Coaching Spotlight, St. Augustine High School, Head Coach Al Jones
St. Augustine High School has a long tradition of outstanding football coaches going all the way back to Legendary Coach Otis Washington. In February, the school hired one of their own in Coach Al Jones who graduated from St. Augustine in 1975. The former Purple Knight DE produced on and off the field in high school which led him to playing football for Tulane. He was named captain of the team in 1978 with the Green Wave and graduated with a physical education degree. Since then, Coach Jones has been in the coaching and/or education for over 30 years. I got to sit down with Coach Jones and ask him a couple questions last week.
LAFM: Looking at your playing days, What did you learn from playing for such a legendary program like St. Augustine?
Being prepared. It was one thing that we always focused on and talked about. We wanted to be prepared for any situation, and we were not just talking about football. It was also about the many different situations in life. It is about preparation and knowing what your going up against.
Also, understanding what it is to be a Purple Knight. St. Augustine taught us what it is to be not just a man, but a successful man.
LAFM: Where was your first ever coaching job?
I started coaching in 1981 right here at my Alma mater.
LAFM: When did you come back to St. Augustine?
I actually came back here in July as the assistant principal. I retired from the recovery school district and public schools system June 27th of last year. I started working here July 21st.
LAFM: What attracted you about the Head Coaching position?
Obviously, the first thing is that I was assistant principal here. At the start of last season, we needed someone who could help the coaches out on the administration side. I ended up being the one put over football. I ended up hanging around the locker room, hanging around the kids, being on the sideline, talking football, and just being part of the team again. It definitely started to get that old coaching spark going again.
Also, we are trying to take the program and the school in a new direction. The school ended up needing a coach, and I just felt like it was a good opportunity for me to do some good. I care for this school, and I love this school. I wanted to make sure our football program goes in the right direction. I felt like I was the right man for the job at the time.
LAFM: Coach, what makes St. Augustine football special? What is this football program built on?
I think the program is based on the same thing the school principals are built upon. We are committed to excellence. We are a training ground for young men, especially African-American Men, to be successful citizens and productive in the world. One way to accomplish that is through football. By teaching young men to be successful in sports ( for instance: hard work, practice, working in a team, confidence, ect.) you can also teach them to be successful in life. Some of those principles were built from right here at St. Augustine.
We have history and tradition here at St. Augustine. We opened a lot of doors for schools in the city as well as the state. We were the first band to walk in the Rex Parade. We integrated the catholic league. We became known as a powerhouse in football and for a lot of positive things in this community. Football was something that helped us open all of those doors. Those are the type of traditions that we were built on and we want to get back to that. We want our football program to be respectable and to represent our school with pride.
LAFM: Being so tough in the catholic league, what are some things the team needs to do to compete this upcoming season?
Some things never change. It is all about consistency, discipline, being focused, and understanding what it is to give your best every day. It is a team effort and a team desire. You are playing to win. Day in and day out you need to do the right things in order to win. Those things never change. As a a coaching staff, we need to teach these young men how to look in a mirror and ask themselves if they gave their absolute best today. That includes on and off the field. Building self-esteem and building football players. That never changes. Some things change due to technology and terminology. Yes, you may get faster and stronger which helps in some cases. In order to win, you need heart, your mind, and the right attitude. We have always been a school that has taught those things, and we will continue to do so. The Catholic League has always been tough. Never easy. To compete and be successful, it comes down to the students, parents, alumni, coaches, players, and the entire purple nation.