecedented third straight national championship.  But how could I explain what we would have to go through if we wanted to win another?  How could I explain to them just how tired and hoarse I would grow from the daily exertion of trying to convince a team that isn't very good--no one ever is, not at the beginning--to become great?  How could I convince them, in a simple welcome speech, of what it has taken me forty-five years to learn:

Winners are not born, they are self-made.  If ever there was proof of this, it was Tennessee's '97 team. No team had ever won a title with ten losses.  But somehow they managed to win it all.  As I looked around the locker room that following fall, the whole story was right there in front of me.  The walls yelled it out, and I heard my own voice coming back at me. I saw the spot on the wall where I had thrown a cup of water in frustration with my center, Abby Conklin.  They had been called "losers" and "pretenders" in the press.  I had added my own taunts.

Abby Conklin, everybody wants to guard you.  They can't wait.

Ya'll better get back out there quick, because if I was a paying spectator, I'd leave.

To be perfectly honest, I hadn't liked the personality of the '97 team to begin with.  They were too quiet, they were listless, they had no attitude.  I felt like a dentist pulling teeth.  The misery started the day before our first practice, when I learned that our point guard, Kellie Jolly, had torn her anterior cruciate ligament. I knew then that we were in serious trouble.  I could look at our schedule and count the games we would lose.

Of course, I didn't dare let the team know it.  But I told my husband, R.B., "This is gonna be a long year."

I was right.  We didn't just lose.  We lost badly.  On December 15, we were humiliated by Stanford, 82-65.  On our home court.  It was our worst loss in Knoxville in a decade.  It gave us a 7-3 record, our slowest start since 1984.

Chamique Holdsclaw was not used to losing.  Chamique had never lost at anything.  She had finished every year of her career so far as a champion.  She had won state championships all four years at her New York City high school, Christ the King.  Then she had won a national title as a freshman at Tennessee.

And she was completely demoralized after that Stanford game.

As we were walking back to the press room, Chamique dragged alongside of me.  "I can't wait 'til next year," she muttered.

And we were only ten games into the season.

I didn't want to reveal how concerned I was, so I said, "Chamique, we're going to be all right."

But a few games later we got killed again, this time by top-ranked Connecticut, 72-57.  In that game, we racked up season lows for points and shooting percentage.  Now we had five losses, and we were on our way to play Old Dominion, ranked second in the country.  On the night of January 5, we changed planes in Washington, D.C.  I sat there in the airport, exhausted, in the same clothes I had coached in against UConn.  Tyler was asleep on my lap, and I was too tired to move.  I was in a daze.  All of a sudden I saw the North Carolina basketball team, and their coach, Sylvia Hatchell, passing through the airport.  I must have looked awful, because she put a hand on my shoulder as she went by.

"How you doing, Pat?" she asked sympathetically.

"Oh, I'm doing all right," I said.

Sylvia said, "Well, just hang in there 'til next year."

Right, I thought, wait 'til next year.  It was like everyone had given up on us.  Home Box Office had come to campus to film a documentary, but now the producers were being told to pull off the story and find another team, because we were losers.  Even my own assistants were worried that we might not make the post-season tournament.  I looked at our schedule, at where we still had to go, and thought, How are we ever going to get through this?

The next day I had a five-hour meeting with the team.  Actually, this meeting, like others we have from time to time, was more like a knock-down-drag-out.  I critiqued each and every one of them--and they critiqued me back.  Chamique said straight out to her teammates, "I've got to have help."  She had been doing it alone.

That night against Old Dominion, I was really proud of them.  They fought, they made things happen, they were on top of every loose ball.  But we lost again, 83-72.

Now we were 10-6.

Our players were devastated.  In the post-game locker room, everyone was sobbing.  Some of them to the point that they couldn't speak or breathe.  They were so distraught that I was actually concerned.  I put my arms around Chamique Holdsclaw, and her shoulders would not stop shaking.

I had never seen a team react so strongly.  I was both moved and bothered by the depth of their emotion.  So I made them a promise.

"Get your heads up," I said.

They looked at me, their eyes swollen.

"If you give effort like this all the time," I said, "if  you fight like this, I'm telling you, I promise  you, we'll be there in March."

I said it, and I believed it.

What had happened was, they had taken ownership of their team, and for the first time they all felt responsible.

When you take ownership of a project and make a commitment to it and then you fail, it hurts so deeply.  If you never make that commitment--if you just stand around waiting for things to happen--failure won't affect you so much.  You think, It's not my fault.  But you won't succeed either.

So you have a choice.  You can choose to settle for mediocrity, never venturing forth much effort or feeling very much.  Or you can commit.  If you commit, I guarantee you that, for every pain, you will experience an equal or surpassing pleasure.

But pleasure was a long way off in January of 1997.  No one believed in us, not even my husband, R.B.  My husband is a banker, so he has a natural tendency toward pessimism.  But R.B. was as subdued as I had ever seen him.  He has a very analytical, numerically oriented mind.  That evening he stared at the schedule, and he said to me, "We won't win twenty games."

Well, that did it.  I was furious.

"Let me tell you something," I said.  "I am not waiting 'til next year.  Do you understand me?  I don't care what we have to do.  We're going to win twenty games this year.  I don't know how, but we will."

The discussion escalated from there until, finally, Tyler told us to quit fussing at each other.

Two months later, we were national champions.

Whenever I am asked to explain that remarkable accomplishment, I point to a placard posted in the most central place in our locker room.  It says, the definite dozen.  The Definite Dozen is a set of commandments.  It is Tennessee's most basic set of rules.  It is a blueprint for winning.

But the Definite Dozen is more than just a formula for success. It is a set of principles that has evolved over my twenty-four years at Tennessee.  You don't often hear ethics discussed in the same breath as success.  But to me they are inseparable.  A lot of people can win once.  They get lucky, or follow their intuition, or strike on a good short-term formula.  But very few people know how to repeat success on a consistent basis.  They lose sight of their priorities, grow content, and abandon their principles.

Long-term, repetitive success is a matter of building a principled system and sticking to it.  Principles are anchors; without them you will drift.  During that first meeting with our 1998 team, I thought about the long, hard road traveled by our 1997 team.

I gazed at our new group of players.  I didn't know them very well yet.  And they didn't know me either, 'cause I was still being nice to them.  Hanging over them were pictures of dozens of past All Americans, and the ten Olympians we have produced at Tennessee--more than double any other school.  Among them were Nikki McCray, Carla McGhee, Bridgette Gordon, Daedra Charles.  These players had all been undergraduates once--drilled relentlessly in the Definite Dozen and yelled at by me at one time or another.  But they were also like daughters, each with her own compartment in my heart.

The 1998 newcomers, I knew, saw similarly glorious visions for themselves: medals, awards, publicity, pro contracts, more titles.  They were thinking big.

But the Definite Dozen is made up of small things.

"Your focus better not be on a three-peat," I warned them.  "Because mine is not.  Your focus better be on getting down in a defensive stance and posting up."

Then, as I have with every team at Tennessee in my recent years there, I introduced them to the Definite Dozen, one by one.

1.  Respect Yourself and Others
2.  Take Full Responsibility
3.  Develop and Demonstrate Loyalty
4.  Learn to Be a Great Communicator
5.  Discipline Yourself So No One Else Has To
6.  Make Hard Work Your Passion
7.  Don't Just Work Hard, Work Smart
8.  Put the Team Before Yourself
9.  Make Winning an Attitude
10.  Be a Competitor
11.  Change Is a Must
12.  Handle Success Like You Handle Failure

"Believe me, you'll work," I told them.  "No one's died of it.  I don't remember anyone passing out, either."

I paused.

"Although some came close."

And that's how we begin.

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Table of Contents

Foreword: The Threepeat Season xiii
Prologue: Never Wait 'Til Next Year 1
Chapter I Respect Yourself and Others 11
Chapter II Take Full Responsibility 29
Chapter III Develop and Demonstrate Loyalty 45
Chapter IV Learn to Be a Great Communicator 65
Chapter V Discipline Yourself So No One Else Has To 91
Chapter VI Make Hard Work Your Passion 117
Chapter VII Don't Just Work Hard, Work Smart 137
Chapter VIII Put the Team Before Yourself 161
Chapter IX Make Winning an Attitude 179
Chapter X Be a Competitor 199
Chapter XI Change Is a Must 211
Chapter XII Handle Success Like You Handle Failure 241
Epilogue: Reach for the Summit 257
The Definite Dozen 263
All-Time Lady Vols 267
Lady Vols NCAA Champions 268
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 22, 2013

    This icon and living legend relates what it takes to succeed: in

    This icon and living legend relates what it takes to succeed: in life, in business, in school, in relationships, in everything. Her principles work for any situation. The conversational tone of the book is very easy to follow, as if Pat is chatting with you over tea. You'll laugh out loud, you might cry, you'll definitely be challenged and motivated. Fantastic book, get it today and prepare to be moved by it. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    Best book I ever read!!!!

    Her system in true in sports and in life in general!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2011

    Awesome book

    Truely insperational!

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  • Posted July 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Building Teams

    I encourage you to overlook the fact that it's a "sports" book and take the time to read Reach For The Summit - The Definitive Dozen System for Succeeding at Whatever You Do by Pat Summitt. It is one of my favorite types of books - it's filled with lots of personal stories to back up the lessons. There are wonderful examples that help make all the great advice more useful and memorable. And the stories are so interesting!

    Pat Summitt is a living legend. As one of the most successful coaches in history, she is an expert on building championship teams. As head coach, she led the University of Tennessee women's basketball team to back-to-back national championships, coached the 1996 Olympic team, and is the most well-known female sports coach of all time.

    Her experience as a phenomenal head coach positions her uniquely as an authority on how to motivate others and get the best out of a team. She uses a Definitve Dozen system, presented within the context of powerful personal stories, to teach the reader how to coach and lead a team from a principle-centered, ethical, and motivational position.

    I loved her focus on specific strategies for successful team building and particularly the emphasis she puts on the importance of the cohesiveness of the team and the ability to work with other personalities. It's a reminder that the "team" and the health of the "team" is of primary importance for overall success.

    Her 12 success steps - the Definitive Dozen - are what she applied during her 24 years of record-breaking coaching. But, the steps are not just effective for sports. She's frequently asked to speak to corporations because it's clear that her approach can also be incredibly effective in business. It's particularly powerful in any business setting where motivating and inspiring a team is essential.

    I really enjoyed the book because it was such an easy read and she made repeatedly outstanding points. It makes it so clear that teambuilding is her area of expertise and that you can learn from her experiences. The real-life stories just added so much value to the success steps themselves.

    Also, for me, the book really provided insight into what makes her tick. From the outside, but from the inside - with the perspective she provides with the examples - you can see how intentional and heartfelt all the brashness and discipline is and how you can use the same approach to make a difference in the lives of those on your own business teams.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2004


    As a past college athelete and current high school coach, this is one of the best books I've read in a LONG time when it comes to being a player and being a coach. Both the player and coach can benefit from this book. So many times when I played collegiately, I struggled to understand what my coach was thinking.....this book explains it. After reading this, I had a new level of respect and understanding for the coach who continually pushed our team to the limits and beyond. This is an EXCELLENT book for all athletes and coaches. I've read this on three separate occassions, and I plan on reading it again. It never seems to get old. It's a constant reminder of life and that competitive edge.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2001

    Best book I have ever read!!!

    If you want a book to help you to achieve your best, this is the book for you. Pat Summitt is the best coach ever - man or woman. She is a very motivational speaker and teacher as well as a wonderful person. Pat Summitt is my mentor and I look up to her very much. She has helped me to understand that women can do anything they want with a little hard work and dedication.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2000

    Best book I have ever read

    This book is very informative from the world's finest coach. Coach Summitt has helped me to know that as a woman I can accomplish any goals I set out for myself. I live by her Definite Dozen System. Because of her encouragement, I want to finish my college education. Coach Summitt is someone for all ages to look up to. She is my mentor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2000

    Great Book

    This is a very enjoyable book she is a great coach and a good person. I recommend this book for people of all ages

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2000

    Pat Summit Reaches Her Summit

    Pat Summit is a great coach who knows what she's talking about when it comes to basketball! In this book, she tells of past teams, her life, and about everything in between! Even if you're not a basketball fan, this book would be enjoyable to you!

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    Posted November 26, 2011

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    Posted January 24, 2013

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