Coach Ralph Jones Brings Energy and Passion to the Campus Track

Ralph Jones

Will Maldonado

Track and field coach Ralph Jones confident in his new position.

With the retirement of head coach Greg Ryan at the end of the season, CSU East Bay’s track and field program had some big shoes to fill.

Ryan had led the Pioneers to seven conference titles in cross country during his tenure at CSUEB, capping off his illustrious career.

Into those shoes steps Ralph Jones, a former assistant head coach at Morgan State University, for his first taste of head coaching experience.

Although Jones has never been a head coach before, the athletic directors at both Morgan State and CSUEB feel he has what it takes to succeed as a head coach-  both raved about the energy, enthusiasm, and communication skills that Jones brings to the table.

“His communication skills are going to be very impressive,” said Morgan State athletic director Floyd Kerr. “He follows through with things; he has a lot of energy. He works well with the kids, so his communication skills are the things that really leap out.”

CSUEB’s athletic director Debby DeAngelis was also left with a positive impression of Jones after his interviews.

“Energizes a room when he walks into it and that’s really exciting,” said DeAngelis.

In talking with Coach Jones, his enthusiastic presence is overwhelming.

His storytelling is riveting.  Jones is full of passion for his new position and is eager to start implementing change with the track team.

One of the first things Jones intends to do is change the attitude around the program, starting with a simple acronym: W.I.N.

“I use the acronym called W.I.N. that means simply, ‘What’s Important Now’ to get my athletes to understand that in order to win in life you have to ask yourself what’s important now,” said Jones. “There becomes a point in time where someone calls you to go to a party and you know you have a term paper due the next day, so you use the acronym what’s important now. Is it important for me to go to the party or is important for me to get my work done?  Using the sport to help [student athletes] understand that everything that they do has a consequence and to make sure that they’re making the right choices and doing the right thing.”

Another aspect Jones intends to change is the team’s conditioning program, which under Ryan consisted of mostly running. Jones intends to incorporate a more holistic approach to conditioning that will result in a more physically impressive looking runner.

“I’m a firm believer in you perform how you look,” said Jones. “If you don’t look good you’re not going to have confidence standing next to someone who’s more physically fit than you or who looks more physically fit than you, that’s going into the psychological aspect of the coaching and the training.”

That go-getter spirit was prevalent at Morgan State, where Jones left quite an impression on the athletic department for his willingness to promote the program, even in ways that weren’t required of him as an assistant coach—such as taking pictures of track meets for media use.

At CSUEB, recruiting will be crucial for Jones as he seeks to return the program to the glory days of the 1970s as head coach Jim Santos guided the team to championships in both men and women’s track and field.

Jones wants to build upon that tradition at CSUEB.  In the next four to five years, Jones hopes to increase the number of student athletes in the program from the current seven members per team to 25-30 per team.

But Jones does not just look towards the future when assessing the program, he has concrete goals and expectations that he wants to begin meeting right away.

“First and foremost, my number one expectation is always academics,” said Jones.  “I want to have the number one, highest team G.P.A.”

“As far as competition is concerned, I would like to see us competing for the CCAA championships in cross country,” Jones continued.

While many people may believe those expectations are too daunting and out of reach, Jones believes that with hard work anything is possible for his student athletes and that they shouldn’t be afraid to fall short of the expectations.

“The key in it all is having a goal and a plan and understanding that both track and field and coaching is about peaks and valleys,” said Jones.  “Just understanding that you’re going to go up, you’re going to come down, but it’s not how you start its how you finish.  That’s how I coach, that’s how I train, and that’s how I live my life.”