Kay Yow: Farewell to an Inspiring Soul

Christopher WhalenCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2009

Before today I knew very little about Kay Yow, the woman pictured above.  After learning some about her life in less than a day, I wish I had known her as a friend.

This story has a somber mood but a happy ending—even in death.

Kay Yow at age 66 passed away this morning after some tenuous battles with cancer. She dealt with that "monster" of a disease that takes so many, on and off since 1987.

Even though I cannot consider myself a fan of women's basketball, I am a fan of the way the women play the game.  They seem to have an inspired fire to compete, strong fundamental play from what I gathered watching parts of some games.

The late NC state coach since 1975, with many other women's coaches have everything to do with why women's basketball has such inspired play overall.  You do not see these coaches playing just to win, but to help develop the young minds which they are presented with each season.  Kay was her own inspiration in addition to serving as one for countless of others who came into her path.

More than the over 700 games she won as a head coach, Kay Yow had winning as a human-being down to a science.  Over her 33 years at NC State she was a mentor whether she was the person leading her team during a season in progress or not.  Her refusal to give in to cancer for so long is evidence in its actions alone of her perseverance.

While serving as a parental figure and role model to numerous girls, Kay would put together 21 seasons of 20 wins or more.

The women's court in Raleigh was aptly named "Kay Yow Court" in February of 2007 for the woman who always leaves a positive mark wherever she goes.

Compassion was in Kay's nature, as she affectionately gave every indication of that fact in her words:

"In the end, it is the relationships that matter. They are far above everything else because they continue for a lifetime."

"The more you know them, the more you can help them."

A coach who fights for her players and herself is one that is given absolute respect by all who witness those acts.  Kay possessed a spirit and toughness that was everywhere she would venture.  Think of a basketball player aggressively fighting through a full court press every time his/her team is on offense, splitting each double team with a driven purpose.   Now magnify that attitude towards tribulations around 1000 times, that's how Kay Yow's determined heart worked. 

It was Kay's faith and strong convictions of winning her battle against cancer which should make any sports fan stand up and give a roaring ovation.  

"run the race strong and press on"

"Don't drown in self-pity. Swish your feet around a little, then get out"

"Almost everybody is dealing with something."

What's in a person's legacy? Maybe it's in a team's insistence to go on despite its leader being absent for good, like at North Carolina State.  It seems to exist in the voices of people who could not help but be touched by Kay's constant living approach.  The president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, Sherri Coale, celebrated what that legacy is to her and many stadium's worth of others.

"In sickness and in health she was a bastion of courage and kindness," said Coale, who is the head coach at Oklahoma. "Her zest for life and her determination to make a difference in this world have galvanized our profession while inspiring millions."

Kay Yow had such an overwhelmingly bright personality and brought such magnetism that it is hard not to be deeply saddened.  It seemed like I should honor her with a tribute the more I noticed just how significant she was in the spectrum of basketball and life itself. 

Kay has finished roaming the sidelines with her unrelenting passion, that's for certain. What will not end is the bouncing ball that is the trickle-down effect that has girls and boys cherishing life more, whether a basketball is involved or not.

Let's keep our hopes up that Kay Yow still is coaching in another place where there is no scoreboard, no shot clock, no record of winning or losing.

Inspiration has lost an advocate but her energy remains in those she inspired.

Some of the information in this article was taken from blogspot.com and from espn.com.