Becoming A Leader

By Jeremy McDonald

ST. PAUL, Ore.—  It’s been a few years since St. Paul’s Jordan Caldwell has played basketball, her freshman year to be exact was the last year she dribbled a ball in a Buckaroos uniform as a member of the St. Paul JV squad.

Now as a Senior, she’s excited to be returning to the hardwood in a different sport that’s not Volleyball.

“I am super excited to do basketball this season. I’m super excited to play and compete and support my team in any way that I can,” Caldwell said.  “Even though I didn’t play basketball the last two years, I have a great relationship with the team and feel that I have something to contribute. I feel as a senior, I provide leadership skills and feel that I can help my team keep a positive mindset.”

The community of St. Paul is unique.  During Volleyball and basketball games, there’s a little raffle bake-sale table as you enter.  The lockers along the gym side going towards the concession stand have decorations on them.  Showing their support to their students.

“I have never experienced or seen anything like the St. Paul community. Everyone contributes to the support of St. Paul students whether it’s athletics, clubs, FFA, and succeeding in academics. There is nothing like the experience of the entire community supporting you, it is truly unbelievable. St. Paul is a unique community in a way that everyone knows everyone and comes together to support each other,” starts Caldwell.

“The booster club, organized by community members, gives so much to support, provide for, and help fund St. Paul athletics. Parents and community members are the ones that are putting posters on our lockers, decorating the halls of the school, providing care packages, and organizing and providing team dinners when we leave for a state tournament or nights before home games. All of this given to us by the community means so much and contributes to our success.”

Caldwell (7) as a sophomore and the St. Paul team following their 25-14, 25-11, 25-13 sweep of Perrydale in 2017 at Central High School. The Buckaroos went 30-0 and brought home the first of their two 1A State Titles (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

Caldwell points to when they had won their state championships, they were escorted into town by the lights and sirens from the fire truck, a horse with the state flag and the streets were lined with the community members celebrating their success and welcoming them home.

“That’s a special example of the type of town St. Paul is,” Caldwell said.

The Bucks Senior has been a part of the two-time defending 1A State Champions, going 59-5 in two years and have won 28 straight league games.  30 going back to their final year in 2A Caldwell’s freshman year where they finished fourth-place in the classification before going to 1A the following year.

St. Paul still plays some teams from their old Tri-Rivers League days.  Going three sets in a tournament against Central Linn in 2018.  Falling to Kennedy in 2019 in the Mount Angel tournament while playing a strong Salem Academy team in the same tournament.  Head Coach Lesli Hiller is always looking for tough competition for the girls, something that Caldwell said she loves.

“One thing that I love about Coach Hiller is that she is always looking for tough competitors for us to compete against. The tougher the competition that we play against provides more opportunity for us to grow and get better as a team,” Caldwell said.  “The team and I always looked forward to playing Kennedy because they’ve always been our toughest competitor. Going into the game we always knew it was going to be a good match because both teams are tough and will fight to the end.

“Coach Hiller gave us many opportunities to face tough competition with the focus always being on improving and reaching our full potential. The season we had last year was just as special and memorable because we reached our goal and we worked just as hard. There’s no greater feeling than achieving that ultimate goal with your team that you worked so hard with to get there.”

Caldwell fielding a ball, setting up for a hit. Caldwell was named one of St. Paul’s captains as a Junior in 2019 (Picture Provided By Jordan Caldwell)

The biggest thing Caldwell has said about Hiller, regardless if it’s club volleyball or high school, she focuses on the fundamental skill, teamwork and bringing out the full potential of each player.

“Coach Hiller is so dedicated to the sport and her team that she continues to give us so many unbelievable opportunities to grow in the sport. She works so hard to offer the team a summer league, summer camps, team camp, out of state tournaments and many other opportunities to grow and develop in the sport,” Caldwell said.

As a Junior, Caldwell was one of the captains on the 29-5 squad that repeated as State Champions.  Seeing the captain ahead of her during her freshman year, she felt like they set a good leadership example for her as Caldwell became one of the main leader voices for the squad last year.  Adjusting to the responsibilities the role presented to her.

“I felt like I brought a lot of good energy to the leadership role and was the teammate that could be counted on to encourage you and lift you up after you had an amazing play or a mistake. When I think about being a leader, my first thought is to always lead by example,” Caldwell said.  “In the leadership role, I focus on positive attitudes, leaving it all on the court, having fun, and being a teammate that can be reliable, on and off the court.”

Caldwell was also on the St. Paul Buckaroo Softball team that won the programs first-ever league playoff game her sophomore year, a 18-5 win over Gaston that put St. Paul into the 2A/1A Field of 16.   With the program up and coming under Head Coach Carl Kordenat, Caldwell is excited to take the next step in being a leader with the squad as the lone returner from that playoff team this Spring.

“The St. Paul softball program is fairly new and being a part of the team that won the first playoff game is super exciting,” Caldwell.  “It was sad to miss our season last year, but I am super excited to take on that leadership role and help our team go even further this year.”

Caldwell lining up at first base for the Buckaroos against Santiam on March 18, 2018. St. Paul defeated the Wolverines 7-6 and went 18-10 overall in 2018 (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

For Caldwell, what she thought started as an extended Spring Break when the Pandemic hit, turned into something she didn’t expect entering her Senior Year.  But it gave her a challenge that she embraced, controlling what she can control in the meantime.

“Not being able to play and compete in the summer and fall was hard for sure. It really made me appreciate those hard practices and competing in games. It has made me adapt the mindset to be ready for anything and I have been staying active with other things like running, strength training, core exercises, and also showing up to any conditioning and open gym opportunities,” Caldwell starts.  “I went from taking my time on the court for granted to craving any minute I could get to be on the court.

“I make the most out of situations like these by keeping myself and my teammates positive and excited for the special times we do get to step on the court. It can be so easy to think negatively in times like these, but what’s helpful is to prepare and look forward to the next opportunity we get to play.”

A positive mindset is essential, while preparing and inspiring is crucial Caldwell added.  It helped her stay in that leader mindset even though they aren’t physically doing sports at the moment.

“I have kept that leader mindset even though we are not physically doing sports at the moment, I still encourage my teammates and let them know I’m here to support them in any way that I can,” Caldwell said.  “When the time comes that we get to play again, I will be prepared to keep leading with a positive attitude and encourage my teammates.”

It’s hard to pick a favorite memory playing and being a part of the St. Paul community Caldwell said.  There’s countess memories that she’ll cherish and remember forever.  From playing for her school, teammates and coaches to the lifelong friendships and lessons learned from each sports program that she’ll carry with her.

From her first Varsity game as a freshman to state championships.  Games in California and Arizona for volleyball and making the postseason for softball while regaining the love of basketball.  It’s all been a blessing for Caldwell.

“ I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to experience all of this in my high school athletics and I am extremely thankful for all the support given by my coaches, family, and community,” she said.  “As a whole, the St. Paul community goes above and beyond supporting their athletes.”

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