Finding a Way to Fit In; Nearly Bullied Out Of Hockey, Jegers Finishes Career As One Of Stevenson's All-Time Best
It’s the career ~ a brilliant career at that ~ that almost never was.
Senior Davis Jegers has played hockey since first grade. His name is now splashed all over the hockey record books at Stevenson.
In fact, just this winter, he became Stevenson’s all-time leading scorer with 124 points, and also set the all-time mark for goals in a season with 77. Meanwhile, he was the leading scorer in the Scholastic Hockey League this winter, was named the SHL Player Of The Year, played in the AHAI All-State Game and was named to the Chicago Blackhawks Alumni Team (pictured below with Coach Wood).
And yet, just four years ago, right before he arrived at Stevenson, Jegers nearly quit hockey.
“Just almost totally quit,” Jegers said. “I wanted nothing to do with it. There came a point in eighth grade where I didn’t want to go to practice at all, and the only reason I did was because I felt like I had to, and that’s crazy because I love hockey.
“But I was ready to quit.”
Because of bullying.
It’s hard to believe now. Jegers has a ton of friends at Stevenson. He’s one of the best athletes in the school, and one of the best high school hockey players in the state of Illinois.
But at one time, even he wasn’t immune to the relentless torture that bullying can be.
“I think people would be surprised to know that I was bullied as a kid, but I was…and it was on my travel hockey team,” Jegers said. “I’ve always been bulkier than other kids, so some of the kids would call me fat. They’d ask me on the ice if I needed a cheeseburger. I had to teach myself to block out a lot of things that were said.
“Then it got really bad, to the point where I stopped getting included in team activities, and then the other kids just cut communication with me completely. It felt like they were targeting me. And these were kids that I had been playing with for most of my life. It was such a weird situation. It was hard.”
Jegers is convinced the bullying he endured was not only personal but also competitive in nature.
“I was in an environment where people thought it was fine to be rude and mean, just as long as they were standing out,” Jegers said “There were kids who didn’t care if they were nice to you. All they cared about was playing and getting to the next level and they would do whatever it took to do that. It was survival of the fittest. A lot of it was trying to get rid of your competition.”
Jegers did leave that team. Then the question was, should he leave hockey altogether?
As an eighth grader, grappling with his future, Jegers had some hard questions for the hockey coaches at Stevenson. He didn’t want to be on a team in high school that had the same problems as his travel team.
“The coaches at Stevenson, they invited me to a few skates, and right away, it felt like a much different environment,” Jegers said. “They told me that everyone takes you in and nobody looks at you as an outsider and that’s what drew me in. The coaches at Stevenson created a culture where everyone is your friend. And throughout the years we have built on that, especially this year and last year.”
This winter, the Patriots got to the Final Four in the state tournament. Last year, they won the STATE CHAMPIONSHIP.
“My four years at Stevenson have been my best four years of hockey that I’ve played,” said Jegers, a varsity starter all four years. “Team culture and friendship was important to me, so I found a team that had that, and we made sure to make it even better. I found a great friend group through hockey, so I’ve felt like I’ve fit in during high school.”
But if you don’t fit in, Jegers wants to encourage you to hang in there, and keep searching for your “people.” They ARE there.
“If bullying is happening, take a step back and say ‘What do I want to do?’ If you don’t feel like you fit in, find a sport, a club, something you enjoy, there’s so much at Stevenson. I’m sure there is something you will feel you fit in with. It might be tough at first to find that group, but there is always a group for you.”
Jegers also found comfort in his other friend group, outside of Stevenson. A big part of Jegers’ life is his Latvian heritage. Both of his parents (Kristina and Gundars) are Latvian, and all four of his grandparents were born in Latvia.
Kristina and Gundars Jegers met at a Latvian party, and have encouraged Davis (pronounced Dah-vis ~ “But almost everyone calls me Day-vis,” Jegers said with a laugh. “I don’t even bother correcting anyone about it.”) to explore his culture through Latvian camps and festivals.
Jegers (pictured left with the Latvian flag) has been going to a Latvian camp in Michigan for 10 years now. He also went to a Latvian school through seventh grade, including pre-school, and learned not only about Latvian culture but how to speak Latvian fluently.
“Our culture is super close and it’s basically your second family,” Jegers said. “The people you meet at the camp are your lifelong friends. One of my mom’s closest friends now is someone she met at the camp.”
During his darkest days of feeling picked on and alone on his travel hockey team, Jegers took solace in the idea of feeling like he belonged in his Latvian circles.
He’s just as grateful that his circle eventually expanded to include his Stevenson hockey teammates and coaches. He’s hoping to find another friendly group to share the ice with next year in college when he plays club hockey while majoring in finance. He’s narrowed his college choices to Indiana University, Miami University (Ohio) and Ohio State.
“I’m excited (for college), but I’m going to miss (hockey at Stevenson),” Jegers said. “We never thought we were the best team, but we had such close chemistry and such a close team and we trusted each other. Our culture was the most important part of our success and I really liked that part.”