Jun 14, 2023

Edwardsville tennis led Jessica Kos to career in physical therapy

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Jessica (Burns) Kos, a 2012 Edwardsville graduate, with EHS tennis coach Dave Lipe.

Edwardsville graduate Jessica (Burns) Kos is the patient care manager and physical therapist at SSM Health Day Institute in Warrenton, Mo.

Edwardsville graduate Jessica (Burns) Kos and the EHS girls tennis team during the 2009 season, when she was a a sophomore.

Jessica (Burns) Kos, middle row left, with the Edwardsville girls tennis team during the 2010 season, when she was a junior.

Edwardsville graduate Jessica (Burns) Kos during her tennis playing days at EHS.

Edwardsville graduate Jessica (Burns) Kos with her husband Zach and their son, Edward.

Edwardsville graduate Jessica (Burns) Kos during her tennis playing days at EHS.

WENTZVILLE, Mo. – For Jessica (Burns) Kos, being a successful athlete in high school was the first step on her career path.

A 2012 Edwardsville High School graduate, Kos played tennis for longtime EHS coach Dave Lipe and was a three-time state qualifier in doubles.

Each week, the Edwardsville Intelligencer will release a "Where Are They Now?" story about former student-athletes from Edwardsville High School or Metro-East Lutheran. If there is a former student-athlete you would like to know about, please e-mail Scott Marion at [email protected].

She went on study physical therapy in college and is now the patient care manager and physical therapist at SSM Health Day Institute in Warrenton, Mo.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do for a long time and I didn't decide until my senior year," said Kos, who lives in Wentzville, Mo. "With my love of sports and wanting to be active, I originally wanted to go more into sports rehab, but once I got into the field, I found that neurological rehab was what I enjoyed doing."

Unlike most former Edwardsville tennis players, Kos didn't attend Lipe's summer tennis camps and academies at a young age.

She was a latecomer when it came to tennis, but it didn't take her long to catch up.

"I had taken private tennis lessons when I was very little from a family friend, but I kind of fell out of it," Kos said. "My mom was a basketball star in high school and I was playing basketball and volleyball.

"In eighth grade, I did some intramural tennis at Lincoln Middle School and I wound up really liking it. I wasn't loving volleyball or basketball and I started going to some of Lipe's camps that summer. I feel like I caught on quickly."

By her sophomore season in 2009, Kos had found her niche as a doubles player. She made her first appearance at the state tournament, posting a 0-1 record with freshman partner Morgan McGinnis.

After a fourth-place finish at the Alton Sectional, Burns and McGinnis lost 6-4, 6-1 in the first round at state to Ady Koleva and Christina Cheng from Aurora Math and Science Academy.

Kos returned to the state tournament as a junior in 2010 with senior Maria Kovarik.

Kos and Kovarik finished third at the Edwardsville Sectional and had a 2-2 record at state. They lost their first match and bounced with two wins in the consolation bracket before bowing out with a 6-1, 6-3 loss in the third round to Olivia Rosen and Janique Gleghorn from Springfield High.

Kos capped her high school career as a senior in 2011 with fellow senior Tess Severin as her doubles partner.

Kos and Severin placed second in the Alton Sectional and posted a 2-1 record at the state tournament. They won their first two matches in the main draw before dropping a 6-2, 6-0 decision to Alysa Straub and Alexia Petrovic of LaGrange Park Nazareth Academy in the third round.

The pairing with Severin gave Kos three different partners in three years at the state tournament, but the state experience helped her feel more confident by the time she was a senior.

In addition, the Edwardsville tennis program under Lipe puts more emphasis on doubles than many schools, and Kos feels that helped her as well.

"I didn't have the patience for singles, but doubles was perfect for me," Kos said. "Coach Lipe was so awesome in many ways, not only just the strategy portion but he would also teach us mental toughness.

"I learned a lot of things from him not only in tennis but in life. We did a lot of goal setting and personal reflection and that carried over beyond tennis."

After graduating from Edwardsville, Kos attended Maryville University of St. Louis, where she earned a bachelor's degree in health science. She went on to earn a doctorate in physical therapy.

After graduate school, Kos took a full-time job as a physical therapist with the SSM Health Day Institute, where she continues to work.

Kos got a job working at a clinic to get experience while was in school, but her husband Zach graduated before he and got a teaching job in Troy, Mo. She floated between a couple clinics in that area while they were getting married, and they bought a house in Wentzville in May of 2019.

Kos took a full-time position with SSM Health Day Institute in Warrenton in the fall of 2019. She was promoted to her current position a year ago.

As the patient care manager, Kos see a variety of neurological and medically complex injuries in a comprehensive rehabilitation program that also provides occupational and speech therapy.

"Some of the people I’m seeing are having the toughest time of their lives," Kos said. "It may have been a stroke or an amputation or they’ve been hospitalized for whatever reason. We can see our patients from a couple weeks up to nine months or a year.

"A lot of therapy is not just physical but keeping a good attitude and a positive mindset. Helping them keep some of that mental toughness is what I feel I have been able to do. My experience as an athlete helps in that regard."

Kos still plays tennis when she has a chance and taught the game to her husband, a former soccer player at Maryville.

They had their first son, Edward, in October of 2021.

Kos’ parents and both sets of grandparents still live in the Edwardsville area, so her bond to the community remains strong.

She keeps in touch with Lipe and some of her EHS tennis teammates.

"We just had our 10-year class reunion, so I got to see my doubles partner Tess (Severin)," Kos said. "Maria (Kovarik) just started working for our company as well, so we’re hoping to get together soon.

"I enjoyed my years on the tennis team and playing such a unique sport that I can still play today. My parents play too, so Zach and I will get on the court and play doubles with them."