‘You Can’: The Rise of the Bruins

Softball has long been subordinate to basketball at Ballard High School. But recently, the program has begun to creep out of this eclipse. While Bruin Nation may be known for having one of Kentucky’s most prestigious basketball programs, the school’s softball program has started getting its own rightful share of the limelight. Head Coach Alan Jones gives all the credit to his players.

“We’ve had some outstanding young ladies, a great group of players and girls who are community leaders now,” Jones said. “I’m not going to take credit for that; we’ve had great players to come in who have set and met their goals. The program is where it is because of the players we’ve had.”

photos by Angie Hull | Contributing photographer

photos by Angie Hull | Contributing photographer

Jones has been coaching softball for 23 years. He joined the Ballard program in 1999, and has experienced new heights in coaching. His greatest joy in coaching is “watching a player set dreams, and watching them reach their dreams.”

“Most of our players want to play in college, and we’ve been successful in helping them do that,” he said. “The biggest joy in coaching is not wins for me, but it is helping a young lady grow up, (helping) her reach her dreams. Watching them grow in their lives – that’s the best part about this. At the end of the day, a win is a win, but if you can make a difference in someone else’s life, that’s what’s most important to me.”

The Jones family has impacted the softball program at Ballard for many years. The field the team plays on is named after Jones’ dad, Ron Jones. When Alan was a young boy, Ron coached him in baseball. And in Alan’s words, they “lived” at the ballpark. His dad played a huge part in the recreation plans at Ballard. At one time, he was over the softball program and its supplies, and he served on the board for 32 years. Jones says that if it weren’t for his dad’s presence, he wouldn’t be where he is now.

Specifically, Jones contributes his love of softball to the work he saw his dad put into the sport. “I really liked it so much that I continued doing (it) from 19 years old to now. If I didn’t have that in my life, I probably wouldn’t be coaching right now.”

IMG_2140After years of recent success, the school decided to name a tournament after Jones, called the Alan Jones Super Prep Round Robin Series, held annually at Ballard. Jones wanted the tournament to be named after his father, because of the mark the elder Jones made on the program throughout its history.

At age 20, Alan Jones married, and he and his wife had their first child when he was 21. It was a struggle for him, balancing being a young husband, father, and college student along with striving toward dreams and career aspirations. But in his diligence, he developed character traits that have helped him in coaching.

“I could have just quit and (gotten) a job, but I didn’t do that. I kept going. I worked three jobs and did what I had to do to be able to provide for my family, until I was able to get out of college and get the career path I wanted. I would say that’s helped me a lot in coaching.”

Now, because of Jones’ experience and ability to overcome and achieve goals, players who come through his program have eradicated the words “no” and “can’t” from their vocabularies.

“I don’t know the word ‘no’ ever. I don’t ever accept, you ‘can’t do’ something, because you can do anything you want to do in life. I’m a big believer in that, and will always be a big believer in that. I preach to our players, that if you want something out of life, nothing can stand in front of you. Anything is possible, and if you work at it and stay working at it, you can do it. Life is not fair, but if you work hard, set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Bruin softball players have held on to this message, and as a result, the program has become one of Kentucky’s elite programs. The basketball program may soon have to scoot over and share its spot as the top athletic program at Ballard High School. VT