Growing up with legendary Pacific Lutheran University head football coach Frosty Westering as your grandfather, and Scott Westering, who took over as head coach at PLU when his dad retired in 2003, as your father can be a lot of pressure — except that’s not the Westering way.
The Westering way has never been about personal accolades or living up to someone else’s accomplishments, it has been about giving young people tools to succeed in sport, but more importantly in life.
“I’ve never felt that pressure,” said Jessi Westering, a senior on the Rogers High School girls basketball team. “I think that’s because my grandpa taught me that it wasn’t about that. Our name has never been bigger than our lives.”
So, it’s not a surprise that Westering, who is committed to play basketball at Pepperdine University, has used all she has learned from her family to write her own story — one that, so far, is a pretty good read.
“I think that has been her biggest growth maturity-wise, understanding that yes, she is a Westering and all those foundations are a part of her life, but also understanding that she is an individual in that family,” Rogers head coach Amy Looker said. "She’s really leading in a way that only Jessi can lead. She’s not trying to be her sister, or trying to be brother, her mom or her dad. She is her own person. All those things are definitely her foundation and her beliefs, but she has her own individualism."
Frosty and Scott Westering’s philosophies are well known to anyone that has followed the PLU football program over the past 44 years. And for the past 18 years, Jessi has had a spot on the sidelines to study.
“I was incredibly close with my grandpa, and he taught me almost everything I know about leadership, character, coaching and playing — both on the football and basketball side of things,” she said. “You don’t have to be demeaning and hateful towards your players to get something out of them. That’s kind of how my grandpa coached. That’s my vision is to show that to people.”
Jessi Westering’s job now, as a senior leader for the Rams basketball team, is to use those traits to help bring out the best in her teammates.
But it’s a two-way street. She continues to learn from them as much as they learn from her.
“I have a competitiveness that I’ve never met in anybody else, to the point where I will get very fiery with the people that I love,” Jessi Westering said. “I’ve definitely had to tone it down. I refused to lose, and if I did, I definitely wasn’t very happy about it. That, I’ve definitely had to work at the most, I think, and chip away at it.”
A few of her teammates have the task of making sure Jessi doesn’t let her competitiveness get the best of her.
“Yes, I’m a senior, and yes, technically, I’m a captain and I’m decent at basketball, but I still want our sophomore players telling me, ‘You know what Jessi, you need to calm down,’ or ‘That wasn’t OK by you,’ or ‘Just keep your head,’ ” she said. “I think humility and accountability are some things that I try to show the girls, because no one likes a bossy jerk as a leader.”
So far, it’s been successful. The Rams are 3-1 in league play and 4-1 overall this season, and have high hopes for a postseason run to the state tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
“We’re starting off better than I’ve ever seen a team here start off, both team chemistrywise, and talentwise,” Westering said. “We’ve got a lot of individual talent, and it’s been fun molding a scheme and a strategy to kind of use them all together to make a team that has really good potential — and that’s what we have right now.
“It’s exciting. I love to compete. I have a team that I can look to my left and look to my right and know that I’m giving everything that I have, but know that the girls beside me are (also). It’s the greatest feeling ever.”
Perhaps the biggest lesson Westering has learned in her three years at Rogers is to enjoy the journey. She tries not to get too high after a win, but more importantly, not too low after a loss.
“That’s kind of, I think, the transition from last year to this team, and that’s what has made this team, this year, so good,” she said. “We have a ball before the game in the locker room, but once we put on the laces and once we look each other in the eyes, we can still smile, but we’re about to go be smiling assassins and just kick butt.”
When Jessi Westering’s playing career is over, she hopes to continue to use what she has learned in a career in coaching — but not necessarily in basketball, at least not right away.
“If I ever got a chance to, if after I graduate from college and my dad is still coaching, I would definitely probably take advantage of a couple of years with him (coaching at PLU) before going into basketball coaching,” she said.
Wherever that coaching career leads, the influence of her grandfather, who passed away in 2013, won’t be far behind.
“There is so much wisdom in what my grandpa said, why change it?” she said. “I think my dad does have a couple of tweaks here and there because everyone’s personalities are different, but it is still heavily, heavily there at PLU. As close as I was with my grandpa, I would definitely keep that and take it into my coaching because there is gold there. It’s helped me become the person and player that I am today.
“They are two of the most amazing men I’ve ever met,” she added. “I’m not biased because they are my family, I’ve just never met another person that’s more humble and called to a purpose other than my grandpa. And my dad, I’ve never met a coach in my life that’s like him. Those are two people that, I think, after you meet them, you’ll never forget it.”