10/26/05 — Coach makes pact with Grantham School team

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Coach makes pact with Grantham School team

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 26, 2005 1:45 PM

A school teacher getting a haircut doesn't usually create a lot of buzz.

But Monday afternoon following Grantham School's final volleyball and soccer games for the season, a crowd gathered in the gymnasium lobby to watch Jonathan Jones get clipped.

Jones, the school's band director and soccer coach, hasn't had a haircut in more than a year. He said he has always liked his hair longer and has grown it out a couple of times before.

"People either love it or hate it," he said. "It definitely catches your attention."

He admits he takes a lot of kidding about his unruly locks.

"Everybody picks on him about it," said Jeannie Stevens, whose son, Josh Chappell, is on the soccer team. "It's in a good-natured way, but everybody likes to pick on him about his hair. They'll say, 'Mr. Jones, get a haircut.'"

That's likely why he came up with the idea to use it as a bargaining chip with his fledgling soccer team. This season was the first time in several years the school put together a team, with most of the youths having little to no playing experience. They were pitted against schools that had traveling teams and more longevity in the sport.

"The experience factor was a staggering difference," Jones said. "Children were playing hard and sometimes I couldn't get them to just relax and go for it."

Knowing that some of the players had an issue with his hair, Jones decided to make it work to his advantage. He offered it up as a trade-off to the team scoring points.

Jones told the team that for every goal they scored, he would cut an inch of his hair. If they won a game, he'd cut it all.

"Hair is hair," he said. "I just wanted them to grow in what they're doing."

Last week, the team got its chance. The opponent forfeited, giving Grantham an automatic win.

Ms. Stevens recalled the way Jones nonchalantly presented his idea to the soccer team.

"He asked if they wanted him to get a haircut Monday 'in front of y'all or by myself,'" she said.

The team was beyond excited, she said, and she asked who Jones wanted to cut it. When he named Debra Britt of House of Styles, who had cut his hair several times in the past, Ms. Stevens immediately acted.

"I went and got on my cell phone and called her and didn't even get it out of my mouth good before she said, 'What time do you want me to be there?'"

Shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, even though the soccer team only scored one goal in its final game, spirits were high as they converged to the gym to watch Coach Jones fulfill his end of the bargain.

Jones, who grew up in Perry, Ga., but moved to Rocky Mount with his family during his last year of high school, graduated from Chowan College four years ago and was hired immediately by Grantham School. He calls it a different kind of school, one where he feels at home.

"You can still teach the kids respect, and they understand that," he said. "It's about being yourself but at the same time, about showing respect. I feel like I'm really free to teach that at Grantham."

Admittedly, he says, if one were to look at wins and losses, his soccer team won only a single game this season. As far as team improvements, though, the games were played much closer than the final scores might reflect.

"You can always focus on whether you win or lose," he said. "But how you act and how you carry yourself, that's the thing that has been the biggest success this season."

Whether or not Jones decides to keep it short or let it grow out again is uncertain.

"I'll see how it looks shorter and go from there," he said.

More important to him than appearances is the example he wants to be to his students.

"When you look at the kids' faces and you see that they're that into just caring about every little thing that you do, it reminds you of why you teach," he said. "I'm blessed that I get to see that."