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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Jae Hampton, IPFW assistant director of admissions, does minority outreach.
in the lead / jae hampton

Faith key to a life in own hands

Jae Hampton overflows with passion.

“He’s passionate about people,” Jen Fry said. “He’s passionate about coaching. He’s passionate about volleyball. He’s passionate about friendships.”

Fry is the assistant volleyball coach at Elon University in North Carolina. More importantly, she’s been Hampton’s friend for about three years.

Hampton – whose nickname is pronounced Jay – accepted a position at IPFW in June after working at Manchester University for one year. Before that, he lived and worked in Denver.

Volleyball has been a consistent priority for the local admissions officer.

As a coach, Hampton said he tries “to create an environment where mistakes are welcome.” Players learn to make the necessary adjustments to avoid those mistakes.

Hampton spoke about a player who he says probably shouldn’t have been included on the team.

“It got to the point where when I put her in the game, I’d cross my fingers and think, ‘Please do something right. Please do something right,’ ” he said.

Her playing improved during the season, but her contribution to the group was something more – something not measured in spikes and saves. It got to the point where Hampton felt the team wouldn’t be the same without her.

Hampton’s players have a strong advocate when they’re on his team, Fry said.

“They see that he’s all in for them,” she said. “He wants them to be better – not just as volleyball players, but as people.”

Name: Jahrae “Jae” Hampton

Title: Assistant director of multicultural outreach and recruitment for IPFW’s Admissions Office

Age: 36

Family: Single

What community groups have you been involved with in a leadership capacity? Hampton was active in the Denver community when he lived there, volunteering for Grand Design Inc., a performing arts nonprofit; Original Aurora Renewal, a community development organization; and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Since moving to Indiana, Hampton has been spending time with Early Exposure, an after-school and mentor program that provides college awareness and readiness to children living on Fort Wayne’s south side.

Hampton has also worked on college-awareness events this summer with Fort Wayne Community Schools and the NAACP.

“We’re trying to boost these kids, to say, ‘Hey, here’s what you can do to be successful,’ ” he said.

In his free time, Hampton coaches the Decatur Force volleyball club in Decatur and helps with Heritage High School’s volleyball team.

What is your most recent accomplishment? Being hired by IPFW’s Admissions Office not only put him closer to his goal of heading a college admissions office, but he is also on the same campus as a nationally respected volleyball program.

He’s introduced himself to IPFW’s coaches but doesn’t want to interfere.

“I know my niche,” he said. “I’m a supporter of the program.”

What makes a leader effective? “A good leader is able to take all these different backgrounds and struggles and outlooks and focus them on one goal, one objective,” Hampton said. Effective leaders help people reach beyond their normal limits to be successful, he added.

What leadership traits do you value most? “Being a great listener and servitude,” he said. “A leader should be: ‘I’ll put you on my back if I have to. I’ll carry you until you get it.’ ”

What is the best leadership book you’ve read? Hampton named three books that have had a profound influence on him.

The first is “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss. “That gives you the foundation, to never let you box yourself into four walls,” he said, adding that every new experience teaches a person to take chances without being afraid.

The second is “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who shared his thoughts on life after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. “He just broke down the practicality of life,” Hampton said. “Why are we worried about things we can’t control? Live life – just truly live.”

And the third book is the Bible. Hampton said he has been uplifted by “reading the word and trusting God will provide.”

What are the best ways to overcome self-doubt? “It goes back to prayer – that trust in Christ,” Hampton said.

He also credits mentors “who can give you a kick in the butt” with propelling him forward when he’s been mired in indecision.

Hampton described one time when he was hiking with friends in Flaming Gorge in Utah. They encouraged him to jump from a perch 20 feet in the air into a deep pool of water. Hampton, who isn’t much of a swimmer, was reluctant at best.

Instead of backing down from the challenge, he made a series of smaller jumps, each one a bit higher. With that preparation – and promises from his friends to rescue him if needed – Hampton successfully made the leap.

“People think: ‘I’ve got to do the big thing right now.’ But, no. There is nothing written that you need to do the ultimate thing first,” he said.

An example might be that going back to college means you have to quit your job and enroll as a full-time student, he said. It might be smart to take one class in the evening or on a weekend to start, he said.

When the good book and good friends aren’t handy, Hampton relies on his gut to make decisions.

Mostly, that’s a good thing.

“I’m like a maverick,” he said. “I’m feet first and ask questions and make apologies later.”

How do you manage your time? “Pretty much, I do what I love,” Hampton said. That makes it easier to cope with a busy schedule, he said.

“I try to get sleep,” he added.

Hampton believes his love of serving others helps him tap into extra energy reserves.

Who are your role models and why? Hampton, who takes inspiration from many sources, named five role models.

Leonard Geddes played football with Hampton at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. Despite his humble beginnings, Geddes is a financial success. He has a wonderful wife and two children. And he’s a Christian.

“I’m encouraged every time I talk to him,” Hampton said.

Richard Dalagot, who has been like a brother to Hampton, is the maintenance supervisor at the church Hampton attended in Denver. His family is also happy, even though its financial circumstances are more modest, Hampton said.

Tina Haire, Hampton’s deceased cousin, is the angel on his shoulder.

“She was my balance. She was my rock,” he said. “Some days I can hear her in my ear, ‘Why are you thinking about that? If you have the ability to do it, do it.’ ”

Jen Fry is “a kick-in-the-butt friend” who encourages Hampton to speak his mind. “She helps me remember that, hey, I’m in charge of my life,” he said.

Rick Reynolds is the former head volleyball coach at Western Wyoming Community College. Hampton learned about servitude from him.

“If I want to be a giant killer, I need to surround myself with giant-killers,” Hampton said.

He defines a giant-killer as someone who overcomes life’s circumstances to live the way he wants to.

Describe one leadership challenge and how you resolved it: Balancing player personalities can be a challenge for any coach. That’s especially true when the players are teens, who are also dealing with various school, family and social pressures.

Hampton has worked to understand individual players – but also to help them understand that life isn’t fair.

You need to overcome it, he said.

“Stop worrying about it being about me and understand it’s about the group,” he said.

What are your goals? Hampton would like to become a college admissions director. He’d also like to own a high-performance training center for sports.

Whether it involves textbooks or volleyballs, Hampton wants to help kids be successful.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Hampton enjoys traveling, spending time with friends, reading and working out at the gym.

He rides mountain and road bikes. And, of course, he loves watching and coaching volleyball.