All of my life I have been taught that sports aren’t just about winning and losing, but about teaching life lessons. Throughout my four years at the University of North Carolina, Coach Sylvia Hatchell and her staff did just that.
When I got to Carolina in 2004, I was a timid 19-year-old walk-on transfer student. I didn’t have any clue what I was getting myself into but was welcomed with open arms. I was supported through so many changes in my life and have been supported by her staff since I graduated. It was because of my experience as one of the women’s basketball student-athletes that I am successful today.
As a student-athlete, I was taught the value of an education and the importance of structure and discipline. We had weekly meetings with Coach Andrew Calder, and staff members checked on us on a daily basis. I had countless discussions with the coaching staff about what I wanted to do with my life when I left college, and they were nothing but supportive of my desires to enter collegiate coaching.
I learned that being disciplined in my studies was the only way to be a successful student-athlete. I will never forget the 6 a.m. study halls we had if a team member missed class or a study hall. I instill this same value of education and discipline with my team now.
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What do you look for in a coach? For me, it’s someone who makes you better on and off the court. That is exactly what Coach Hatchell and her staff do for those who go through the women’s basketball program. There are three strong and profound women who have molded the sport of women’s basketball to become what it is today: Coach Kay Yow, Coach Pat Summit and Coach Sylvia Hatchell.
Yow was a spokesperson for cancer and for fighting against all odds. Her legacy is one of love and compassion shown for all of her players. N.C. State has shown its support of its legendary coach by naming the court after her. Summit is known for being a spit-fire competitor who pushes her players to the limit to be successful. Summit was honored upon her retirement from the game by having the court at Tennessee named after her.
That leaves Hatchell. She is a combination of Yow and Summit, and she can’t even get her contract renewed. She deserves to be honored like these other two women, but she won’t be able to choose when she retires from the game because UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham refuses to renew her contract. How is that fair? Hatchell’s name is in the record books beside these other two legendary coaches who both battled illness through their final years of coaching, just as Hatchell has rebounded from her leukemia. The biggest difference is the others were allowed to retire on their own terms.
With the NCAA allegations, I am trying to wrap my head around how the women’s basketball team has been made the scapegoat in all of this. Our program was not the only team in the report, yet we are the ones being talked about the most. Roy Williams and his program were in the report, and he got a contract extension. The football program was in the report, and its coaching staff was confident enough to tell recruits that they will not receive any repercussions from the NCAA investigation.
That leaves the female sport as the one program negatively affected by these allegations. It’s really hard to work for a boss who doesn’t support you and have your back, and that is what Hatchell and her staff are forced to do at this point. It is hard to believe that in the year 2015, we still have people of power who do not support female teams as well as they do their male counterparts.
I am proud to be a member of the UNC women’s basketball program, but I cannot say I am proud to represented by an administration that will throw a legendary coach to the wolves to protect men’s athletic teams.
Meghan Austin, a 2008 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, is head women’s basketball coach at Montreat College.