Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Linden Jones Steps Into Justin's World

I made it no secret that I enjoyed watching the South Alabama Jaguars last season. Everything about the team, from their style of play to their steady rise up the national rankings to the relatable personalities of even their stars, made me a fan.

Linden pitching for the University of Mobile
During the course of the season, I did some researching through USA's history and record books and such, and one of the names I found a number of times was one Linden Jones. At this point, I believe she is third on the all-time Jaguars strikeout list, an incredibly-impressive statistic.

I knew I wanted to interview Linden pretty much immediately, and when I found out about her present endeavors to advance the game on an international level, I knew this interview was going to be a big hit!

Linden was kind enough to answer all of my questions all the way from SERBIA, and I can't thank her enough to for taking the time out of her incredibly-busy schedule to do so. I don't believe Linden is a tweeter, but y'all can leave notes or further questions in the comment section below, and they'll get to Linden.

How old were you when you started playing softball? What made you interested in the game?
I started with t-ball at 5 years old. My parents had me enrolled in everything- from swimming, soccer and tennis all the way to ballet, tap and gymnastics. I believe this helped me find the sport where I fit best and to know it was truly the one I most enjoyed.

Your name appears a number of times in the Jaguar record books; what does it mean to you to know that you’ll be remembered as one of the best to ever wear a Jags uniform?
I had no idea! Obviously when I was there in the first year I was setting the records, but I never expected that I would continue to hold any. That's pretty awesome! My goal was always just to win games, but its always fun to achieve records along the way.

What is your favorite memory from your playing career?
Of course I have to say winning the NAIA National Championship at the University of Mobile my junior year was the greatest experience and accomplishment of my career. 

If you had to sum up your career in three words, they would be…
Accept nothing less

I know you are currently involved with some very exciting stuff that is helping to grow the game of softball on an international level. Please tell us about your present endeavors, and the goal that you are ultimately trying to reach.
Currently I am coaching in Serbia, working to develop the Junior National team. The sport has only been here since 2005, and was initially introduced as baseball and slowpitch; fastpitch is even younger, I think just 4 years they have been learning how to play. Therefore, softball is still unfamiliar in the country, and we only have a handful of girls eager to compete. The biggest task is getting the word out and competing with the 'power house' sports of this nation. Serbia is different from America in the sense that sports are associated with clubs instead of schools, so kids are only introduced to different games during PE classes, and more popular sports are selected for the curriculum primarily because it's what’s most familiar. For example, American kids are more likely to choose football and baseball to play over soccer or handball. 
A lot of progress has been made to conquer this feat, and we hope to continue moving forward by providing fields for the girls to play on. Even more, this year we are working to qualify for the ESF, and if softball wins the bid to return to the Olympics, the ESF is our first step towards working for a spot in the 2020 games.

Did you expect and desire to be so involved with the game after your playing career was done?
I didn't expect it, no. And definitely not in a head coaching position. But I really did enjoy teaching girls how to pitch and I have always tried to give back to younger generations the knowledge and passion that I have developed as a player. I was just lucky enough to find and be given this great opportunity to hopefully make a difference for girls who weren't so blessed to have the opportunity we do in America to know and play the game of softball for majority of their life.

What are your future plans in the same area, coaching, teaching, and helping spread the love of the game?
I have always just followed wherever the game leads me. Currently I have been lead here to Serbia, and I plan to stay with this program and spread the love of the game within this country and the Balkans if I'm able. I would like to create for them similar opportunities that we have, or even just get them better and more accurate equipment. The field conditions are not that great, and it can be difficult sometimes to teach them fielding ground balls on grass.  But we are working well with what we have, and the girls really want to learn. In the long run, I know i will always look for softball wherever I am if it doesn't find me.

You had to have been impressed with South Alabama’s 2013 season – arguably their best season ever! What about this year’s squad really stood out to you and impressed you?
It was very impressive! They showed a lot of confidence and patience which is key to winning big games. I'm glad they were able to get our name out there and show that South is a tough competitor, and winning conference second year in a row shows that the program is serious about climbing to the top.

For the first time EVER, USA hosted an NCAA regional. Although they were rather surprisingly upset by Florida State, what did this season say to you about the future of the Jags program?
South has really been working hard to grow their program in all of its sporting events. I had no doubt that our softball program would grow to be competitive. But it is nice to see them hosting regionals in just less than 10 years of beginning. But Coach Clark has always been a great recruiter, so I'm not surprised to see so much talent coming to South.

Let’s finish with a fun one. :) If you had any super power imaginable, what would you want to be able to do?
This was actually a tough one for me! But I think I would most want to have the power to fly. Since I'm not very fast on the ground, at least I could fly fast through the air!

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