ACADEMY | How Jones's promotion a 'manifestation' of core Academy value

“It’s a manifestation of a value,” said Academy U-15 Head Coach Evan Fuhs as he reflected on what the promotion of Kelvin Jones to Crew SC Academy Director means to the Club.

As Fuhs succinctly put, Jones’s advancement from U-19 Head Coach to Crew SC Academy Director is – on a literal level – emblematic of the Academy’s primary goal, and that’s to develop talent.

With significant investment in Player Development already well underway, most notably in the form of the construction of OhioHealth Performance Center as well as the Downtown Stadium, Jones’s promotion serves as a signal for both coaches and players that Crew SC’s future is ultimately paved on a foundation of those who are already present.

As a standout defender at Wake Forest University and former professional player in the United Soccer League, Jones’s transition to coaching was a natural byproduct of two things, he said; one being his competitive nature, and the other his instinctive drive to be around the game.

“I knew when [my playing career] was over that I at least wanted to be around the game. What that looked like I didn’t know, but I knew what I enjoyed most was being on the field,” Jones said.

Common among former players’ stories, Jones’s tale was filled with ups-and-downs.

Growing up as a big fish in a small pond in Fredericksburg, Va., he experienced his fair share of successes (national championships and Youth National Team call-ups), as well as disappointments (injuries and roster cuts).

In essence, he went through experiences that he is now committed to teaching others.

“You always say, ‘I wish I knew then what I know now,’ and that’s kind of what I pride myself on, the things that I’ve learned along the way,” Jones said. “I feel it’s really important to teach the kids, to help them further along in their careers and along the way to understand their goals, to reach their goals much sooner that I potentially had.”

During his transition to coaching, Jones signed on as the Director of Coaching for his former club, Virginia Legacy Soccer Club. From there, he took it upon himself to ensure he could be the best possible version of this next incarnation.

“Once I decided that coaching was for me and my future, I think that’s just the athlete and competitive side of me, I wanted to get to the highest level I possibly can.”

In 2014, Jones earned his National “A” License – the highest level of youth coaching licenses in the country – and continued immersing himself in different coaching environments, whether it be with his then-club Virginia Legacy or in an Olympic Development Program setting.

That maturation and experience, he said, eventually earned him a position as an Academy U-12 Head Coach at Crew SC in 2017.

It was in Columbus where Jones met current First Team Assistant Coach and Former Academy U-19 Head Coach Ben Cross, who at the time was currently enrolled in the Elite Formation Coaching License (EFCL) Course.

A joint program between MLS and the French Football Federation, the year-long EFCL course is designated for elite MLS Academy coaches, and after a number of conversations with Cross, Jones realized that was his next step. Once the opportunity arose, Jones said he was fortunate enough to be among the 26 candidates to be selected for the next rendition of the program.

“It’s an honor to be in that course because you look at what French soccer has done and the players that they’ve produced,” Jones said. “To be educated in that system in which they educate their coaches, it’s truly an honor.”

That accomplishment is simply another testament to his initiative, as Club Technical Director & VP of Soccer Operations Pat Onstad explained.

“The contributions Kelvin has provided to the broader program have centered around his selflessness and willingness to step up when called upon,” Onstad said.

“Last Spring, when Ben Cross was promoted to a First Team Assistant Coach role, it was Kelvin who agreed to take on the U-19 Head Coach position while juggling a continued job as U-15 Head Coach. When the Club outlined expansion potential for the Billet program to benefit players and families, it was Kelvin who continued to host Billet players, including the four players receiving support from the Jones family at present.

“Finally, in this interim period before filling our Academy Director position, Kelvin rose to the occasion, providing leadership for his fellow coaches during an extremely challenging time managing the ‘new normal’ of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As difficult as this year has been from a logistical standpoint, the goal of the Academy stays the same, Jones said.

“First and foremost, the goal is to produce players for the First Team. That doesn’t change whether we are in a transition period or we are firm, that’s the ultimate goal.”

Does the process itself look different in six months or a year? Perhaps, but the foundation for providing a “holistic approach” to Player Development, Jones said, lies in the current staff, who understand not everyone’s path to success is identical.

“How we set these kids up for the future in the First Team, whether it’s when they’re done in the Academy or done with soccer, it’s setting them on a pathway to be one, a responsible adult and two, have success. Take success in life whatever that path may look like,” Jones said.

Academy U-17 Head Coach Laurent Courtois explained how Jones, who has coached at nearly every level during his time in Columbus, displays a unique ability to connect with young players regardless of age.

“What Kelvin brings to the job that is unique in my opinion … is his capacity to put the human being in the center of the development,” Courtois said.

“Now [what] I see on the staff perspective is how he is focused on the human relationship and development, and not only like [what some coaches] tend to do, only focusing on the player and the individual. This is how you can develop the human, and that [not only] means everybody in the staff coaching, but everybody surrounding the coaching staff too.”

In the past, Jones admitted, the Academy has prided itself on achieving a lot with very little.

Now, there’s no reason, he says, that the Academy shouldn’t be a premier destination around the country.

“In going through this process, with talking with Tim Bezbatchenko and talking with Pat Onstad, there’s one thing that I always say, ‘There’s no reason given the resources that this Academy shouldn’t be one of the top-level academies in the country.’ We are confident in what we do. We are excited in what we do. Given the resources, we believe that we can truly be one of the top destinations here in the country, and that’s what we’re striving for.”

That first stride starts this weekend, as the Academy opens its 2020 Fall MLS NEXT schedule on Saturday, Sept. 12 in Central Ohio against the Michigan Wolves.

For more information on the Crew SC Academy, visit www.ColumbusCrewSC.com/academy.

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