By DARLA HIGGINS
On her first day to meet the Jefferson High volleyball team, new coach Falon Jones made it clear that there would be no babying involved in her practices.
“We run a mile the first thing in the morning,” she told the girls, adding that the run would be followed by a trip to the weight room.
“I don’t think they were used to that,” Jones recalls of their shocked reactions. “But I push hard, because I’m a college athlete. I’m used to toughness.”
Jones, 30, who played volleyball and softball at Henderson State University, says the team has responded well to the challenge.
“They’ve been working extremely hard for me,” she says, adding that they’ve changed the classic Mean Girls line – “On Wednesdays we wear pink” – to “On Wednesdays we run a mile.”
Jones knew going in that she was going to have to turn things around dramatically for the team, whose record last year was 3-31.
“They’ve kind of not had a whole lot of heart and love for volleyball, which came from not winning,” she says. “But things are going in the right direction.”
She has proof of that; as of early Tuesday, the team’s record was 4-4.
The girls practice every weekday except on game days, which are normally Tuesday and Friday. And now that school has started, those mile-long jogs will move from the cooler morning hours to the sweltering afternoons.
“It’s just one mile and then they can go rest,” Jones says. “And the first part of the season is the hardest; it’s getting them off their booty after the summer.”
Her passion for sports started early in her life and hasn’t slowed down. Jones, who also teaches elementary physical education and assists with the softball team, decided on a coaching career because “I wanted to teach the kids what I know, and I love it a lot.”
Volleyball in particular has always been one of her strongest points, she adds. So seeing the team come together and greatly improve their record already has been gratifying to all of them.
“They’ve worked hard, and it’s obviously paying off,’ she says. “I’m really proud.”
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