Favorite athlete: Julie Ertz
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports:All of the bus rides and winning my Senior Night soccer game
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: In a soccer game, I got kicked in the foot super hard. I thought it was going to hurt, so I started screaming at the top of my lungs for at least ten seconds. Everyone at the field was so concerned. I continued to scream until I suddenly stopped and said “I’m fine.” It didn’t hurt at all - my team was so confused and mad because they thought I was actually hurt. I’m always falling so no one was surprised I ended up on the ground. We always laugh about it now and how odd it was.
Music on mobile device: “Best Love Song” by T-Pain (Girls soccer song on the bus rides)
Future plans:Attend Penn State University with a major in Nutritional Sciences
Words to live by: “Everything happens for a reason.”
One goal before turning 30: Have a career that I love. Get my ears pierced.
One thing people don’t know about me: I’m a chocoholic
By Craig Ostroff
Her high school athletic career did not provide Jenna Rodebaugh with a lot of postseason berths or shelves full of all-league accolades.
While she experienced two winning seasons and a district playoff game in her junior year for the William Tennent girls’ soccer team, fate was less kind to the girls’ basketball squad. Locked into the brutal SOL National Conference after two years in the equally tough Continental, Tennent often found itself near the bottom of the conference, and did not post a winning league or overall record during Rodebaugh’s four years with the team.
And she wouldn’t change that at all.
Because when it comes to the things that matter most to Rodebaugh, her time on the soccer pitch and the basketball court at William Tennent gave her with everything she could have hoped for, and so much more.
“Playing soccer and basketball for William Tennent has meant everything to me,” Rodebaugh said. “Without it, my whole experience at Tennent would have been completely different, and I definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. Playing sports has made my experience here 100 times better, it’s helped my academics, I’ve met friends, made memories that will last forever. Down the line, I’m not going to remember our records or the scores of the games, I’m going to remember the bus rides and having fun in practice and being there with my team.
“We never got to districts in basketball – that doesn’t matter to me. Who’s going to remember that? We got to districts my junior year in soccer and I was ecstatic about that, but that’s not what I’m going to remember down the line. All-league, it’s cool when people get it, but I’ve never worried about that. My motivation was just to be the player you are for the team. I’m not looking for that award, I just want to be out there and do my best.”
A natural leader with an innate ability to fire up her teammates while remaining a positive presence both on the soccer field and the hardwood, Rodebaugh has also proven herself to be a versatile athlete who knows and accepts her role, is constantly working to improve her game, and is willing to accept any assignment.
On the soccer field, those qualities date back to well before high school. Tennent coach Bill Hontz, who coaches the Log College Middle School girls’ soccer team in the spring, remembers Rodebaugh possessing all the tools to be a leader even when she was a preteen.
“I’ve coached Jenna for six years going back to middle school, and she always displayed great leadership right from the start,” Hontz said. “From middle school into high school and this year as a senior, everybody has always respected her. Jenna has a great work ethic, never misses a practice, always keeps a positive attitude. Even when we had some rough patches, she always kept her head up, tried to encourage everyone else. As a leader and a captain, she’d say what had to be said, but she was always encouraging and positive with how she did it.”
Interestingly enough, it may have been a middle school soccer conversation that set Rodebaugh on her path.
“I remember Coach Bill coming over to me, it was in eighth grade, and he said, ‘I want you to be a leader this year to get you ready for next year,’” Rodebaugh said. “I remember it exactly, we were standing on the 50 talking. I was like, ‘Wow. I feel like I have a big future, I’m so excited for Tennent.’ I wanted to impress him because he has this faith in me.”
Being comfortable in a leadership position would serve Rodebaugh well in Tennent. She played both varsity and JV her freshman year, but as a freshman sweeper, Rodebaugh had the ability to see the field ahead of her and dictate strategies and defensive schemes to her older teammates. It might have been intimidating to a lot of freshman. And it was for a time for Rodebaugh. But she got over it quickly.
“The first time they put me in at sweeper, ‘Are you comfortable being vocal back there?’ ‘Yeah, totally,’” she said. “I’ll be vocal, yelling at upperclassmen. It was kind of weird at first, but I liked it, being able to help everyone. Being vocal is just part of my personality, so even as a freshman, it came naturally for me to be loud out there.”
After three years on the back line, Rodebaugh was asked to move up to center mid for her senior season to help shore up a midfield that was depleted through graduation. As has become a theme in Rodebaugh’s athletic career, she looked at the position switch as a challenge and eagerly accepted it.
“Coach Bill had said to me before the season, ‘I think I can put you at center mid, I need that fire, I need you to get everyone going,” said the two-year captain, who had experience at center mid with her club team. “I love playing defense, but defense is more about reacting to what’s happening in front of you. In the midfield, I had the opportunity to create the play. I had more freedom to do what I want. It was harder conditioning-wise, but I loved playing there.”
The results were immediate and obvious.
“Jenna stepped up and wanted to take over,” Hontz said. “Center mid is a good leadership spot. And Jenna scored many important goals, won a couple games for us with her head.”
Unfortunately, wins were harder to come by in the winter sports season, with a young, inexperienced Tennent squad battling in a highly competitive SOL National Conference that saw four teams make the district playoffs (including district finalist Neshaminy). But one thing that never wavered was Rodebaugh’s ability to lead the squad and help the younger players adapt to varsity basketball.
“We play in one of the toughest leagues in the state,” said Panthers’ basketball coach Laura Whitney. “To come in day in and day out regardless of the outcomes, always coming back with a fresh attitude - I give them credit, Jenna and all the seniors. It’s easy to look up at the scoreboard and see you’re not competing at the level you want to, and you can give up. Jenna’s the opposite.
“Jenna is the kid who is going to get the other girls into it if they’re not playing up to the energy level they need. She’s always been vocal in practice, in the locker room, she knows how to motivate her teammates. Jenna is a true team player, she’s always understood what her role was, never complained, she’s supportive and encouraging, and this year as a senior and a captain, she really took it upon herself to try to help the other girls along, getting them adjusted to playing at the high school level, being a big sister to the younger players.”
As a senior, a captain, and a veteran player on this year’s squad Rodebaugh knew how important it would be to get the younger players adjusted to the varsity level, and to keep them positive no matter what the scoreboard or the record book said.
Fortunately, that also comes naturally to Rodebaugh.
“I do tend to be positive, especially with sports,” she said. “Obviously in basketball we have not had the best luck. But it’s important to have the right mindset. People saw Tennent as a losing team, and we worked to change that mentality. It might not show on scoreboard, but one of my main goals was keeping that motivation or that positivity. It’s important that we had fun.
“It’s important that the younger players know, ‘Hey, it’s okay if you miss a shot. It’s okay if you make a mistake. Nobody’s perfect.’ Because if you’re losing by 30 in basketball, people feel pressure to have be perfect, and then heads are down. My goal was to try to keep it up and keep it positive, no matter what.”
Rodebaugh has worked on her shooting game over the years and emerged this year as a three-point threat for the Panthers. But even if she’s not leading the team by sinking treys, she’s finding other ways to contribute.
“Jenna’s always understood what her skills were, and she’s never tried to do too much,” Whitney said. “She’s worked so hard on her game, became a great outside shooter, improved her ball-handling, become a better finisher around the basket. But she’s also always sacrificing her body, taking the charge, fighting for the rebound. She loved that that was her role, adding the fire and energy to the team however she could.”
“For me, it was about letting the younger players know that just because you’re not the leading scorer, there are other ways to contribute,” Rodebaugh said. “If I’m not scoring or hitting my threes, then I’m focusing on defense. If someone else comes out strong, I’d do what I could to hype her up and keep her positive.”
And the example she set for her younger teammates proved invaluable.
“Jenna could play wherever we needed her,” Whitney said. “Sometimes we had to go small this season being a young team. Skill-wise, she’s more naturally a guard, but if we needed her down low or guarding someone bigger, she took it as a challenge. She did whatever we needed from her.
“I think the other girls saw that and started to pick it up as the season went on. Jenna wasn’t our leading scorer, but she was always doing whatever else she needed to do to contribute. The other girls started to see it, and seeing Jenna’s intensity and passion, and they’d start to feed off that. They wanted to match that intensity and compete like she did.”
And while all-league accolades are few and far between for teams that routinely finish near the bottom of the conference, Rodebaugh did manage to get one very meaningful postseason award. At the team’s recent end-of-season banquet, she was named the recipient of the Panther Award, given to the player who best embodies the spirit and attitude of the team.
• • •
Rodebaugh attacks her schoolwork with the same intensity as she does her athletic endeavors. She’s taken numerous AP and Honors level courses this year and throughout her time at Tennent, and boasts one of the top GPAs in her class.
She also serves as Vice President of the Athletic Council, is a member of Student Government, and belongs to the National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, and English Honor Society.
Once the spring athletic season starts, Rodebaugh will return for her third year to help Hontz as an assistant coach for the Log College Middle School soccer team. She and several teammates help out on the sidelines, and Rodebaugh said she enjoys it because it keeps her involved in a sport during the spring season, but also because it helps get the future Tennent soccer players familiar with some of the current players and helps make their transition to high school athletics easier.
In the fall, Rodebaugh will head to State College to study Nutritional Sciences at Penn State. She had considered attending a smaller school where she could have continued her soccer career, but in the end, academics and the allure of Penn State won out.
“It was not really worth it to me to go somewhere just to play soccer,” she said. “I need to be considering the future and my career, and I need to go somewhere that’s going to best prepare me for my career. It’s heartbreaking for me, but I can still play club soccer at Penn State.”
And as Tennent looks ahead to the next soccer and basketball seasons, Rodebaugh leaves big shoes to fill in both sports, but also leaves a legacy that leaves her teams with a strong foundation for success if the younger players have learned the lessons that Rodebaugh has imparted with her words and her actions.
“Jenna is one of those players that every coach wishes they had on their team, for the intangibles, the energy, the intensity,” Whitney said. “Jenna wears her emotions on her sleeves, she plays with so much intensity and heart, she’s such a competitor. She’s been the spark plug for our team, that’s one of the biggest things we’re going to miss about her. Who’s going to fill those shoes and be the fire to light the group? I’m definitely going to miss her, not just on the court or in the locker room, but for the kind of person she is.”
And while Rodebaugh is eager to move on to college and tackle the challenges that await in her future, she admits that she wouldn’t mind playing one more game for Tennent.
“You always hear people telling you, ‘Don’t take it for granted.’ I never did. I always looked forward to practice and to games,” she said. “It was so much fun, I’m so grateful to have been able to play for Tennent for four years. I’m just sad now that it’s over. I wish I had more time. I’d go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat”