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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015 6 years ago

SIDELINE SCENE: Long days a byproduct of Warrior coach’s passion for hoops, football

West Orange basketball coach Eric Jones' schedule has become less chaotic since football season ended.
by: Steven Ryzewski Former Sports Editor

WINTER GARDEN  Life is a little less chaotic for West Orange boys basketball coach Eric Jones than it was a few weeks ago.

That sounds like an odd statement — especially when describing a coach whose sport is hitting the meat of its regular-season schedule with district competition and holiday tournaments. But then, Jones is more than just a basketball coach on campus.

Jones, who has coached the Warriors on the hardwood since the 2005-06 season, is also the defensive line coach for the West Orange football team.

Steven Ryzewski

Overlap between football and basketball is nothing new in high-school sports, but it manifests itself in different ways for players and coaches. 

For players, it generally means a late start to hoops season depending on how far into the playoffs their team go. To prevent injury, football players usually are held out of basketball until the season ends. That means missing weeks of practice time, which began the last week of October, and some regular-season action, which began Nov. 16. For perspective, the season for West Orange’s football team ended Dec. 4.

For coaches who might be on both staffs, though, there is no such delay. After all, somebody has to run practices and games.

What that meant for Jones, who had his duties to attend to with the football team during practices after school, was having to schedule his basketball practices in the morning — at 5 a.m. So, for about one-and-one-half months, Jones’ workday lasted from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. And the days were longer if the Warriors had a game, which typically would tip off at 7:30 p.m.

In the time since the Warriors football team fell in the state semifinals, Jones has been able to immerse himself fully in hoops — and hopefully catch up on some sleep.

“I’m more organized as far as coaching basketball,” Jones said after a recent game, describing how it feels to be caught up.

All of which isn’t to say that Jones — and every other coach with the football program — wouldn’t have minded planning for one more game: a state championship appearance.

“I had been looking forward to one more week (of football), and I actually scheduled my games so that it wouldn’t interfere with football because I expected (football) to have a big season,” Jones said. “We’ll be jam-packed the rest of the season in basketball because of it.”

Jones’ Warriors are 3-7 so far this winter, a byproduct of a tough schedule and some early season struggles. But West Orange did defeat Apopka Dec. 15, 70-66, for an important district victory and will now look to get back on track during a holiday tournament at The First Academy.

Whether the Warriors hit their stride in January, it’s important from time to time for people to remember how hard coaches work — and how much time goes into it. It’s important to remember that for many coaches, 13 hour workdays are just the way they’d like it.

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