By RICK WATSON
Good coaches teach you how to win games, but great coaches teach you how to win at life. These words describe David Jones’ philosophy of coaching. He has coached in some capacity at Homewood High School since its first season in 1971. He’s had a hand in all six of Homewood’s state football championships, and after more than 40 years, he’s hanging up his whistle.
Coach Jones said that through the years he’s learned that winning is fun but that there are other ways to measure success. “Seeing kids reach their unique potential is one of the most rewarding things there is,” he said.
When Jones first started coaching, he read a book written by UCLA’s legendary coach John Wooden, They Call Me Coach. The book had a tremendous impact on Jones. “Coach Wooden said that you should never ask kids to do things they can’t do,” Jones said. “You have to focus on what they can do.”
Like many young coaches, Jones once thought that 90 percent of the winning equation was coaching. But experience taught him there are three elements required for success: talent, coaching and chemistry.
“Coach Jones had a knack for teaching on the football field,” former HHS head football coach Bob Newton said.
Thanks to Jones, David Hayes, HHS Class of 2008, said he will never forget that things are never as good as you think and never as bad as you fear.
Jones taught his athletes to grow more through struggles than through successes. “We all had an opportunity to grow and to learn more than when we won,” he said. “When you lose, you start understanding character, perseverance and persistence. When kids get that, it is very rewarding.” Jones’ motto is, “Life’s not easy, life is just good.”
Evan Mathis, who earned a scholarship to the University of Alabama and went on to play in the NFL, said that Coach Jones had a way of communicating that helped him gain confidence and excel in the sport of football.
One of the things he tells kids is that athletics is not life. Athletics gives you an opportunity to learn valuable skills such as teamwork, perseverance, discipline and sacrifice, but if you don’t take these skills and apply them in your life, you’re not getting anything out of it.
Jones hadn’t considered a career in athletics when he graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in psychology. If it hadn’t been for the advice of his sister, he might have gone into hospital administration or some other field.
“He was too smart to be a coach,” Coach Bob Newton said. “He could have been a doctor, a lawyer or any other profession he chose, but we’re grateful he chose to be a coach and teacher.”
Jones not only taught athletes but also other young coaches. “I was a young coach eager to learn as much as I could about football, and he was always there to help me,” said Vic Wilson, former HHS head football coach and principal. “However, what he taught me went far beyond football and even athletics.”
Former athlete Austin Hubbard, now a professional baseball pitcher, echoes this sentiment. “I thank him for everything he taught me, not just on the football field, but how to grow up and do the right things,” Hubbard said.
Jones said that being successful in sports is important, but one thing he learned through the years is to put his family and his faith first. One of his biggest successes is being married to his wife Mickey for 35 years and having three great kids, Nancy, Rebecca and Jennifer. He also has a granddaughter, Autumn, who he plans to spend quality time with when he retires.
Most agree that Jones is leaving big shoes to fill at HHS. When asked what advice he’d give his replacement, Jones said, “I’d tell them to be their own person.” The new coach will face many situations, he said, and it’s best not to take sides until you’ve heard from all sides.
Jones is looking forward to hunting, fishing and playing golf during retirement. Also Coach Pat Sullivan at Samford University has offered him an opportunity to help with the Bulldogs this year, so Jones won’t be far from the game.