Brittany Jackson is one of the most recognizable names in women’s basketball, dating back to her time at the University of Tennessee. During that period, she played all four years under the late Hall of Famer (and eight-time National Championship), coach Pat Summitt. Pat would pass away a couple of years ago after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Today and tomorrow, Jackson will be hosting her annual Back to School Skills Camp in Cleveland, Tennessee, which will include the Brittany Jackson Basketball Academy, and a celebrity basketball game with all proceeds going to Alzheimer’s disease research, all in honor of Summitt. Before Summitt announced that she had been diagnosed with this terrible disease, Jackson never came in contact with anyone who had Alzheimer’s, and this was around the time she was trying to figure out the purpose for her foundation…subsequently, she decided to focus on Alzheimer’s disease research. It is something that is dear to her heart because of her relationship with Summitt, but also because her mother had was recently diagnosed as well — she has since moved back home to help her father.
I had the opportunity to speak with former Tennessee volunteer and San Antonio star Brittany Jackson about her up and coming Back to School Skills Camp. Also, she discussed what made the late great Pat Summitt special, as well as her thoughts on the competitiveness in sports broadcasting. The full interview can be seen below; if you’re looking to purchase tickets, head here.
You had the opportunity to work for a variety of different networks as a sports broadcaster. Can you share some advice regarding what stations are looking for to help aspiring journalist out there?
That was my major, and right out of college I did a lot of radio and television. Now being that it is a competitive field you see athletes like Jason Witten deciding to retire to pursue a career in the broadcast booth because these opportunities do not present themselves very often. You must be persistent to follow your dream of getting into the business because you are going to be told no, but you cannot let that detour you from achieving your goal. Even I, to this day, try to get as many games as I can. You must continue to network, and remember it is all about timing. Also, make sure you take advantage of every opportunity presented to you because you never know where it might lead.
What intrigues you the about sports broadcasting growing up in Cleveland Tennessee?
I grew up in a family committed to learning in which my parents were teachers for 30 years, and my sister is a certified teacher. I just knew going to college that I did not want to go into teaching and it is because they are underpaid and underappreciated. I did know that I wanted to do something in sports and it has been a part of my life since I was three- years old. I just took a class at Tennessee, and it was something I enjoyed, and I knew that it would be something that would help me later in my professional career, whether that was communicating with others in my field, parents, and or children. Going into sports broadcasting is not something I grew up wanting to do, but it was a passion that I developed while I was in college. I started by getting a radio internship in Knoxville, and I ran with it.
You played all four years at the University of Tennessee for the late Pat Summit. For the individuals that did not have the opportunity to meet her what made her so special in your eyes?
A lot of people are always asking to describe Pat, and the best way that I can is to say she was very intense and resilient and going to college as a seventeen-year-old you know that she knows what she was doing. I was able to go to four straight Final Fours, and it was a disappointment that we never won one. Now, looking back Pat pushed you and it was not like she was a person that would get in your face or cuss. She was more of the mind games type of coach making you mentality tough, and she knew that her players had a lot more to give than what we all were aware of at the time. Pat just had a talent obviously with x’s, and o’s on the court, and her accomplishments speak for themselves, but Pat was someone that challenged her players mentally. Also, she treated every one of her players the same it didn’t matter if it was me or anyone else.
Why is your annual charity event dear to your heart?
So ever since I graduated from college, I had a passion for working and mentoring kids. Seven years ago, I started this event because I had friends like Terrell Owens and Chamique Holdsclaw who had their own charity events. I decided I wanted to do something of that nature in my community in Cleveland, Tennessee because there is nothing like it. When I started brainstorming about the purpose, it was around the time that the announcement came regarding Pat Summitt being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was right then that I wanted to start my annual Basketball Camp and Celebrity Basketball Game in Pat Summitt’s honor. Little did I know a month after Pat had passed my mother was diagnosed and I just recently moved back home to help my father take care of her.
On May 11th and May 12th, you will be hosting your back to school skill camp. Have you thought about with your background in sports broadcasting allowing aspiring students in the area to add the camp experience to their resume?
I have the students at Bradley High School in Cleveland, Tennessee that are in the broadcasting class conducting interviews with the celebrities that are in attendance. They also are responsible for putting together the weekend video showcasing the entire skill camp every year. It is an excellent opportunity for them to gain experience and I also want to get the other two high schools to be involved as well here shortly. It allows them the chance to speak with Hall of Fame talent like Terrell Owens and Chamique Holdsclaw. I wish I was able to do the same thing when I was their age.
Who are all some of the individuals that will be in attendance for your celebrity basketball game?
Every public figure says they want to use their platform to make a change. How do you want to use your platform to bring attention to promote change?
My community in Cleveland, Tennessee is a smaller area, and I love working with kids. I want them to know that they can achieve their dreams if they are willing to work hard. I also want them to know that I was in their position growing up. Some of these kids have parents who played professionally, but it hard for them to listen to what their parents have to say, but they will listen to me. You do whatever you put your mind to.
What are your thoughts on Tina Thompson and Katie Smith being announced as members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class?
Those are two great players that I watched growing up, and they both deserve the honor. It is an exciting time for women as it shows little girls out there that they can achieve the highest accolades in the sports that they play.
Are there any other events that we can expect from you this year?
I will continue to help train and mentor kids, as well as assist my mother as she goes through this troubling disease and take care of my son.
What is the best advice that she gave that you still use today?
Excellent question! Pat would always tell us to worry about what you can control, and it is still a struggle in my everyday life. It is just something that continues to stick out, and you can control your attitude and work ethic, but the things you cannot control are things you cannot worry about them.
You are consistently training the youth at your Basketball Academy in Tennessee. Have you thought about getting into coaching at the college or professional level?
I have an especially where I am currently in my career and life. I have a two-year-old and like I stated before I still love doing television, but I have thought about it. I think the fact that I do not want to teach has detoured me from jumping right into coaching. I am currently training kids of all ages, but it has been something that I have been thinking about a lot of late.
How do you help parents navigate with companies like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armor who come after their kids?
Women do not have to deal with that as much as men. When Pat recruited me, she offered me a scholarship, and during my four years at Tennessee I was never offered any money, and it is different on the women’s side. For the men, it is crazy that they are getting paid to go here and there, but a lot of people have asked me should college athletes get paid. I do not think they should because it would take away from the game. In my opinion, we do not experience anywhere near what happens to the men. That was a dream of mine when I finished college to be able to get paid to play basketball finally.
I recently had the opportunity to interview your friend Terrell Owens, and we discussed players coming together and challenging collective bargaining agreements before they expire in the professional league. For example, the WNBA players are not paid the same as the NBA players. In the NFL the highest position paid is the quarterback who receives record-breaking contracts.
Why do you feel players do not use their voices as collectively to make changes regarding these issues as teams’ owners who can release players in year three of their contracts?
I think as a woman in society there are individuals in boxing and MMA that are breaking barriers. However, when you look at the discrepancy between the max in the WNBA and the NBA, there is no way to compete with the men. You also must take event attendance between the two into consideration. Now, everyone has their own opinion on how to make things better, but in my opinion, the WNBA teams in the same cities as NBA teams need to piggyback off of the NBA team. I know we are getting there by breaking barriers, but it is going to take some time regarding the discrepancy with money. Look at Becky Hammond, Jenny Boucek, and Nancy Lieberman they have all had the opportunity to coach in the NBA.