Randy Stewart profiles Jodie Adams, Director of Parks for the Springfield-Greene County Parks Department.
JODIE ADAMS: My total being is really focused on giving back to the community. It's just--I've always been focused on that all my life...
RANDY STEWART: That's Jodie Adams, Director of Parks for Springfield-Greene County Parks and Recreation. On today's edition of the KSMU Sense of Community series, Jodie Adams will tell us about herself, and how she got to the place she occupies today.
JODIE: I'm from Springfield, Missouri, and what's great is I've been able to stay in my home town and live, work and play. And what's exciting is, I've seen the city when we were a smaller city, and now we're moving into a metropolitan/urban area. So it's a very good time to be here in Springfield, in my opinion.
RANDY: Where did you go to high school?
JODIE: I went to Parkview High School, and then from Parkview I was actually looking at schools across the country to play tennis. I had gone through high school tennis undefeated. And luckily, that's a good resume to put out to area colleges! I was one of the beneficiaries of the Title 9 movement, where they did add the women's full-ride scholarships. So I had the opportunity to seek those scholarships throughout the country with tennis teams. But really, it came down to me wanting to stay in my home town. I really settled into Missouri State University because MSU is where both my brothers went.
RANDY: You were a "legacy," huh?
JODIE: It was a destiny! Both of my brothers--one was with the swimming team, and his name was Jim Adams. And then my other brother Tom Adams actually went here and played tennis on a full ride. So it was an ingrained thing that MSU's a great, great university, this is the place you want to go to school. And when I narrowed it all down, I stayed here and went on a full ride in athletics.
RANDY: But you also did a lot of study in Recreation and Leisure Studies. What drew you to that?
JODIE: I actually had entered through the Physical Education Department. And I met a professor here, Marsha Reed, and she was in the Recreation and Leisure Studies, in the administration end of the department. And she really exposed me to the benefits of the field of parks and recreation. And what happened is, I really enjoyed the diversity--that I could help, community-wide, a group of people and a community, help them develop with parks. And I could with green space, work with trails, work with therapeutic recreation, accessible recreation; I learned I could work with seniors. And then, of course, work with the sports end of the industry. I also learned, what better way to promote and be a public servant--and we are public service with our parks and recreation. And that was really important to me. It kind of drew me away from looking at, possibly, eventually a corporate field. So, Marsha Reed I credit with really switching my mind to say, "I love teaching," but that I could still be a trainer in our field, which I have been--a certified trainer in parks and recreation. But really, she led me to the field, to understanding the diversity and how I could help the public and provide services to the public.
RANDY: Right, as opposed to just staying with the Physical Education department.
JODIE: Yes. That's a tremendous area, and I was really excited about possibly teaching in the classroom. But I really wanted more than that--I wanted to be out with people. I wanted to make things happen for the community, where I could be working with master planning for communities. I just learned that it was an extremely dynamic field that I could move to, and help people.
RANDY: So... going through the degree is one thing. How did you actually get into the profession?
JODIE: Well, I went through two years with the Physical Education Department, then I went in and completed the Recreation and Leisure Studies--
RANDY: Changed your major.
JODIE: --Very quickly! And it was a challenge, because I was taking up to 21 hours a semester, 18 to 21 hours, plus playing tennis! And that was hard because we were on the road a lot. But again, I had some dedicated professors here, everyone from Jim Menes that many people will remember, to Dr. Gary Shoemaker and Dr. Tommy Burnett. They all helped me through, to lead me down the right path and be able to complete my degree in four years. But I had to work very hard through the academia, and playing tennis full-time.
RANDY: How did you actually get into the business of parks and recreation, from the fresh degree in your hand and saying, "Well, here's what I've been trained to do, now I want to do it?"
JODIE: I'll tell you when it started, was when I was 14 and started scorekeeping for the Springfield Park Board--at the time it was only a city department. And from there I went in at 16 and started some refereeing, and was a supervisor at 16 with Junior Miss softball, and I was starting to instruct some of the tennis programs. So I really have been with Parks and Recreation, in the field, for almost 32, 33 years, and I've been with the same Department that long. So that's really how I got into it. When I graduated, they already knew me inside and out! They were teaching me the field, along with going to school. But again, I was headed for a P.E. background, but then when I changed in SMS, then I started becoming very familiar with the full-time staff at the Springfield Park Board. And I had a lot of the managers take me under their wing and start teaching me the field. So when I graduated I had a decision: to either take a wild-card bid to Wimbledon to play doubles in tennis--and I was playing the professional circuit, I had been playing it for two years in the summer--or take a job with the Springfield-Greene County Park Board.
RANDY: You might've ended up making more money the other way!
JODIE: I guess, you know, the money was not really my driver ever in my life. My total being is really focused on giving back to the community. It's just--I've always been focused on that all my life. And, being my home town, I feel like Springfield can just about accomplish anything if we set our minds to it as a community and the metropolitan area. So I've really been focused on that, and it's been really good to me to follow that premise all my life in my career. I don't know what really got into me at age 22 that told me that I wanted to go ahead and get into the job force full-time. But something drove me to that, and I just thank goodness I had my mind with me when I made that decision.
RANDY: We'll come back to that, but I am a little intrigued by the two years that you spent on the professional tennis circuit! Tell me a little bit about that.
JODIE: Well, when I wasn't at SMS I could actually play the pro circuits, which leads you to Grand Slam play if you do well in the circuits and get into the top rankings. And I had done okay in singles, but I really had done well in doubles. I had hooked up with a very good doubles player out of Texas, and we were doing really well in professional tournaments during the summer. We could not take money and lose our amateur status, but we still could play the pro events.
RANDY: This was while you were still in college.
JODIE: Yes, while I was still in college, my last two years. And I was able to donate that money to charities and still stay amateur and make sure I did not hurt my eligibility with the university. Now I'm sure things have changed since then--this was back in the late 1970s. Then I was offered, when I graduated, a wild-card to Wimbledon. And the timing was in June...
RANDY: Where were you ranked at that point?
JODIE: I was in the top 20-30 players that could actually partner up with doubles teams. And they were taking up to 64 draws, so...
RANDY: Not bad!
JODIE: I was offered a wild card--I had not gone through any qualifying to get to a Wimbledon, to automatically be in. But I was considered a top player that might do pretty well there.
RANDY: Would that have been the biggest tournament you had ever been in?
JODIE: Absolutely! I had played national tournaments. I had played a lot of collegiate--obviously!--tournaments, and special invitations. SMS was number one in the Conference at that time; we had beaten the KUs, the Oklahomas. We were beating all the big schools at the time, we had a very good team at MSU. But I can just tell you right now, it would've been the largest tournament I would have ever played in my lifetime! (chuckle) But again...
RANDY: Something just clicked.
JODIE: Something drove me to do what I'm doing today.