By ROBIN SHANNON
Published/Last Modified on Saturday, January 28, 2012
He is an accomplished athlete whose skills took him to the professional level, but newly appointed St. John the Baptist Parish Parks and Recreation Director Terrance Jones said his aspirations were always higher than what could be accomplished on the football field.
“I always understood the importance of being the type of person that a younger child looks up to,” said Jones, an All-American quarterback for the Tulane Green Wave who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers but played five years in the Canadian Football League. “Athletic talent is great, but I have always had the urge to give back to the youth so that they can have the tools to accomplish what they want to accomplish.”
After his career in the CFL, Jones, a native of Lutcher, returned home and organized a football camp in St. James and St. John parishes. From there, he spent time as a high school teacher at John F. Kennedy and Marion Abramson high schools in New Orleans as well as an administrator back at Tulane.
“I never wanted to be a coach,” Jones said. “A coach’s prime focus is winning, which is not a bad thing, but I always saw things bigger than that. My focus was on the organizational side. Doing what I could to get more people involved.”
At Tulane, Jones served as assistant director of alumni clubs, organizing more than 250 events per year for 65 alumni associations across the nation. Many of the events were coordinated around Tulane football games, where Parish President Natalie Robottom watched her son Casey play football for the Green Wave.
“Although I wasn’t living there, I always stayed close to what was happening out in St. John and St. James,” Jones said as he discussed taking over the Parks and Recreation Department. “I know the pulse of the region. I still knew some of the people. The chance to foster youth recreational programs in the region where I grew up was a great opportunity that I had to take.”
Jones said he is inheriting a program in St. John that includes legitimate volunteer coaches who are passionate about the kids, strong parental support and new facilities. He said he has already spoken to many parents to listen to their ideas for what they want in the future,
“The passion is there,” said Jones. “Of course we are not going to be able to do everything, but there are programs and facilities already in place that we need to utilize to the fullest.”
Jones said one of the only major hurdles slowing recreation growth is limited funding in the parish. The department’s only current funding source is video poker revenues, which brings in about $569,000. A referendum will hit election ballots in the spring to redirect some property tax revenues, but Jones said he wants to see more.
“We need to look at industry to see what they can do,” Jones said. “There are already solid programs in many of the schools and churches in the region, but we need to be there to fill in the gaps. There is untapped potential for increased involvement in sports and other activities. There are also opportunities to create new revenue with our new gymnasium and possible future development at other parks.”
Jones also said he is looking to bring an academic enhancement program to the department that will focus on both boys and girls ages 7 to 11. He said the program, known as the “Locker Room,” includes an emphasis on education that features field trips to college campuses and other academic locations.
“It is a crucial age group,” Jones said. “If you can reach them at that point, you can keep them from swaying into a life less promising.”