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Team Mizzou Rally

Student employee speaks to peers about lessons learned at MizzouRec

Published Aug. 30, 2015

Aaron Esterle delivers keynote address at MizzouRec

MizzouRec student employee and Team Mizzou Star Trac Scholar Aaron Esterle spoke to more than 300 peers and department leaders at the Fall 2015 Team Mizzou Rally Aug. 22, 2015. Photo by Jennifer Seris.

Aaron Esterle, a biological sciences major from West Plains, Missouri, delivered the keynote address at the Team Mizzou Rally Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Esterle has been employed at MizzouRec since 2012 as a RecSports official, facility frontline, and currently as a RecSports lead. He is the current Team Mizzou Star Trac Scholar. But he didn’t start off as a super star.

“I was a terrible employee,” Esterle told student and professional staff at the Team Mizzou Rally. “I wanted to work close to my dorm and make some cash as a freshman. That’s it. I would walk around the sidelines like I didn’t care, and clock out as soon as possible.”

A bad evaluation and constructive feedback from his lead led to a change in attitude.

“I just knew that if I was going to work doing something I loved, with people I love, I owe it not only to myself, but to every person on that staff to do my best,” Esterle said. “When I finally gave it my all; that was when all the dominos started falling.”

With the help of his supervisor, Joe Sloan, and associate director Laura Salerno, Esterle applied for and received a $10,000 Team Mizzou scholarship for the 2014–15 academic year. He learned this spring that he received a renewal scholarship for his final semester.

“I will never have the words to show how much of a financial burden that the scholarship lifted off my shoulders,” Esterle said. “The scholarship helped pay for my books, it helped pay for my MCAT, and ultimately it helped me stay here at Mizzou and continue my education.”

Esterle’s complete speech is published below.

Team Mizzou Rally Keynote Address by Aaron Esterle

Speech delivered Aug. 22, 2015

Team Mizzou has given me quite a lot since I started here a few years ago. I’ve been able to meet my best friends, work with great people, and make the best memories during my college experience. Everything that Team Mizzou has given me is a blessing, but explaining to someone, how and why Team Mizzou has helped you is harder than you think. What’s the saying: So much to say, so little time?

When I started at MizzouRec back in 2012, I was an official for RecSports. And I know everyone in the department has heard this story countless times, but you are lucky enough to hear it again. I was a terrible employee. I wanted to work close to my dorm and make some cash as a freshman. That’s it. I would walk around the sidelines like I didn’t care, and clock out as soon as possible. I was happy with that, and some people are. But then for me it changed.

I received a bad evaluation on a game that was a total blowout, and I was going through the motions. I received a 2 out 4. My Lead told me everything I did wrong, and said to me “I was so hard on you, because I know you’re capable of so much more.” I’m not sure what it was about that evaluation, the feeling that I let everyone down, the feeling that I let myself down. It was rough. I was embarrassed.

Team Mizzou recruitment ad features student employees including Aaron Esterle

Aaron Esterle, third from left, represents RecSports officials in the Fall 2015 series of Team Mizzou promotional advertisements. Visit to learn about student employment opportunities at MizzouRec.

But then it all changed. I didn’t just immediately turn into some super employee, and I wouldn’t say I am now. I just knew that if I was going to work doing something I loved, with people I love, I owe it not only to myself, but to every person on that staff to do my best. You don’t have to think like me, I’m not trying to convince you to do so. But when I finally gave it my all; that was when all the dominos started falling.

When the opportunity to apply for a tuition scholarship was first announced, I immediately went to Joe [Sloan, RecSports coordinator], my supervisor; to help make myself the best candidate. He overlooked my essays, he coached me, and he helped me become confident in the employee that I am. Not only because of how much he had taught me through my position, but through those one on one meetings and interactions with him. And I remember he told me, “No one knows who you are, so consider yourself the dark horse.”

I also spent some time with Laura [Salerno, associate director], and she helped me with the interview process. And I might add, that she looked over my speech as well. All I had to do to get the help from these two full-time staff members, was simply walk in their door. They were ecstatic to help me, and I’m sure they will do the same for anyone else.

When I became a finalists for the scholarship, I was scheduled to sit with Diane [Dahlmann, director] for an interview. And I say interview loosely. We talked, we had a great conversation. Our interview was fun, and it made me feel so comfortable here at MizzouRec. Diane got to know me and I learned a few things about her. I learned Diane is from Chicago. She learned my love for Chicago deep dish pizza, even though I have never been to Chicago. A few weeks later, Diane reached out to me and said she had a surprise. I was confused, and alarmed.

When I met with her, she had just returned from a trip home and brought back a Chicago style pizza just for me. Sausage even. True story. But that’s what it is when you talk to our professional staff. They want to know you, for you. They are here to help us grow both personally and professionally and want to see us succeed and get the most from our time here.

When trying to list the highlights of my time here, the first thing that came to mind was the night I was awarded one of the first Team Mizzou Tuition Scholarships.

When people ask me what it was like, all I can ever say is: “It was awesome.” Because it was. I was sick to my stomach as they called the names in front of me. My friends, all staring at me from our table. One even commented that my face had lost all its color. And when my name was called; it was almost like time stood still. I was speechless, and I still am.

Somehow I found words, thanking Diane and the professional staff that helped me on the way. Then, crying, on the phone with my mom — by the way she didn’t pick up the first two calls — but when she finally did, words were easier and a great sense of pride came over me. I was feeling joyous with the other recipients. It’s so difficult to explain the feelings that I had standing on that stage, accepting this giant check that would change my life. And I hope that all of you have the chance to have that same experience.

Aaron Esterle holding large check that says $10,000

Aaron Esterle received one of the first Team Mizzou scholarships May 9, 2014, at the annual MizzouRec student recognition event, Spring Roar. He received a second scholarship in 2015. Photo by David Freyermuth.

Even better, it happened twice. Diane and her staff presented the scholars for the new year, and had all the former winners stand on stage. Only this year, it was a surprise. It was one of those feelings when you finally piece everything together, I kept asking myself: “Why am I up here? I’m just smiling and saying congratulations.” There wasn’t a lot of room, and it just didn’t add up. Until I saw a different check, soon after the ‘last’ scholarship.

It was very hard to keep myself together when they announced my name. I would admit that I was shaking. The former winners were all rewarded with a renewal scholarship … amazing experience, being on stage, saying congratulations to everyone and just trying not to cry.

I will never have the words to show how much of a financial burden that the scholarship lifted off my shoulders. There were no more student loans. What a great feeling. The chance to tell my parents that I earned the money to go to school next year, and I was one of the first ones to do it. I know everyone that was on that stage would agree that it was a life-changing experience. The scholarship helped pay for my books, it helped pay for my MCAT, and ultimately it helped me stay here at Mizzou and continue my education.

The Star Trac scholarship through Team Mizzou was a blessing. There is no other way to say it. This scholarship had an impact on my education that I will never forget. The opportunity to pursue my career and not have the financial stress of the previous years. Felt pretty good.

Ultimately I have Star Trac to thank, as well as Diane and the other MizzouRec professional staff. Diane and I talked about just what it took to create these scholarships, and offer something so spectacular, something that she had mentioned was her ‘dream’. Something she had been working on for over a decade. The Team Mizzou Scholarship fund has given out thousands of dollars to lucky students and are striving to increase that every year. I’d say that her dream is becoming a reality.

The dedication that she and the full-time staff have to provide us with development opportunities is miraculous; and at the same time, continuing to bring award-winning and trend-setting facilities and programs is an award amongst itself. But yet, all of these people are willing to work so hard for someone like you and me. I don’t believe that getting a job anywhere else on campus can give you that same opportunity and support. Getting the chance to have your school paid for, like we do, by just loving to do your job. It’s incredible.

Diane once used the word “Spiderwebbing” and I liked the phrase, because it explains perfectly how my experience with Team Mizzou was. Just from putting more effort into my official position I was able to become closer with the staff in within RecSports. After three semesters I was fortunate enough to be promoted as a lead. Only three semesters, to become a student supervisor. That’s an opportunity that I hope everyone takes a chance on.

The end of that year, I was fortunate enough to win the Emerging Leader for RecSports and Pride of Team Mizzou award for being a first-year lead. That was also the year that I was presented with the scholarship. That summer after I was cross-utilized in facilities and had the chance to finally see how more of the facility and department operated, and meet tons of new people.

Aaron Esterle and John Brey in front of MizzouRec Fitness Showcase

Team Mizzou Star Trac Scholar Aaron Esterle, right, shakes hands with Star Trac National Sales Representative John Brey at the MizzouRec Fitness Showcase. Esterle will graduate from Mizzou in December 2015. He plans to enter medical school and become a physician. 

Also, during that same time I asked to help with swim lesson registration, something Joe had sought me out to do because I had proven myself as a leader and dedication to the spirt of MizzouRec and Team Mizzou … and it also helped  I was one of the only ones in town. All of this happened in a short period of time because I put in just that little bit more during work every day; and I believed in what Team Mizzou is about.

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the NIRSA [National Intramural Symposium] in Oklahoma City as a representative for the University of Missouri. This was another fantastic experience to meet some other members in recreation from all over the country. To bounce ideas off each other, and bring that back here. It’s development experiences like that, that continue to shape our areas as well as our staff.

As I said, I’m not a super employee. But I care. I care about my area, I care about my bosses, I care about my friends, I care about Team Mizzou and I care about MizzouRec. I’m just a living testament to the bountiful opportunities that the staff have worked so hard to bring us. There are many individuals here today that are similar to me, if not more spectacular. Last year we had a Team Mizzou alumna who recently won an Emmy. She told us how Team Mizzou led her to her great accomplishments. Now, I personally don’t have an Emmy, I’m not sure about you guys; but we have countless outstanding students here today will go on to do big things when they leave college.

Personally, my dream is to become a physician. To go to medical school at the University of Missouri and to change lives. Team Mizzou has prepared me to take that step and shaped who I am today. During our lead interviews that I was fortunate to sit in on this past semester, we asked the question: “What skills will you be able to take from this and transition to another job after college.” And it’s easy to say: communication or managing a staff, but when I really think about it there are so many different skills that my four years at MizzouRec has taught me. The ability to handle stressful situations, the ability to work as a team to accomplish goals, the ability to be a leader in my daily life. And I firmly believe that I have gotten these skills from my opportunities presented to me here, at MizzouRec.

So if I have one last message after talking about myself, it’s that “If you love what you do, love doing it.” Because the more you put in to something, the more you’re going to get out of it. Team Mizzou is a picture perfect example to that. The more you commit to what Team Mizzou is about, the more that Team Mizzou is going to commit to you. They’ve committed thousands of dollars to a student like me, who started out just pacing along Stankowski [Field]. I know that everyone in this room is capable of winning these scholarships, so I encourage everyone to just give what they can to Team Mizzou.

Love what you do while you’re here. Because this is where you’re going to make your best friends, work with great people, and make your best memories.

Thank you.

Published by the Division of Student Affairs, 211 Jesse Hall, Columbia, MO 65211 | Phone: 573-882-6776 | Fax: 573-882-0158 | E-mail:

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Last updated: Aug. 15, 2017