We have all heard the saying that when God closes one door, He opens another. For one-time soccer player Jackie Adams, the first door slammed hard. A series of sports-related concussions while she was in high school ended her playing career and altered her career plans. But as a second door has begun to open, Jackie is being able to pull others through with her.
“Sports have been my whole life, but I can’t play anymore,” Jackie explained. So instead, she coaches for Special Olympics, helping with the track and field team and the floor hockey team. She also helps run a sports league for children with special needs. For the past eleven years, Jackie has worked for the Ocean City Recreation Department. One morning last summer, she was in the office of the OC Community Center where she was renting out surf chairs. “It is rewarding to help people get one more visit to the beach,” she observed. Jackie also assists with summer playground camps for children ages four to thirteen. “So I like being in the community,” she said. “I get to know the children and watch them grow up. You become part of other people’s families.”
Not only has Jackie engaged children in her love of athletics, she also has engaged athletes in her love of the Catholic Church. While a student at Stockton University, Jackie was an honorary member of the women’s soccer team, traveling to away games over the weekends. On her way to Mass in various cities, she would sometimes attract four or five curious teammates to attend with her. “I have never been ashamed to say I am a Catholic,” she explained. “I am a devoted Catholic and I think it rubbed off on some of my teammates.”
How did her devotion develop? Her grandmother, Anne Dalessandro, had much to do with it. “She went to church every Sunday so we all went along,” Jackie said, referring to herself and three siblings. “We would be on our best behavior for her. She set a standard.” Jackie developed a close relationship with her grandmother, who died this year at the age of 96. “If Church was important to her, it was important to me,” she said. “And it is important to me now.” Her devotion only deepened when she was first adjusting to her health problems and parish members lent their support. “They taught me how to be a true Catholic,” she said, “a full human being, caring and giving. It is a trait I want to have.”
Jackie was born in 1992 and has been attending Our Lady of Good Counsel Church all of her life. She became an altar server when she was in seventh grade and still serves at the early morning mass during the summer. Serving Mass brings her mind to attention. “My life is hectic, but when I am up there on the altar, I am there for one thing only: to serve the priest and be present,” she reflected.
Adapting to the learning challenges that came with her head injury, Jackie graduated from Stockton University this past May with a degree in Spanish. Teaching may be in her future. Her long-range prognosis is not known. “I could grow out of it. but for now, I am getting better by learning to adapt. It is a way of life and I am going to do things a little differently.” Meanwhile, she will continue to wear her head protector (except in church). Her advice to young athletes? “If you get knocked and something does not feel right, speak up. Be willing to take a break and get checked out. Don’t take risks.”