While their playing days might be over, the lessons Hancock County’s community leaders learned on the sports fields continue to guide them today. In this week-long series, we look back on the positive effect athletics had on their lives.
NEW PALESTINE – A Dean of Students by age 34 and a school principal by 37, Katy Eastes’ management skills have clearly not gone unnoticed by her teaching and administrative peers.
Long before she was put in charge of New Palestine Elementary and its 500-plus children, however, Eastes thought of herself as just another kid. A special coach helped show Eastes her potential.
It was on the Morristown High School tennis courts where Eastes learned about things more valuable than serving and ground strokes from coach Susan Sheets.
“She had very high expectations for her student-athletes,” Eastes said of Sheets. “She didn’t expect us to all have winning seasons or win county championships, but she did expect us all to be of high character on and off the court. She really took an interest in us as individuals.
“She also helped me see that I had strong leadership qualities. I had not seen that in myself before.”
Upon graduation from Morristown, Eastes attended Marian University and continued to keep in touch with Sheets.
“And she is still inspiring me today,” Eastes said. “I could make a long list of mentors along the way that led me towards where I am. She is the one who also had that athletic tie.”
In high school, Eastes also began to realize that she could push herself. Working at a shoe store in Shelbyville, Eastes juggled her job, homework and multiple sports, including track and field.
It was a typically hectic workload for a young person, one that Eastes is grateful to have encountered.
“I think it was good for me to learn that balance as a teenager,” she said. “When I started running track, I realized that exercise could be a stress reliever. I grew up in an old farm house in Shelby County. I loved to run the countryside. There is something very therapeutic about running past cow pastures and corn fields.”
Sports have continued to shape the life of Eastes and her family. Prior to being tabbed New Palestine Elementary principal in March, effective this school year, Eastes was the Doe Creek Middle School Dean of Students and Athletic Director for three years.
Eastes and her husband, David, have two children who play all manner of sports. Doe Creek seventh grader Dawson and Sugar Creek fifth grader Olivia have enjoyed, variously, their time with football, volleyball and basketball teams, both community-based and in travel leagues.
Eastes marvels at the year-round athletic opportunities available to today’s elementary-age youths.
“I didn’t play organized sports as a child like my children do today,” she said. “When I started middle school, I joined every sport I possibly could. I wanted to be involved and loved the camaraderie of being on a team. I loved being a Yellow Jacket.”
Dawson, like his mom, will also likely take up running this year, although under a different moniker.
“He cannot wait to be a Buck,” Eastes said of the Doe Creek mascot. “After experiencing Doe Creek athletics with me for the past three years, he is very eager to get started in school sports.”
Whether a Yellow Jacket, Buck or New Palestine High School Dragon, life lessons to be learned by athletes are many. They’re lessons Eastes fostered among the Doe Creek teams, as well as her own kids.
Although every sports team has a standout, “We cannot all be the MVP, so we each need to find our niche,” Eastes noted.
Whether it’s the player that never stops working, the athlete with the positive outlook, or the child who makes everyone laugh and keeps morale up, “Every member of the team can contribute using their own talents,” she said. “That lesson certainly holds true in life. Know your talents and offer them in every area of your life.”
More than anything, Eastes added, sports’ most valuable contribution to a young person’s growth has little to do with the victories. It’s all about how they react to the losing.
“In my journey to be a principal, I failed many times,” she said. “I had many job interviews that did not have a positive outcome. What if I had given up? With the support of my mentors, friends, and family, I kept working hard and trying. Now I have my dream job.
“I learned through sports that success does not happen overnight and failing is a part of the journey. It is on the rocky road when you have to dig deep and keep plugging along that you find out how strong you really are.”
New Palestine Elementary School principal
Resides: New Palestine
Education: Morristown High School, Marian University (undergraduate), Indiana Wesleyan (Master’s, K-12 administrative license)
Family: Husband, David; children, Dawson (Doe Creek seventh grader), Olivia (Sugar Creek fifth grader)