Since coming to Columbus North as athletics director in 2008, Jeff Hester wanted to start a Student Athletic Board.

Hester had an Student Athletic Board when he was the AD at Heritage Christian. But at North, he hadn’t found anyone to take charge of the program.

That was until the beginning of this school year. Hester’s wife Jennifer, who had led such a board at Bloomington North, was hired at Columbus North and was willing to help jump-start the program.

“He’s had the idea for awhile, but there’s so much on everyone’s plate,” Jennifer Hester said. “So when they hired me here, he said, ‘Will you do this?’ Being the wife, I said ‘I’ll do it.’”

Story continues below gallery

North’s Student Athletic Board consists of 19 student-athletes — 10 girls and nine boys. They represent 17 of the Bull Dogs’ 20 school-sponsored sports, plus cheerleading.

Coaches in each sport nominated a member of their teams for this year’s board. Beginning next year, student-athletes will fill out an application for spots.

“It’s a group I’ve wanted to have at the school since I became an AD, but I never had anyone that would really take it and run with that group,” Jeff Hester said. “I wanted to get our students more involved with the athletics department and promote sportsmanship and leadership and just be role models.”

At football and boys and girls basketball games, a couple of members of the student board greet the opposing team and welcome them to the school. They also greet officials and take them to their room.

Once a month, Jennifer Hester takes half of the Student Athletic Board members to Northside Middle School and the other half to Schmitt Elementary to tutor in math and English and teach sportsmanship. Next summer, she’ll take them to IHSAA leadership conference.

“We go and tutor kids at Northside and Schmitt, and it’s fun,” said senior Paige Littrell, a basketball and tennis player. “We usually get put with the kids that struggle the most, and whatever we can do to help them I think does a lot for them. Being able to speak to someone who’s younger and not necessarily the teacher, I think (the kids) can better communicate with us.”

Senior soccer player Tyler Heathcote also finds the experience rewarding.

“It’s definitely very fun,” Heathcote said. “We help out with the different sporting events, and we introduce ourselves to the referees and other coaches, and over lunch we go over to Northside or to Schmitt and we either tutor them or we give them a presentation about sportsmanship.”

Heathcote and senior tennis player Aditya Mantri worked Thursday night’s North girls game against crosstown rival Columbus East.

“Right now, it’s a learning experience for all of us,” Mantri said. “I enjoyed going to Northside because the teaching aspect of it is quite fun. Actually, this is my first time at a basketball game ever, so I’m kind of figuring this out, too. It’s a good first-time experience.”

Littrell hadn’t heard of the Student Athletic Board, but now that she’s on it she’s glad to be part of it.

“I think we’re helping a lot in our communities, but also, we’re helping out with games,” Littrell said. “We help Hester with whatever he needs done.”

For that, Jeff Hester is grateful.

“It’s exceeded my expectations,” he said. “The kids really enjoy being a part of it, and it’s added a touch to the athletic department as well. I think some of them enjoy seeing what takes place behind the scenes at an athletic event, and it allows some of them to get outside their comfort zone.”

At a glance

Charter members of Columbus North’s Student Athletic Board:

Alex Algee;football and boys track

Gretchen Bless;cheerleading

Rachel Brougher;girls cross-country and track

Alec Embry;boys cross-country and track

Olivia Haskett;girls swimming

Tyler Heathcote;boys soccer

Bailey Hester;boys basketball

Ashley Holliday;gymnastics and girls track

Emily Kim;girls basketball

Paige Littrell;girls basketball and tennis

Collin Lollar;baseball

Julia Luken;girls golf

Brice McDaniel;baseball

Aditya Mantri;boys tennis

Katrina May;gymnastics and girls track

Nathan VanDeventer;boys tennis, basketball and baseball

Trey Vincent;boys basketball

Hannah Weaver;volleyball

Emma Wilson;girls soccer and swimming

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.