While a number of players returned from last year's championship team, it is also true the Wolves graduated nine starters from the squad. In some ways, it was like the Wolves were starting over -- and Jones knew what he faced.

"I knew we were going to be competitive, but I thought we were going to be underdogs," he said. "The first thing we had to figure out at tryouts was what the focus would be."

Jones is the Times Girls Soccer Coach of the Year in part because he was able to get his kids to focus on the prize -- winning another NCS title. But also he is because his approach to coaching is both reasonable and firm. He demands respect but is also quick to give it.

"If you treat them like your own child, but coach them, you'll be all right," Jones said.

After making the final cut in varsity tryouts (he had 90 kids try out), Jones decided the team's first priority was, of all things, to have fun. It's the upside of being an underdog.

"I think I concentrated on making this season fun," he said. "Practices were very disciplined -- I don't want them getting away with anything. At the same time, you want them to laugh and have fun.

"You want to be their friend, but you have to be their coach."

He said the key is to establish respect, then plug kids into the positions that best suits them and the team. If the players respect the coach, they can accept their role.

He makes it sound easy -- almost second nature. But the Wolves were just the third girls soccer team in NCS history to repeat. Only the best coaches pull that off.

Contact Bill Kruissink at bkruissink@cctimes.com

Mark Jones


  • SCHOOL: San Ramon Valley


  • YEAR: Second season


  • THE SKINNY: After graduating nine starters from last year's NCS 3A championship team, Jones all but started over this winter. Under Jones' tutelage, the Wolves played through injuries and personal problems, to repeat as NCS champs.


  • WHAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Jones does a lot of offshore yacht racing, often rubbing elbows with the elite of the sport. His longest race was from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta.