After 13 years of answering to “coach,” Steven Jones turned in his whistle the week after the last game of the 2022 season. While it may have seemed abrupt to some, it was not a decision he came to lightly. I had the opportunity to ask Coach Jones about his departure and current position, and it was clear to see his love for the Wildcats, even if he’s not returning to the sidelines.
During football season, Jones was not home much. Kelsey, his wife of eleven years, truly developed into his teammate when they became parents, as she took on a lot of the parental duties during the season. “After a game ended, we were on to the next opponent. There were times when we would start film preparations for opponents two games ahead. I loved preparing for opponents. It was one of the things that I believe I will miss the most. I spent Saturdays at home, but the work did not stop. I knew that there would be long hours when I signed up to be a coach and loved putting in the time necessary to be successful, but it had been tugging at my heart to make some changes. I have missed out on a lot of things. My kids are growing up, and I don’t want to miss out on being there with them.”
As their family continued growing and his children became more involved in activities, he was torn between being the coach he had worked so hard to become vs. being the dad and husband he wanted to be. “I worked really hard to climb the ladder in high school football. Moving to a new industry brought up a lot of emotion. Along the way, I built some great relationships with players, their families, coaches, and their families, and have a ton of friends that are still in the profession. Stepping aside makes me respect what they do even more. I know there are some wonderful coaches who put their families first and have their priorities in order, so I am in no way saying it can’t be done, I just had that gut feeling to make a change.”
That gut feeling led him to take a job at Ideal Construction Company as a Business Development Manager, a position that affords him more flexibility over his schedule and more time at home with his family. But why so soon after the season ended? His departure right after the last game allowed the remaining coaching staff and administration to begin making plans for the next season. “To me, high school athletics has changed so much that there really isn’t an off-season. It is a year-round commitment. The day the season ends, the next season begins. The El Dorado News-Times headlined our State Championship in 2021 by asking “what’s next?”. I think that puts it into perspective. With a wife and four kids, I did not feel like I could balance the commitment to my job as a head football coach and be the husband and dad that I want to be, “ Jones commented.
Athletics had always been a big part of Jones’s life. Originally, he just enjoyed the sport, but the more he understood the role of a coach, the more he realized that leading young men and setting an example for them was also a part of the job–and not a part he took lightly. His love for the sport of football and his dedication to his staff and athletes led him to 2 state championships and 1 state championship runner-up over the last six years. In addition to big wins, he was named High School Coach of the Year by the Arkansas Activities Association, Little Rock Touchdown Club, and Hooten’s Arkansas Football. He was also one of two high school coaches in the country named to the “2022 35 Under 35” list of the American Football Coaches Association. Yet, when asked what his most memorable moment with the Wildcats was, he said having the staff recognized as the Most Outstanding Staff in 2021 for the Arkansas Football Coaches Association was right up there with the 2021 State Championship. “I thought it was a perfect way to recognize the assistant coaches on the EHS staff that went above and beyond for our program. I am so grateful that I had an opportunity to lead the football program for four seasons and those coaches I worked with were a big part of that.”
Jones and his family will continue to live and work in El Dorado, with no intentions of moving any time soon. “I chose to stay in El Dorado for a bunch of reasons, but the one that stands out the most is the people. El Dorado is a place where people rally together and support one another. It is a wonderful place to raise a family. There are so many that will jump in to help no matter what the situation may be. In addition, I think El Dorado is the most underrated town in Arkansas. The school district provides a top-notch education, the local businesses support the community, and our downtown is a hidden gem.”
In parting, Coach Jones shared with me ten important things that high school football taught him. All of which can be applied to everyday life…even number 7.
- In every situation, do what you believe is right.
- Only seek out an opinion from or listen to someone that you trust.
- Find friends away from the game that aren’t involved in any way. This is a great escape.
- Don’t get caught up in celebration, there’s a stumble coming up around the corner.
- Football is truly just a game.
- Try to help every kid. Some won’t let you, but you will know that you tried.
- Stay out of the local grocery store after a tough loss.
- Win or lose someone is going to be mad at you. Don’t be mad at them.
- Stop throwing the ball and run it.
- Stop running the ball and throw it.
It’s easy to see Coach Jones’s strong character and love for our community. Superintendent Jim Tucker said, “Coach Jones is a class act and always strived to do what he felt was right on and off the field. I admire that about him. I also admire his dedication to his family and pray that he enjoys every minute with them.” Assistant Superintendent Melissa Powell seconded Mr. Tucker’s sentiment, “One of the things I admire about Steven is his dedication to his family. I wish him all the best as he devotes more time to them.”
The El Dorado School District wishes Coach Jones and his family the best!