Jerry Rhodes dedicated to youth for over 40 years
by Colby Smith
Born and raised in Presho, SD, Jerry Rhodes has proudly called Philip his home for the past 36 years.
Growing up, Rhodes was fortunate to have a wonderful family with a situation for many job opportunities in the family businesses. He worked in the grocery store, learned to be a butcher and worked on the family farm/ranch most summers. At nine years of age, Rhodes experienced his first job helping out on the farm by driving the tractor and rake. His father and mother, Glen and Olga Rhodes, loved and raised show horses, so his payment for work was a brand new saddle for his own horse. Through this job, he learned to drive on his great uncle's Model T-Ford. " 'Go out and drive,' he told me. I asked, 'How?' He said, 'Figure it out and get after it,' " reminisced Rhodes. "It was a lot of fun trying to learn how to drive that Model T!" Ever since, the phrase 'get after it' has been one of Rhodes' favorites.
Throughout high school, Rhodes took part in football, basketball, track and chorus. He was selected for All-State Chorus, but declined the offer. When the Presho Wolves played Philip in football in the fall of 1960, there was no grass on the field and it was, as Rhodes said, "one of the toughest, hardest-hitting games I ever played." The game ended in a scoreless tie. That was what always impressed him about Philip, the Scottie pride. "They say dynamite comes in small packages, and Philip has always had that reputation to never lay down and quit," Rhodes stated.
"I go to two different high school reunions. I should've graduated in '63, but when school started in the fall of 1962, I was in the hospital for a month with a broken pelvis from a horse accident. I sat out that year of school and returned the next fall. So I ended up graduating from Presho in '64," explained Rhodes.
Following high school, Rhodes attended college at Black Hills State College and received a bachelors of science degree in education. He majored in physical education with a minor in history. Throughout college, he also enjoyed the experience by participating in four years of college football and track. During the fall of 1968 Rhodes student taught in Presho and was the assistant football coach as well.
In late July of 1969, Rhodes got a phone call from Pine Ridge asking him if he was interested in being their P.E. teacher and head football coach. He accepted and in the fall of 1969 he began what would end up being a four-year stay in Pine Ridge. In addition to the original job positions offered to Rhodes, he was the athletic director for two years, freshmen boys' basketball coach, assistant track coach and driver's education teacher.
The spring of 1973 brought about a move to Kimball for Rhodes. There, he taught elementary/junior high P.E. and junior high social studies. He was also the head coach for football, boys' basketball, fifth/sixth grade boys' basketball and country school boys' basketball. The assistant track coach position was also filled by him. After only one year in Kimball, he decided to try Philip.
In the fall of 1974, Rhodes was "drivin' into Philip, it was hot and miserable. I thought to myself, 'is this really what I want?' " He had relatives here, the Arthurs, so he was familiar with the town. After meeting with Ed Ptak, the superintendent, he was hired and has been here ever since. He did sit out of teaching for a little over two years, but he never moved away from Philip. In his time here so far, Rhodes has been the P.E. teacher, junior high and high school social studies teacher, head junior high and high school football coach, assistant boys' basketball coach, tumbling and gymnastics coach, head and assistant track and cross country coach, bus driver and even athletic director.
During his break from teaching in 1980-83, Rhodes managed the West River Conservancy subdistrict working for water development in 11 counties. Energy Transportation Systems Inc. (ETSI) worked with the subdistrict by proposing a 24 inch water pipeline to run through western South Dakota to Wyoming coal fields. It would move coal south to compete with the railroad. This was the beginning of West River/Lyman-Jones (WR/L-J) rural water. Throughout this time, Rhodes lobbied for the new water system in Pierre as well as in Washington D.C. He enjoyed this educational, yet stressful, experience partly due to his growing up in a political home. His father was the state Republican chairman. Yet, after doing this for about two and a half years, he missed working with kids, so returned to his teaching position in Philip.
"It can be difficult trying to challenge young men and women to be the best that they can be. I try to motivate them to get after it and do the best they can with their God-given abilities," Rhodes said. "There's nothing more disappointing than to see good talent wasted." It is important to Rhodes that young people understand the importance of giving 110 percent in every activity. "When you do that, even if you lose, you're still a winner. I hate to see anybody cheat themselves. They're letting themselves down," he explained.
There are so many rewards for Rhodes as well in watching young people give it their best. "I'm elated for them," he said. "When it's all said and done, they're going to feel good about getting after it with no excuses. Be proud to be a Philip Scottie. Give it your all and you'll gain respect because of that."
Family is also a very important part of Rhodes' life. His wife, Patti has been a big blessing to him. "It's been enjoyable, yet challenging to raise five boys, Jason, Wade, Justin, Brady and Jerry Jr." They all played football and basketball throughout high school and are now blessing Rhodes with grandchildren. He now has three granddaughters, three grandsons and one great-grandson. "They're such a joy!" he said.
There have been many extraordinary athletic events that Rhodes has been involved with. He especially remembers the 2005 football team's trip to the Dakota Dome, the many football players who earned all-state recognition and many track teams. He said the 1987-88 boys' track team was similar to the current one, "They could beat AA schools. When the athletes stand on the podium at the state track meet and get their medals, it shows they are the best of the best." Rhodes decided, "There have been lots of memorable things. I couldn't pick just one."
"Philip has been extremely good to me. It really has. I've been here so long because it is such a great place. I'm proud to be a part of the school system. We've got a lot going for us here in Philip, including the excellent home economics, ag and music programs," Rhodes added.
"I love working with young men and women. That's my life. I enjoy watching them grow up, go out in the world and be successful; hoping that maybe I had just a little bit to do with that," stated Rhodes.