The family and friends of Coach Jones are asking for donations to be made to the Lloyd Jones Memorial Fund, which will go to support the future education of his son Van.
It is with great sadness that I write today about the passing of a Houston local coaching star, Lutheran North High School coach Lloyd Jones.
Mr. Jones won’t show up in the national annals of swimming. He was never awarded any great honors that I’m aware of by USA Swimming, nor invited to the Golden Goggles Awards for his efforts that I’m aware of. He probably didn’t care – but not in a ‘I’m too cool for this’ sort of way, more of in a sense where he just was doing what was natural for him. He simply was doing what he was called to do.
But Mr. Jones was one of those coaches who within the local community, was loved and respected by all, because everyone knew that he was doing the right thing. He was always there for the betterment of everyone around him.
Mr. Jones’ swimmers, though there were exceptions, were not always the stars of the meets they were at. His teams at Lutheran North, and with the Texas Amateur Athletics Federation, produced a few good swimmers, but probably nobody you’ve ever heard of.
The fact remained, though, that you never got the feeling that Lloyd Jones felt he was too good for what he was doing. Rather, every time you saw him, you got the feeling that he felt blessed just to be on deck and to be a part of it all.
Mr. Jones’ work was largely, though not exclusively, with minority athletes. For many, he was their introduction to the sport of competitive swimming (sometimes well into their teenage years). He had no hesitation and took no exception to being asked to get in the water at a competitive swim meet to help a swimmer feel safe across the pool, and further no coach after took exception to him doing it, despite it not being in line with the rules per se.
His greatest contribution was the love he instilled within his swimmers for the sport of swimming. They loved it. They weren’t doing it to get their credit, or because it’s what they did. His swimmers at every meet had a genuine desire to get better. And his programs grew and they thrived because of it. It’s a funny thing about coach Jones’ swimming programs: you were never quite sure when they’d graduated and gone on to college, because in among moving on with their academic careers, they always turned up on deck for practices and for meets, and never really seemed to leave.
He was not a babyer. He told his swimmers what they needed to hear. But he somehow always hit the sweet-spot that while he may not have been happy with their swims, he gave them enough that they wanted to get better and keep improving. He was truly a unique soul in the world of swimming. He was often a subdued man who still somehow always had the ear of his swimmers and fellow coaches when he decided he needed to talk, and you always got the feeling that whatever he was teaching had some significance outside of the pool. That’s something we’d all like to do, but I’m not sure any of us do with quite as much subtlety and grace as coach Jones did.
As the dust settles from last night’s Golden Goggles awards, an event where swimming’s stars come together to raise money for the USA Swimming Foundation, which every day saves lives through its Make a Splash Foundation, coach Jones’ untimely passing is a reminder of who has been working at the grass roots level to achieve many of the same goals. Coach Jones coached some very good swimmers, and he coached some not-so-good swimmers, but through it all, he coached, and he impacted the lives of hundreds of swimmers in a positive way. He didn’t care who it was: if you put a swimmer in front of him, he was going to coach that swimmer in whatever way they needed to be coached, from perfecting an underwater dolphin kick to just overcoming the fear of being underwater.
And now I have some fear. Who is going to fill that void in the community? The job he did is one that can’t be solved with just money and grants, though those never hurt. It has to be solved with the power of people, and it’s up to the rest of us now to not let that torch die out.
Caps off to you coach Jones. You will be missed.