Perspective: Jacquie Rost, Athletic Director
Because I started my journey in education as an English teacher, I have always been enamored by the written word and the impact it can have on people who choose to examine and reflect on what those words mean. In my early years as a coach, I took my love of words and used them as inspiration to my young athletes. I often found motivation from those who’ve done it before me or said it better than I ever could. My office walls are full of inspiring quotations that move me in some way. It is through this that I came across the quote, “To rule is to serve, and to serve is to rule.” I am uncertain of the author or even the origin of this quote, but I know it has been the foundation of my belief system in how we, as coaches, train and develop young leaders in sports.
In my interpretation, the word “rule” simply means lead. I personally believe that our student-athletes have the incredible perk and burden of leading their peers and others. I say perk because the reality is an athlete at a large high school and in a city that loves its sports’ teams will get a lot of attention. We’re featured in the paper, on social media, in news broadcasts, and throughout the school and community. We have pep rallies to show support before a big game and celebrations after victories. The truth is…Athletes get their fair share of attention for what they do—simply put, we play sports. I say burden because with all of the wonderful accolades comes an inherent duty to serve those who support us. Every time an athlete takes the athletic arena, she is representing her team, her coach and teammates, her school, her family, and her community. One way we serve is to represent with the highest degree of character, poise, and sportsmanship possible. We compete to the best of our ability in a fashion that brings pride to those we serve-coaches, school, and community. But another way our athletes serve is literally to give back to those who are in need. Administration and coaches from both high schools also believe this to be true. I am hard-pressed to identify a sports program at either Memorial or Central who doesn’t do a service project. I’ve personally witnessed basketball teams volunteer at the Breakfast with Santa event and Feed the Children. Wrestling teams work the Cleveland Fire Department Fish Fry, and Softball and Baseball teams ring bells for the Salvation Army. Numerous youth camps are only successful because of the student-athletes who help their coaches by instructing the young participants. The Elkhart Education Foundation encourages this same philosophy through their “Pay It Forward”extra-curricular grants, but our coaches and athletes have been serving our community long before the opportunities they offered. The benefit now is that through Elkhart Education Foundation, our student-athletes also benefit monetarily through the generous and often much-needed grants EEF affords deserving programs.
The true paradox of servant leadership is that we only truly and authentically rule or lead others when we are serving them. And conversely, when we conscientiously serve others, we garner the ability to lead or rule with respected and admired authority. I personally believe that it is our obligation to put our student-athletes in the position where they come to understand the importance of this philosophy. In doing this, our student-athletes are forced to look outside their own lives and into the world of others, perhaps less fortunate than themselves. When we do this as humans our perspective is stretched and we mature through understanding and appreciation of others. In addition, in doing collaborative work with other community groups, student-athletes also become aware of how many adults in our community also make it a mission to give back to others. And lastly, it fulfills a sense of accomplishment and positive ownership of personal actions that we all experience when we help someone else.
The rich history of athletic accomplishments by our Elkhart teams is well documented and will continue to flourish in the future of that, I am certain. Our commitment and hope is that inclusion and emphasis of servant leadership adds to these rich experiences for our young leaders. Service to others has a life-long impact on our student-athletes by instilling the importance of giving back well beyond high school.