Glenn Jones never got to play basketball as a kid, but he's spent the last 34 years working to make sure generations of Lexington children get their chance to play.
Jones, 60, is the driving force behind Lexington's Dixie Basketball and Cheerleading Inc., a non-profit co-ed youth league in operation since 1971. Jones joined the league as an assistant coach in 1974, and since then has served as a coach, referee, game scheduler, frequent president, and now its tireless chairman of the board.
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During league play from the second Saturday of November through mid-February, Jones logs 10-to-12-hour days every Saturday, helping make sure games are going smoothly. He troubleshoots problems with the concession stand and greets parents, players or coaches who have questions.
Long before the season starts, usually beginning in August, he's the one who coordinates teams, schedules the volunteer coaches and referees and oversees sign-ups. It's nearly a year-round job. But he wouldn't have it any other way.
”I just enjoy doing it, just being with the kids. It keeps me young,“ said Jones, who has worked full-time as a shuttle driver for the University of Kentucky since 2000 after retiring from a career as a Greyhound bus driver in 1990. ”Watching them score that first basket, that's something.“
The league takes its name from Dixie School on Eastland Parkway, where it first played its games, Jones said. Since 1973, the league has played all its games in the gym at Crawford Middle School on Charleston Drive.
Currently, the league includes roughly 170 basketball players ages 5 through 12 and 70 cheerleaders, ages four through 14.
Jones has been with the league so long, he's seen many former players return now as coaches or assistant coaches to help their own kids play. And he's just about to start seeing the first round of grandkids of former players be old enough to play, he said.
”Glenn has made such a positive impact on so many people over the years,“ said current Dixie League vice president Allyson Bottom, who grew up cheering with the league. ”He's been our leader, our captain. He's so dedicated. Every Saturday, he's the first one there opening up the gym, and he's the last one to leave. He has such a positive influence on the kids. There's not many people who could do what he can do,“ she said.
Jones' guiding principal in directing the course of the league, he said, is always the players themselves.
”My theory is that if I can make a decision in favor of the kids, I'm right. If it's better for the kids, that's the decision I make,“ Jones said.
Jones, a member of the Bryan Station High School class of 1966, has also been a former president and active member of the Bryan Station High School Alumni Association for over a decade and currently serves as president of the Bryan Station High School Foundation, which oversees fund-raising for scholarships.
That role sees him helping organize auctions, golf scrambles, corn hole tournaments and other events to help support students at Bryan Station. He recently spent hours researching online archives and holdings at the William T. Young Library on the UK campus to put together a history of Bryan Station High School.
And he was there for the groundbreaking of the new high school in 2005. He calls the new school ”unbelievably gorgeous.“
His alumni activism is a bit of a turnabout from his views of high school when he was a student himself, he said.
”I was just wanting to get out of high school period,“ he said. ”Back then, you could get a good job with just a high school education. ... But when I went out into the workforce, I realized it was a lot harder than I thought.“
Jones joined the Army in 1969 and spent a year in Vietnam before serving the remainder of his time at Ft. Hood, Texas.
It was his wife's idea
When Jones' wife of 25 years, Sandy, suggested last year that they turn his 60th birthday party into a benefit to support the VA Medical Center — where she works as a medical records technician — he loved the idea. (The party, to be held July 26, is being dubbed a ”60th year“ reception since Jones' 60th birthday was earlier this year, in March.)
Having been a war veteran himself, Jones felt he knew a bit about what the patients were going through, and it was ”just another way to give back,“ he said.
”I do feel proud of him,“ said Sandy Jones, who is organizing her husband's reception. ”It's heartfelt what he does for the children, all those years with no pay. And I think he deserves some recognition for it.“
But the best gift of all in Jones' book, he said, is knowing the kids involved in the Dixie League are having a good time.
”They're having fun. I've gone up after the games and asked them, "Who won?' and they said, "Uhhh.... I think we did,'“ laughed Jones. ”They're not worrying about winning. They're just having fun.“