Acceptance Is: Integrity (And Swagger)



Jill, the second female Heisman High School Scholarship Winner, has dedicated her life to coaching – and it’s no wonder. She says it was a coach who helped her find confidence when she was young and uncertain.
After going through a tough breakup, Jill remembers going into a cross-country meet with the attitude of ‘I don’t care’. When she sullenly ambled across the finish line and her coach pulled her aside, she was certain she would get a concerned speech and questions about what was bothering her.
What she got instead was a lesson in having some swagger.
As Jill recalls, he said, “What do you think you’re doing? What you just did out there didn’t help anybody, including yourself.”
Jill’s coach knew that running well was important to her – and that when she didn’t show up for herself, and didn’t perform to the best of her ability, she was hurting herself. He said “you need a little arrogance” – Jill was clear that he meant this not in the sense of disrespecting others or boasting, but in the sense of respecting yourself, walking with some ‘swag’.
Without that swag – really, a belief in her own self-worth – Jill’s coach worried that she would let one race without effort turn in to more – that she would let what happens to her define how she behaves. He encouraged her to not let anyone or anything, not a boy or a test, define how she was going to show up in the world. Jill understood at that moment to respect her own dignity, and how to live with integrity.

When she became a coach herself, Jill says more than any score, season, or standout performance, she remembers the moments between games as being the most important for her team. Hosting team dinners, inviting the diverse group of players and families into her home, she wanted to show, as she says, that “life is about something bigger than the scoreboard… to facilitate love and unity amongst a team.” Part of that, Jill says, required her to let her players and their families see more about her life.
“I believe that integrity is about unity – to oneself and others – bring[ing] transparency and who you truly are…allowing students into my own life both professionally and personally, so that they can see that, although it might look shiny and great from the outside, there’s all kinds of internal struggles that happen every day, every year.”
This openness and transparency, Jill was sure, would help students connect with her and one another, and to locate themselves in the world. To see that their own problems were not so grave, and that they were not alone in dealing with challenges – this was the gift of empathy.

It’s the line ‘to follow with curiosity and lead with integrity’ in the Acceptance Pledge that resonates most strongly with Jill. As a coach, she says ‘What might happen if we become intentionally curious about others and how we could unleash their worth and potential? Could we make it our own personal responsibility to help communicate this potential so that each person realizes it themselves, and acts upon it?”
Of course, Jill still carries the lesson of integrity (and swag) that her coach instilled in her – and has passed it on to her own daughter. When a uniform controversy among students created tension with the administration – Jill saw her daughter ready to take a stand, saying, “it’s dividing us as a student body and my intention is not to make anybody angry, but I have got to help people understand… mom trust me in this, I’ve got it, I promise not to disrespect anyone, but I also have to help people (adults and students) grow.”
Jill says of her daughter’s stand, “even if she does get in trouble, her reasoning is for [the] greater good…beyond, bigger than what I can comprehend.”
Integrity and swag, it would seem, don’t fall far from the tree.

‘What might happen if we become intentionally curious about others and how we could unleash their worth and potential?’

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