A couple of years ago, a high-profile women’s basketball coach took a risk with an unknown author, and became an important part of that writer’s best work to date. Of course, she didn’t know it at the time, and neither did he.
When my oldest daughter was in her last year of high school and contemplating her college choices and her college field of study, I thought I would help her out. I went to Borders, because that’s my favorite store, and because I was in search of books about successful females and successful female leaders. My thought was that I could pass those along to my daughter, not only for inspiration, but for guidance when I wasn’t around to share my worldly wisdom with her (of course, none of the four women under my roof think I’m worldly or wise).
Much to my dismay, the selection of books at Borders was slim and none. So I figured I’d write the book myself. And I did. The hard part was trying to identify enough positive female role models to profile in my book. After banging my head against a wall (both literally and figuratively) I had an inspirational moment. Since I’d been writing a newspaper column about girls and women in sports for seven years, and since I’d written other books about girls’ and women’s issues, I determined that I’d profile the top women’s basketball coaches in the country.
The hard part was narrowing the list down to a manageable number because I wanted to travel to visit these ladies so I could interview them in person. After banging my head against a wall, again (probably why my ladies don’t think I’m worldly or wise) I figured out that my criteria for narrowing my list of candidates would be that they had to have led their team to the Final Four – at least once.
That gave me a pretty short list, and eight of the ten coaches I approached agreed to be part of the project. Final Four Leadership (5 Secrets Successful Female Leaders Use and You Should Too) made its debut just before New Year 2010 http://www.davidfsalter.com/
The first coach to commit to my project? University of Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. So it was with great pride and pleasure that I rooted for the Fighting Irish in the national championship game on Tuesday night. And it also was that night that I decided to embark on a new list.
Over the past several months, you faithful readers have been following my list of “Females We DON’T Want our Daughters to be Like.” So far, Snooki, Heidi Montag, Diana Taurasi, Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, Lady Gag Me and all of the Housewives from the Bravo television series have adorned that list. You can check back in the archives to see why I selected those folks to be on that list of shame.
So I’m putting Muffet McGraw as the first person on the new list – Ladies We’d Like Our Daughters to Emulate. No one is perfect, but I will always try to explain my choices.
Coach McGraw has been at Notre Dame for 24 campaigns and she’s compiled 644 career victories. The Fighting Irish won the national championship in 2001, and McGraw has guided them to the Final Four three times. Only seven other coaches have more Final Four appearances than does coach McGraw.
It would be easy to admire McGraw for her professional accomplishments, the most important one to me being that 100% of her student-athletes that have completed their eligibility in South Bend have earned their Bachelor’s degree. But I admire her for some other things that I hope our daughters can copy.
McGraw remains married to her husband, Matt, since 1987. That’s not easy in her profession, but it shows that women can be successful and stay married. I know it takes two sides to make that happen, and Muffet gives Matt a lot of credit for that. They’ve raised a son, Murphy, who’s a 20-year old student at the University of Indiana.
There are a lot more aspects to coach McGraw that motivated me to start my new list with her, but I’ve already gone on too long. The fact that Notre Dame beat the Evil Empire led by Geno Auriemma to get to the national championship game doesn’t hurt, either.
P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.