On the Road to Success


Student Athlete – Stephen Jones

Teuana Smith, Sports Reporter

“If you want to be as good as you can be, you definitely have to pay attention to detail,” said Coach Matthews, Head Coach of Swimming and Diving at Henderson State University. 


When finding someone who is goal-oriented, motivated, and fun look no further than Stephen Jones. Jones is a senior health and human performance major who is also the captain of the HSU Red Wave Team. On November 13, he will be competing in the 2020 U.S. Open swim meet alongside hundreds of other nationally ranked competitors.  


Stephen Jones was raised in Ocean Springs, Mississippi by his parents, Hugh and Glenda Jones, with a sibling named Spencer. He attended Biloxi High School becoming a multi-sport athlete. He competed in basketball, cross country, track, and swimming. Coached by Megan Taylor, he currently holds the high school’s record for 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle, and 200 individual medley. 


“He’s very talented just as an athlete in general”, said Coach Wally Senter, Assistant Head Coach. “Coming out of high school, Stephen still had inner drive and determination.”


Jones was recommended by a former student swimmer, Samantha Harris, to be recruited for the team. Coming to college, he also joined ROTC and will be commissioned after graduating in the spring. Over the years since attending college, Jones has grown immensely in his sport and personally. 


“He’s made improvements in form, skill, technique, turns, and just in speed”, said Coach Matthews. “ He’s reached a pretty elite level.” 


He has seen a complete change in himself seeing where he started as a freshman. He takes each race with a new mindset and is thankful for the experiences he’s had over the years. Jones has applied advice from the coaches and training partners to “elevate his swimming” to becoming a faster swimmer. He’s wiser and has grown from good and bad experiences. Through time management, Jones has learned to juggle being an athlete, an ROTC member, and having a full-time schedule. He has become open with his goals outside and inside of the pool. 


“My coaches work with my ROTC, and my ROTC works with my coaches so I’m able to balance it out and I thank them for that,” said Jones, student-athlete.


“In college, you’re surrounded by great swimmers from all over the place, along with the coaches is the biggest difference in helping me out to where I am today,” said Stephen Jones.


In any given week, Jones and many other swimmers put in about 17-20 hours per week towards the sport. When swimming, they train their aerobics system, anti-aerobics systems, speed, breath control, and technique.  On a typical Monday, he gets up at 5:15 a.m. to start his morning practice. Then gets breakfast before his 10 a.m. ROTC class. After ROTC, he spends his downtime working on his online classes. Around 3:30, he arrives back at the gym to practice for two more hours before having dinner and enjoying the rest of his day. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies with his roommate. He recommends watching the Insidious series. 


“Swimming is a very hard, strenuous sport,” said Coach Matthews. “ It’s not like playing in a game and someone hits you, you have to put yourself through self-induced pain every day to get better.” 


In order to compete in the U.S. Open, you have to meet specific time standards at other meets. For this year, they collected times from July 1, 2019, until the registration deadline. Jones met two of the time standards in a conference back in February of this year. Jones and the team medaled in three relay events: 800 free, 400 free, and 200 free. Individually, he met the 100 backstroke time standard with 49.69 seconds and the 100 butterfly with 48.99 seconds. He met the 50 freestyle time standard with 23.99 in the summer of 2019. 


“Due to Covid-19, the competition will be split into nine different locations across the nation to reduce the number of people who will be there with a cap of 200 people per site,” said Senter. 


This Thursday, Jones will be heading to the Alabama location to prepare. He trusts his training and coaches. He feels well prepared for the event and is excited to see how he performs. His future plans include qualifying for the U.S. Olympics trials. We wish him the best of luck! 


“I want to end on a good note,” said Jones. 


“He’s super focused and does not stray away from his goals,” said Senter. “ When it’s time to swim or workout he’s ready to go…there’s no-nonsense and I really appreciate that as a coach.” 


“This time Covid-19 worked in his favor since it didn’t clash with final exams,” said Coach Matthews.