On this National Women in Sports Day we celebrate the women who have made an impact on the University of Tennessee through their athletic and life achievements. These women have laid the groundwork for future athletes and continue to influence the sports world today. In true volunteer spirit, these women have given their all and continue to give their all for Tennessee.
Many Lady Vols have gone on to represent Tennessee in their various accomplishments post-graduation, but few are as widely known as Candice Parker. Parker attended the University of Tennessee from 2004-2008, coached by the esteemed Pat Summit. In her time at Tennessee, Parker compiled a record of 100 wins with only ten losses, and averaged 19.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 steals and 2.4 blocks per game. Parker led the Lady Vols to their second straight NCAA women's title in 2008 and was named the Most Outstanding Player for the second consecutive tournament.
She forwent her last season as a Lady Vol to focus on the 2008 Olympics and pursue a professional basketball career, where she was the first pick in the WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. In her first year with the Sparks, Parker became the first WNBA player to be named the Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. Parker still plays for the Sparks while also working for CBS where she serves as a studio analyst for the NCAA men’s tournament coverage.
Parker frequently returns to Knoxville for games and to support the Lady Vols on the sidelines. She has even attended some practice sessions with Holly Warlick in her time as head coach, and most recently Kellie Harper. Parker remains an inspiration for young girls hoping to play for the University of Tennessee someday.
Another Lady Vol that has left her mark on the University of Tennessee is Monica Abbott. Abbott pitched for the Lady Vols softball team from 2004 to 2007, becoming the first pitcher in NCAA Division I history to record 500 strikeouts in all four years of her collegiate career. Abbott finished her college career as the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and the winner of the Honda Award for Top Collegiate Softball Player. She was also given the Women's Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year award in 2007.
After Tennessee, Abbott went on to play for the USA in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China where she pitched the first inning of a 5-inning no-hit victory by Team USA over Venezuela. Team USA finished second, earning Abbott and her team silver medals.
In 2009, Abbott signed a six-month contract with the Toyota Motor Corporation to play professional softball in Japan. Post-Japan, she joined the Chicago Bandits where she pitched her second perfect game against the Dallas Charge and a no-hitter against the Pennsylvania Rebellion. In 2016, Abbott signed a six-year contract with the Scrap Yard Dawgs, a National Pro Fastpitch team based in Houston.
In the track and field arena DeeDee Trotter represented the University of Tennessee well into her professional and Olympic career. In her time as a Lady Vol, Trotter placed second in the 2003 NCAA championships in the distance, and in 2004 she was the NCAA champion, and still holds the Tennessee record of 50.0s. Trotter went pro her junior year at UT, making her the first woman to turn professional as a track-and-field athlete coming out of the University of Tennessee before graduation.
In 2003, Trotter competed at the 2003 IAAF World Athletics Championship in France where she qualified for the semifinals. In the same year she won gold in the 4 × 400 m women's relay, at both the World Championships and the Pan-American Games. Trotter would go on to compete in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, earning gold in the 4 x 400 m relay in 2004 and 2012.
Trotter's impact goes beyond the track. She is currently a brand ambassador for Education First and is a renowned global motivational speaker. Trotter is also the founder of “Test Me I’m Clean,” a charity dedicated to combating the abuse of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Additionally, she was one of the founding athletes of Project Believe, a project where 12 athletes volunteered for frequent random out-of-competition drug testing. Trotter gave 31 additional testing samples during her involvement with the project.
Tennessee basketball and the university in general would not be where it is today without the legacy and teachings of Pat Summit. A feat of a woman, Summit carried the Lady Vols to 16 SEC Championship victories and eight NCAA Championships in her 38 years as head coach at Tennessee. She holds the record for most wins in college basketball history with an astounding 1,098 upon her retirement in 2012.
While it’s no doubt that Summit was the most accomplished basketball coach in Tennessee’s history, she also made remarkable impacts off the court. She stressed the importance and prioritization of academics over basketball to every player she coached. Every Lady Vol who completed her eligibility at Tennessee under Summit graduated with a degree. Summit also made tremendous contributions to Alzheimer’s research. In her last season as head coach, after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, she started the Pat Summit Foundation to help raise money and awareness for the disease.
Summit is a legend and hero in the eyes of the University of Tennessee. Even after her death in 2016, Summit still continues to inspire and shape young female athletes to this day. National Women in Sports Day is just one of many days her legacy should be remembered and honored.
All of these women carry the Volunteer name proudly and push today’s Tennessee athletes to give their all. At the end of the day, women in sports make impacts every day, even in UT’s own courts, fields, pools, tracks and arenas. These Tennessee women have shaped the future for upcoming female athletes and will continue to do so as long as the volunteer spirit carries on.