Merriam Webster's online dictionary defines "spunk" with three words.
Spirit, courage and determination.
These traits and many more are embodied in a tiny frame with workout attire, Tory Burch glasses and a 2011 championship ring bigger than her delicate hand. Her name is Sarah Patterson and she is the coach of gymnastics at the University of Alabama.
As she talked to our sports journalism class, Sarah Patterson's hands did the backup talking for her as she told animated stories about the beginning of her long career.
Her eyes shone with pride behind her fashionable thick black frames as she recounted the time that Bear Bryant told his associate to, "Give the little lady what she wants," when she asked for a $5000 floor exercise mat. She then received money for scholarships and a floor mat.
"With Bryant there was no budget. If you won you got what you needed," said Patterson.
One part of the definition of spunk shows through especially through Patterson, and it rubs off on other people. She has an aura of determination, something that stands out and grabs your attention. It makes you want to go back in time and stick it out that time your mom put you in gymnastics when you were five.
She smiled as she talked about the lengths she and her athletes go through to get people to come to their meets. They've done everything from dropping off athletes at Sorority Row at dinner time to handing out free Chick-Fil-A Sandwiches. There are certainly no lengths she hasn't been to, or will not go to.
Patterson got her 84/85 team to pose in their leotards with an elephant for publicity photos. Apparently there were some prickly protrusions on an elephant's skin that she was unaware of, and so were her athletes.
"If I don't work hard at it," she said, "how can I get my athletes to work hard at it?"
Since all of her athletes attend media training, she did have bits of advice for journalists. She sat with her media contact, Roots Woodruff directly behind her, recording the meeting.
"Be ethical about what you do. I don't think you can be successful in anything you do unless you care about the person," said Patterson.
She has come a long way since the old days of no budget. She reminisced about her old teams and noted that her current freshmen weren't even alive when the gymnastics team won their first championship.
When she talked about her daughter, she lit up like a Christmas tree, but she didn't forget the parent she was to some students long ago.
"In the beginning, we did it all. We were Mom, Dad, we were everything to those student athletes," said Patterson.