Doug Peters was once asked what the two most important days in a person’s life are. His response? The day you are born and the day you figure out why you were born.

Doug has a passion for helping people grow and develop into the best leaders he can be, and he’s been doing that in the college athletic realm for decades, with his family and kids for more than 20 and now at a local church where his soul is on fire.

The former college basketball player (he’s a Colorado native who attended Bemidji State) said he’s had three transformative experiences in his life: the first was being a college athlete, the second came from personal growth and leadership development and the third happened through his local church. That’s what made the longtime MSUM Athletic Director switch gears to become the executive director at Prairie Heights Church in Fargo, a job he’s had for only a month.

As he looks toward the future and his new career path, Doug has ample praise for his wife of 23 years, Jennifer, a photographer whose creativity flows through her camera lens. He readily credits her flexibility to raise their kids during a time when he was incredibly busy. “My wife is awesome and that was a huge help,” he says.

The father of four (three daughters and one son) is excited for the change and the free time it will offer his family as his kids continue to grow up and leave the nest. With one daughter already at college and another heading there in August, Doug appreciates a schedule that won’t require as many evening activities or road time. As with many parents, time has given him ample wisdom about how quickly it passes, and he reflects on how his profession in the world of college athletics gave his kids some pretty unique experience (like riding in the Moorhead Days Parade with his second daughter, Ally, and Scorch, MSUM’s mascot) but now he’s eager for the opportunity to watch their passions develop.

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Passion has been a hallmark of Doug’s life for decades, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a few nerves about this new professional endeavor. “The goosebumps are a little nerve-wracking,” he shared. “It’s a hard left turn...but at the same time, I feel like this is something I have to do. I’m excited but nervous, but I also don’t want to live my life being not nervous. I don’t want to be completely comfortable all the time.”

Doug Peters recently left his longtime gig as MSUM athletic director to serve as the executive director for Prairie Heights Church. Photo courtesy of My2Peas Photography
Doug Peters recently left his longtime gig as MSUM athletic director to serve as the executive director for Prairie Heights Church. Photo courtesy of My2Peas Photography

You had three daughters before you welcomed a son; what did having daughters first do to prepare you to raise your son?

Having the daughters first gave me lots of practice. Marshall is the lucky one because I learned from all the mistakes I made with the first three before he came along. He also confirmed I am a fast learner because it only took me one time to figure out that I needed to change a boy’s diaper differently than a girl’s!

What would you say is your best quality?

I love to help people reach their goals and succeed in life.

How has your leadership development career affected your parenting style?

A giant part of leadership development is self-awareness and this helped give me a greater understanding of who I am and how I come across to people. We try hard to help my kids understand who they are and feed their strengths. We get a lot of eye rolls every time we make them take an assessment. Although I get the eye rolls, the feedback has been invaluable in helping me understand them and how they are wired and for them to better understand themselves. We know it has an impact when we get the text asking what the assessment we did was so that they can do it with their friends!

I think it has helped them in school as well. My wife and I have shared tidbits about their personalities during parent teacher conferences and have even shared the results to help make the teachers job easier.

In short, the two go hand in hand because all parents are leaders and when you raise your leadership level you raise your parenting level too.

What's your favorite thing to do with your family?

As simple as it sounds, anything that brings us together. With the big age range it is hard to find something that a 9-year-old and a 20-year-old like doing. One constant is we enjoy going out to eat. We like breakfast for dinner because everyone can agree on that. We recently went to an escape room (we didn’t escape) and had a blast; I know we will do that again.

Do you have any interesting family traditions? What are they?

For the last 17 years we have spent a week at the lake place of one of my college roommate’s family, who have become close friends. My older kids plan their summer jobs around the trip so I know it means something to them. One of the highlights is making tie dye T-shirts. Another thing I am proud of is that my kids all love to read so pre-COVID, family trips to the library were a fun tradition.

Doug said he is excited for this change in his career because it offers a schedule that will allow him to spend more time with his family before his children all leave the nest. Photo courtesy of My2Peas Photography
Doug said he is excited for this change in his career because it offers a schedule that will allow him to spend more time with his family before his children all leave the nest. Photo courtesy of My2Peas Photography

How do you help your kids discover and develop their passions?

Having spent time in college athletics, I didn’t want to be the dad whose kids played sports because I made them. We let our kids develop their passion by staying out of their way. Our plan of action was if the kids asked to do some sport or activity then we would sign them up for it, and we tried to introduce them to a variety of things to see what caught hold. We spent a summer geo-caching which was adventurous! I had already known since childhood what my career path involved while my wife discovered her talent for photography later in life, so we felt like we should give our children time and space as well.

Greatest parenting moment so far?

There isn’t a moment — it’s the consistent behavior…our kids are awesome. They make us proud with the way they treat others, their bravery to be themselves and speak up when things bother them, and how loyal they are to friends even in tough situations. We've seen our children grow into strong-minded individuals who know what they want out of life and express it!

What's been the biggest parenting lesson you've learned?

The hardest thing a parent has to do is let their kids learn from mistakes. I know we've been there, done that and can see where our kids are headed — trying to convince them they're making a bad decision hasn't really worked for either us as parents or the kids, so we realized we need to help them through this process of seeing the whole picture so they can decide on their own what’s best for themselves instead of just following in our footsteps.

What do you love about sports?

While I love the competitive nature and that someone goes home a winner and someone goes home a loser, the biggest thing I love about competitive sports is being able to learn more about ourselves in both strengths and weaknesses. It's not always easy, but it teaches us how we react when something goes wrong or right — which can be really helpful for life outside of athletics!

Do you ever still suit up and play some hoops?

We get some pretty heated games of lightning in the driveway. For better or worse I don’t let my kids win; they have to earn it so when they beat me it means something.

You described yourself as very extroverted while your wife is introverted; are there other important ways you two balance each other well?

I am direct and to the point while my wife is a little softer and has more empathy. I am more of a planner while she is a free spirit.

What's something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am afraid of heights and played competitive chess in high school. My team qualified for the national championship back in the day.

What's the one thing you always want your kids to know?

I want my kids to know that no matter what happens, I'll always be there when they need me.

You're known for the firedup hashtag, but you said that stays with MSUM; now you're using #soulonfire. What's that a reference to?

I'm an enthusiastic person with a loud presence and deep passion for what I do. Dragons, fire breathing and my exuberance made #FiredUp the perfect hashtag to represent Dragon Athletics. As I moved into my new position at Prairie Heights it just didn't capture everything that I feel inside: mainly the depth of my intense passion for helping people, so now I am using #SoulOnFire instead.