Pat Summitt was as hard a worker as anyone who has ever made coaching their profession.  But her success and legacy are as much the result of smart work, as they are hard work. We’ve all heard the definition of insanity:  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  When we find ourselves stuck on a task, or even just in general, it oftentimes is because we are exemplifying that very definition. If you don't have the right approach to the problem you are trying to solve, no aount of hard work will get you to the result you want. 

This is why Coach Pat Summitt always stressed blending working hard with working smart, both on the court and in life. Coach Summitt surrounded herself with assistant coaches who she deeply respected and who were quite willing to challenge her decisions, methods, or strategies when they thought there was a better way.  If she had continued to coach exactly the same way as she did during the seven seasons when her teams lost in the Final Four, she very likely never would have broken through to win eight national championships.  She knew she had to work smarter, not just harder.  She knew her focus had to be on continuous improvement, course correction when necessary, and being smart about the work being put forth.

Even after championship-winning seasons, Coach Summitt constantly looked for mentors, teachers, and other coaches from whom she could learn new methods.  When her fiercest rival, Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut), changed women’s basketball through their success with a different offense called the “Triple Post,” rather than doggedly and stubbornly teaching her players exactly the same way she always had, Coach Summit became determined to study the Triple Post intensely so she could effectively counter it.  She visited the Chicago Bulls and learned from the masters of this offense, Tex Winter and Phil Jackson.  In other words, she made the conscious choice to work smarter, not just harder.  The next season with much the same personnel, Tennessee won the National Championship, defending against the Triple Post brilliantly. Yes, they most certainly had to work hard for it, but it was the smart work that changed the outcome. 

A vital key to working smarter is to invest more time, effort, and focus on developing and enhancing your strengths as opposed to focusing on your weaknesses.  Then surround yourself with teammates who have strengths and passion in areas you don’t, treat them with great respect and appreciation, just as Pat Summitt did with her assistant coaches, and you will achieve incredible things.