Sports/In the Zone
Life in the Bubble
By Brittany Jackson
I graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2005, and it’s been more than 12 years now since I graduated from Bradley Central High School in Cleveland, Tennessee, and joined the Lady Vols. When my family and I were discussing where I should I go to college — and we knew the decision really would affect the rest of my life – I knew, in the end, that I couldn’t go wrong if I chose to play at UT – and for legendary coach Pat Summitt.
But I knew that there were pros and cons of joining a major program such as the Lady Vols. I was only 17 years old the summer I came to Knoxville for classes and to start working out with the team — and nothing could prepare a teenager for the eye-opening experience of joining an elite, high-profile, Division I team. Suddenly, I was “living in the bubble.” And it was definitely an adjustment.
Athletes at UT – and this was particularly true for anyone playing for Coach Summitt – have to live by a different set of rules. It’s a privilege to play sports at UT, but athletes have to remember they are always expected to represent the university with honor. That’s a good thing – because it helps students mature. But it can be unnerving for a student fresh out of high school to suddenly be thrust into the limelight.
Athletes at Division I schools, and particularly at a sports-minded school such as UT, are always going to live under increased pressures and scrutiny. A regular student who goes to a party might not have to worry about getting into trouble. An athlete at UT has to realize that he or she is almost always being watched. An athlete has to grow up faster; it just goes with the territory.
I remember one time early in my UT career when I was 5 minutes late to a class. By the time I got to practice later in the afternoon, Coach Summitt knew I had been late. Needless to say, Coach wasn’t pleased. “Every decision you make affects the rest of the team,” Coach Summitt used to say. And she was right. She knew that to win we had to separate ourselves from the pack – and she really meant that both on and off the court.
I would imagine one of Pat Summitt’s proudest achievements is the 100 percent graduation rate of her players. I remember talking to Chamique Holdsclaw about why she left the northeast and decided to come to Tennessee. She said she was tired of the cold weather, for sure, but the number one reason? “Everyone who plays for Pat Summitt graduates,” she said. And no one wanted to break that streak!
Living in the bubble may have been tough, but it prepared me for the real world. Now, as I go about my professional career, I always remember that I am a member of the Lady Vol family and that now, just as I did in school, I am expected to do my best. As Coach Summitt said: Once a Lady Vol, Always a Lady Vol.
Former Lady Vol and four-time NCAA Final Four participant Brittany Jackson is the owner of the Brittany Jackson Basketball Academy, where she oversees player training, camps, and clinics for all ages and talent levels. For more information, go to www.BrittanyJacksonBBall.com
December 31, 2013
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