WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.
Parting is such sweet sorrow for Lafayette High School athletics stalwart Chris Jones, who announced last week that he’s retirement from coaching.
Jones, who last fall finished his first season as Lafayette’s varsity field hockey head coach, has coached softball and field hockey at the school since 1998.
Jones began his Rams’ coaching career by taking over the softball team in 1998. In 2004, he switched to field hockey, becoming head coach of the junior varsity team and an assistant coach with the varsity squad. And this year he stepped up to serve as the varsity head coach.
Before working at Lafayette, Jones coached softball and field hockey at James Blair Middle School for more than a decade.
Jones has been working on scheduling practices, tournaments and clinics for next year’s field hockey season. Once he realized how busy next year would be in addition to his full-time job at Printwell, Inc., Jones says he “got sick to my stomach.”
Having just turned 59 on Sunday, Jones has decided it’s finally time to spend more time with his four grandchildren, who range in age from 13 weeks to 11 years old, and less time with his student-athletes.
“I’ve always told my wife once [coaching] stopped being fun, I’m hanging it up,” Jones says. “This year, I’m just not feeling it.”
This isn’t a new situation for Jones, a Lafayette graduate, who admits he has considered stepping away from coaching in previous years only to return to the sidelines every time.
Fully aware of his previous flip-flopping on the issue, Jones says this time his retirement decision is final. It’s time for someone younger to get a shot at coaching the team, he says.
While recently reflecting on his time at Lafayette High, Jones broke down in tears as he heaped praise upon the school’s athletic director, Dan Barner, who announced in April that he too is retiring at the end of June.
“Dan Barner is one of the most moral people,” Jones says, pausing between sentences to compose himself. “Dan’s always backed us up and has been very supportive of his coaches. And because of Dan, sports in Williamsburg is a lot better off.”
Barner, whom Jones called one of his better friends at Lafayette, also had strong praise for Jones, saying his dedication to improving his players on and off the field would be sorely missed.
“He’s a blue-and-gold guy through and through. It’ll be a huge loss,” Barner said. “Are you going to find a field hockey coach with his character and dedication to the kids? It’s going to be very difficult.”
The passion with which Jones speaks about Lafayette is palpable and unsurprising. They are the words of a man who truly is stepping away from a major part of his life.
Jones repeatedly uses the term “blessed” when discussing how he feels about having been a part of the Lafayette athletic department for the past 18 years.
While conceding he’ll miss having the opportunity to influence young athletes and his interaction with the other coaches at Lafayette, Jones says that retiring now will give him the time he needs to become more active in the lives of his grandchildren.
In the end, Jones simply has decided to spend more time with his family — the one outside of the family he has enjoyed at Lafayette for the past 18 years.
But no matter where he may be physically, Jones says his heart will be wherever the Rams are playing.