Jalen Adams has never sought acceptance or been comfortable with conformity.
And while softball was — and always will be — her first love, the winner of Fort Dodge Senior High’s 2022 Florence Nordman Award didn’t limit her experience to the diamond.
In fact, Adams actively sought ways to push herself as an athlete — even if it meant facing the kind of struggle and adversity she would never experience on the field during the summer months.
“I think what makes[Jalen’s dad]Dan and I most proud is that she loved to push her limits and try new things.” said Dodger softball coach Andi Adams. “Her passion was softball and taking our program to places it had never been before. She helped us achieve that, but she also didn’t want this to be her only high school memory or experience.
“Trying new things gives you a different perspective and appreciation of not only your (main sport) but the other athletes who put the time and effort (in different seasons) into it. I will always be a multisport advocate. It is good for you physically and mentally. Jalen wanted to test her limits (uncharted waters) and push her boundaries, and honestly, that refreshed her (in the offseason) and pushed her even more when she got back to softball.
Adams thrived in the spotlight and under the pressure of being Fort Dodge’s ace pitcher and hitter at the top of the lineup for the past five seasons. The numbers are nothing short of staggering: The University of Iowa recruit is the Dodgers’ all-time leader in career pitching wins (111), strikeouts (880), and offensive batting average (.462), among a slew of other individual records.
However, it was not his personal achievements that Adams will remember with the greatest pride. The four-time First Team All-Stater was a part of 174 wins versus just 30 losses, five state tournament trips, three straight league games and a 2021 Class 5A title – team accomplishments her mother only laughs and thinks about in hindsight “Not only improbable, but borderline impossible” By today’s standards, FDSH is the smallest school in Iowa’s largest division.
“The Nordman Award has only really crossed my mind a few times in my high school career,” said Adams, the 2022 Gatorade Iowa High School softball player of the year, who also detailed basketball and swimming. “I knew I had a pretty good chance of getting it, but I never really focused on the meaning behind it because I was in a class with a lot of other talented athletes who were heavily involved in multiple sports. It helped me see how important this award really was.
“Being a multi-sport athlete has its problems, but becoming an elite involves making sacrifices and doing the outside work that often goes unnoticed.”
Adams shouldered the immense responsibility of being the face of the Dodger program over the summer alongside fellow seniors Tory Bennett and Haley Wills. That fall, she tried something new during her prep days and joined the FDSH swim team. The basketball season then occupied her time during the winter months.
“Jalen surprised me a bit with her decision to go swimming because she was definitely a fish out of water, so to speak.” said Andi Adams. “But she learned so much about herself in that environment. Coach (Ashley) Beaumont really pushed her, and she loved competing in what was at first a rather unfamiliar environment.
“Basketball was something she’s always done, but again, she needed to understand the dynamic of being a team player and functioning in a system where she knew she wasn’t going to be the main option. We’ve always felt that if you understand that there are rules and expectations in our household, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the classroom, on the field, in the pool, on the plaza or whatever – you would benefit from learning and staying consistent even with (different outcomes). Jalen has always embraced that philosophy.”
Adams kept the big picture in mind as she honed her skills and matured as an athlete.
“If I had to give a junior high school student one piece of advice about engagement, I would tell them: Take the small wins every day.” said Adams, who graduated with a cumulative grade point average of 3.89. “Don’t always focus on the end goal. If you enjoy the journey you will achieve your goal and never let your sport define who you are. Have an optimistic attitude and always be ready for whatever challenges the day may bring.
“I wish I could have found my voice as a leader a little earlier in my sports career, but I think that’s the whole point. It should take you a while to figure out your role on a team. I feel like I (as an upper class man) really did.
Adams welcomed the relationship both on and off the field with her mother, a Hall of Famer who had already had unprecedented success at FDSH without the thrill and glory of being in the championship round. As Adams and her teammates delivered in ways the veteran coach previously thought unattainable, the players – in turn – learned so much more about themselves as people in the process.
“My mom was my biggest influence … she’s there for me on and off the field and always shows me what softball and the other sports I’ve competed in have to offer.” said Jalen. “Even though I don’t see myself as a teacher (in the future), seeing her help students and shape them into strong young adults has been a very unique and special perspective that I have been fortunate to experience.
“I hope to have as much impact on life as she has.”
Adams also welcomed sharing the Nordman Award with Bennett, a lifelong friend and future Hawkeye softball teammate.
“Considering the award was only shared for the second time, I felt like it meant a lot more to both Tory and me.” said Adams. “We’ve always been close and supportive of one another and have competed in many sports together, so it was very rewarding to know that our hard work was recognized in this way.”
Adams also thanked her father for supporting her in many ways over the years.
“My dad was always in my corner when it came to athletics, from getting up early on the weekends to take me to softball tournaments to getting ice cream after my games.” said Adams. “He always has the right thing to say outside of softball and how he can make my day better.
“I see how hard he works as a teacher, driving instructor and coach. It motivates me to work as hard as possible in all aspects of my life.”
Adams hopes her legacy at Fort Dodge will be more about the unprecedented list of stats and records.
“I just hope I’ll be remembered as a hard worker and a good leader.” said Adams. “Being a Dodger means always having a community to rely on. It gave me so many opportunities that I don’t think I would have had at a bigger school.”
Andi Adams added, “Jalen saw it all growing up – the good, the bad and everything in between when it comes to what makes a program behind the scenes. I think that gave her a rare perspective and helped her succeed not just for herself or her teammates, but (on behalf of) the whole city and everyone who has supported us over the years.
“She’s always been mature for her age when it comes to finding the best path and avoiding the mistakes that other kids make as teenagers. Because as much as Dan or I or her other trainers would like to acknowledge that – and I’m sure (collectively) we have all influenced them in our own ways – this natural mentality and inner drive makes Jalen unique and special in ways that we love so incredibly proud and excited for the next chapter of their journey.”
TIME OUT WITH JALEN ADAMS
Holiday destination: everywhere with beach and sun.
People I would like to have dinner with: my softball team because they always make me laugh.
It would surprise people that I: Have two geckos.
My sporting role model: Rachel Garcia.
My daily role model: my parents.
I can’t go a day without: Talking to my brothers.
Superstition: Same hairstyle for every game.
The Hottest Rivalry: Waukee Northwest.
Favorite Road Trip: Wisconsin Dells with my family.
What are you listening to? Andy Grammer.
Team: Iowa Hawkeyes.
Class: all science.
Movie: Jurassic Park.
Book: Science Fiction.
Phone app: TikTok.