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Coach of Champions
Kenny Jones Establishes Tradition of Winning

Kenny Jones

Dr. Howard Patterson in 2001 began the tremendous task of establishing an intercollegiate athletic program for The University of Texas at Tyler. His first step in building a program of 13 sports competing and succeeding in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III was to recruit successful coaches.

Soccer was one of the first programs to be implemented at the university, and Dr. Patterson, having coached soccer for many years, knew exactly what to look for in a coach. Kenny Jones was his choice to head Patriot men’s soccer.

Jones was the right choice.

The Conway, Ark., native came to UT Tyler in 2002 after serving as head coach of men’s soccer at the University of Dallas, where he led the Crusaders to their first winning season in 11 years and held the university’s records for season and career wins and winning percentages.

At UT Tyler, Jones wasted no time developing a team of champions.

After finishing their inaugural season at 13-5-2, the Patriots returned for 2003 with a near-perfect 19-1 mark. They won the American Southwest Conference East Division Championship and claimed top seed in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association’s National Tournament. Living up to their top billing, they beat secondseeded Maine-Machias 5-0 to claim the national championship.

Jones was named ASC East Division Coach of the Year and USCAA National Coach of the Year for his efforts.

The Patriots went on to capture the ASC championship in 2005 and again in 2006.


“Kenny came in and immediately instilled a winning tradition in a program that had no traditions whatsoever. Kenny was able to win, and he did it with class and dignity,’’ said Dr. Patterson, interim vice president for student affairs and external relations, who joined UT Tyler in 2001 as athletic director and continues to oversee what is now a 15-sport program.

Expert Strategist
UT Tyler’s longest tenured coach, Jones is admired for his expert knowledge of the sport of soccer and proficiency in game strategy.

Kenny Jones with trophies
Kenny Jones, Patriot men's soccer coach, with championship trophies.

“I always tell young coaches to just listen to Kenny and if they can only retain 10 percent of what he tells them, they’re going to become tremendous coaches because his knowledge is very vast,’’ said UT Tyler head women’s soccer coach Stefani Webb, who also worked with Jones when she was head women’s coach at the University of Dallas.

“Kenny knows the game inside and out. He knows it from every angle, from every position, from every tactical situation,’’ Webb said. “He’s very intelligent and sees the game very intellectually.’’

Said Dr. Patterson, “Kenny has a great mind for analyzing the game of soccer. A lot of coaches just watch and see what their team is doing, but Kenny has the ability to focus on what his team is doing and what the other team is doing well. He knows how to change what his team is doing and take advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses. He’s very, very good at that.’’

Adam McAlpine, who has played soccer most of his life, joined the Patriots in 2004 after playing for Kingwood High School near Houston. “Coach Jones knows more about the sport than any coach I’ve ever had before,’’ said the senior marketing major, who was named to the 2007 ASC Distinguished Scholar- Athlete and Academic All- Conference teams and is president of the UT Tyler Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

“Coach has been playing soccer most of his life, he played in college, he played semipro. You really respect what he’s saying and you want to follow his lead because he knows what he’s talking about.’’


Learning the Sport
Jones is accustomed to taking part in new soccer programs. He was introduced to soccer in the early 1980s when the sport was new to his hometown. Jones joined the Conway Kicks, the community’s very first competitive youth soccer program, at age 11.

It was a learning experience for everyone involved, including the coaches, he recalled.

“We had two coaches and basically they were just a couple of dads out there trying to organize a bunch of young kids. They were out there with their books in hand trying to teach us the basic techniques. The funny thing is, they did a great job of teaching us the fundamentals during our first years of playing soccer.”

Prior to soccer, he had mostly played street ball with his two younger brothers and neighborhood friends. His childhood home was located down the street from Hendrix College, where he earned his undergraduate degree.

“I put into soccer everything that I had in me just from playing street basketball and football and learning how to get around bigger guys because I was small, I still am. I was small but I was fast.’’

He continued playing club soccer throughout his teens and also began playing in high school beginning in the 10th grade. It was Conway High School’s very first year to compete in the sport. By the 11th grade, Jones also was playing for Hendrix, which was then a club team.

“I was playing soccer all the time and the great thing about playing with the college guys is they came from all around the country and they put demands on me that no one else had up to that point.’’

Jones kept his high school grade point average above 3.0 and served as class president in 10th grade and president of the student body in 12th grade. He was awarded a leadership scholarship to Hendrix, where he played soccer while earning his bachelor’s in psychology.

Coach Kenny Jones with athletes

He led the team in scoring his first year at Hendrix, was a three-time selection to the All-Conference Team and was honored as the college’s Most Outstanding Male Athlete following his senior season. The 1994 Hendrix graduate went on to play semi professionally in the USISL for the Arkansas A’s and led the team in scoring after just two years.

Jones, who earned a master’s degree in social work with emphasis in human development at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1997, served as director of coaching for the Little Rock Soccer Club and was on the staff with the Arkansas State Olympic Development Program. He also served as assistant men’s and women’s soccer coach at Hendrix in addition to coaching high school soccer in Little Rock.

After moving to Dallas on Dec. 31, 1997, he continued to coach club soccer along with coaching at the University of Dallas. And when he wasn’t coaching soccer, he was discussing and analyzing the sport with Webb, his co-worker and friend.

“Stefani was a huge influence on me in terms of coaching. We both wanted to learn more so we would get together and just talk soccer for hours and hours. Her approach to coaching was a little different than mine, so we took from one another and came up with our own individual styles.

“And basically I was coaching soccer every single day, Sunday through Sunday. I still do,’’ said Jones, who continues to coach youth soccer in his spare time.


Raising Up Champions
While game day strategy is important, Jones said his main focus in building a successful men’s soccer program at UT Tyler has been on recruitment and the athletic, academic and personal development of student-athletes.

He looks for recruits who can succeed at UT Tyler, which includes embracing the university’s philosophy of academics first and athletics second. Once they make the team, he works to bring out the best in what they have to offer, both on and off the soccer field.

“When we go out and look at recruits, we talk to their parents, their coaches, their friends, their classmates, we go to their houses. We want to know everything about them because we want whoever comes here to be successful,’’ said Jones, noting that UT Tyler is an academically challenging university, so student-athletes must have a strong work ethic in their studies.

Kenny Jones“I want the same things for our players as their parents do – a quality education, a quality athletic experience and a degree. That is what I have taken from my undergraduate collegiate experience and it is one of the most memorable parts of my life. I want this part of their lives to be just as enriching and memorable,’’ the coach said. “As a person, I am completely dedicated to helping my players achieve the same things.”

In soccer, he expects his players to be hardworking and thoughtful.

“I tell the guys to bring their hard hats and lunch to practice because we’re going to work hard. And at the same time we’re going to be very thoughtful because, in the game, we’re not going to just go back and forth with the other team, just trying to kick the ball. We’re going to try and possess the ball, attack and try to execute and score. So our players have got to be athletic enough, self-driven and very thoughtful. That’s my vision of how we’re going to be successful at the highest level,’’ the coach said.

“And then there are words that come up like respect, dignity, commitment, dedication, discipline and accountability – all those principles that apply to personal development also can be applied to soccer. We have to observe those principles in order to be successful both on and off the soccer field.’’

Seniors Taylor Casillas of Keller and Derek Meller of Highland Village played their final season in the fall and are set to graduate in May. Both gained a deeper appreciation for the value of hard work after joining the Patriots and taking part in winning championships.

“Kenny is a very tough, intense coach but that’s why we’ve been successful,’’ said Casillas, who signed on with the Patriots during his freshman year in 2003.

“I’ve never had a coach who has actually pushed me and made me work so hard. He has brought out a new perspective on how hard I can work, how good a person I can be in school, out of school and in life in general and how to never give up. And it’s all about mentality,’’ the education major said.

“One of the things he teaches is how to be both physically and mentally strong,’’Meller, who joined the team as a freshman in 2004, said of the coach. “That’s huge because you have to be physically strong to last in a soccer game and you have to be mentally strong too.

“If you’re physically tired and your mind starts telling you to quit, that’s when you start going down. He taught us how to stay mentally strong and last the full 90 minutes of the game,’’ Meller said.

“Kenny set high expectations for us and helped us to reach those goals,’’ the finance major added. “Those of us who kept coming back year after year were serious about winning. We were there to win and Kenny showed us how.’’



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