She emerged years ago as one of southwest Missouri’s best tennis players, later competed on championship softball teams and, fortunately, never forgot.
That is, Jodie Adams never forgot what it truly meant for her, as a child and then a high school and college student-athlete, to learn the valuable lessons that sports so often teaches. That’s why she devoted her professional career to seeing to it that children had even better access into athletics.
“I truly believed every child should have an opportunity to play, no matter what the sport is. So it was important to have public opportunities for everyone,” said Adams, who for 37 years worked for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, including 32 full-time. “That’s what got me into the parks and recreation business. I knew I would be able to expose children and families to sports.”
In other words, Adams has been a terrific ambassador and the reason why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to honor her with the President’s Award in 2017.
Adams has served on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees since 2004. In her time, she has been instrumental in forging a strong relationship between the Park Board and the Hall of Fame, as well as the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, the annual PGA Web.com Tour event held annually in Springfield.
Likewise, Adams has played a major role in endorsing women for induction into the Hall of Fame and the creation of the Hall of Fame-led Women’s Sports Luncheon presented by the Bee Payne-Stewart Foundation, in which women coaches and athletes are honored. To her, preserving the history of Missouri’s sports history is a top priority.
“I believe the Hall of Fame stands for excellence,” said Adams, a 2004 MSHOF inductee. “What I’ve observed is, not only does the Hall of Fame want to expose the people who have excelled in sports, but it wants to expose children to sports, which it’s done with the PGA tournament, supporting the Springfield Lasers (World Team Tennis) and working with Special Olympics of Missouri. That was really important to me.”
Adams learned the value of sports years ago as she won more than 300 tennis titles in her competitive career, first at Parkview High School (the first woman to be undefeated all four years) and then at Missouri State University.
She then threw her passion for sports into the Park Board and beyond, and made history. She was the first woman to be Director of the Park Board (2006-2011), Director of a Fed Cup International event in Missouri, General Manager of the Lasers and member of the United States Tennis Association Board of Directors. While at the Park Board, a nationwide background screening system — for youth sports coaches – was developed.
Adams also was the first woman alumni from the Program of Recreation, Sports and Parks – Department of Kinesiology to give a keynote speech at Missouri State’s Commencement and the first woman from Missouri to be recognized by the International Tennis Hall of Fame with the Samuel Hardy Award.
In her time with the Parks Board, the organization greatly expanded the number of sports programs, constructed facilities for numerous sports and successfully recruited state-, regional- and national-level championship events to the Ozarks.
Among other career highlights was securing the Lasers of the professional World Team Tennis, which annually features some of tennis’ biggest names and was founded by Billie Jean King.
Adams also served on the U.S. Fed Cup/Davis Cup committee that brought the Davis Cup to Kansas City, plus supported an Olympic Festival in St. Louis and, in 2003, secured the Community Olympic Development Program for Springfield.
In essence, local families could take part or see big-time sports up close, if not find inspiration.
“I knew what sports had done for me and being exposed to them meant learning discipline and being on time plus, when you compete, that you are fair and honest,” Adams said.
And it all started here in the Ozarks, with assists from numerous mentors and colleagues.
“We just worked through what was best for Springfield and Missouri,” Adams said. “That’s how I got involved with sports nationally – how could we start offering more championships in Springfield, Missouri? And how can we help more children and their families to be exposed to sports?”