His name was Moose.
He was a pastor and the one of the most successful baseball coaches in the state of Mississippi. “Just the fact that he believed in me changed my entire life,” Jonathan Jordan says with emphasis, struggling to express the power of kindness in the lives of humans. The seeds of confidence in the words of Coach Moose spread wide-reaching roots in the current athletic director at Walker High School, grinning and spinning in the swivel chair behind his desk.
Earnest sincerity shines in his eyes as he speaks of 15-year-old Jonathan Jordan, panting under the glare of the sweltering sun, shuffling clumsily behind the tall backs of the other boys trying out for the team, fumbling with the baseball, his cheeks enflamed with embarrassment. A sickening feeling of de ja vu had settled like a weight in his swelling stomach.
Jordan had recently been cut from his other school, where he hadn’t even made the team. He was getting used to disappointment, resolving himself to the fact that he couldn’t play baseball, never in his wildest dreams play college baseball—probably wouldn’t even go to college.
He glanced sideways at Coach Moose, who was pacing toward him with a determined gleam in his eyes.
“You’re going to play for us,” the coach boomed.
Jordan was knocked off his feet.
“You mean I’m going to make the team?” he squeaked in amazement, daring to look Confidence in the face for the first time.
“No,” said Moose, “You’re gonna play.”
“He didn’t see you for what you were,” Jordan says. “Coach Moose saw you for what you could be. When someone else believes in you, that’s a big thing. But when you believe in yourself—there’s nothing bigger than that.”
Strong relationships surrounded Jordan from the beginning. His house was a revolving door, “the place where everybody came,” he says. His yard was a baseball field, a soccer field, a football stadium, a golfing green. The kids from the neighborhood and the school flowed seamlessly through his home-base, playing till dark on balmy summer nights to the glow of the lights strung in the trees. “It kept us out of trouble,” he says, “because we always had a game. I mean, if you weren’t playing, you were at church!”
Deep in the hedge of his home life, Jordan witnessed the reality of loving people. His entire perspective of winning and losing was being remodeled, measured by the impact his life had on other lives. His life was intricately laid out for him, carefully conducted by the Sovereign of his soul.
Jordan rolled through high school and college, confirmed in his mindset by each step of the journey—he couldn’t get away from people who inspired him to invest in humans. “It all was just kind of set up for me,” he says.
He interned with the United States Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs, the SEC tennis tournament, and the University of Alabama; he got master’s degree from Alabama in Sports Management and a master’s degree from UAB in Ed. leadership.
Joe Kines, the defensive coordinator at the University of Alabama during Jonathan’s time—a big name all over the SEC—inspired Jordan’s resolution to fuse love for athletics with love for people. Jordan watched Kines strolling through the halls, pacing the fields, chatting with custodians and confronting All-American football players. Kines addressed everyone with dignity by his demeanor of respect and concern. “When I saw how he handled people and cared about them, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Jordan says, his voice animated with appreciation.
By the time Jordan arrived as the athletic director at Walker High, his purpose in life was solidified. “I don’t know a lot about anything,” he says. “But I do know people. That’s my calling—just to love people.”
Jordan’s idea of winning is making boys and girls into men and women of integrity; he lives by an invisible scoreboard. “If you do things the right way and handle things the right way,” he says, “the wins will take care of themselves…because we win everyday at practice, and there’s no scoreboard.”
Jordan remarks how most of the kids are only going to play sports for four years of their life. “They’re going to live seventy-something years and not use that,” he says. “If we don’t prepare them for those other seventy years, we’re failing them!”
He pulls them into a bearhug, and thinks of all the hundreds of students under his supervision. “Their parents are entrusting us with their most prized possession,” he says.
He loves them like a father and shows them what a real man should look like—because “How can someone love whose never been loved before?”
Jordan goes home every evening to a brisk breath of perspective from his loving wife Bethany and the guileless honesty and unconditional adoration of his two little ballerinas, Vivianna and Cecily. “When I get home and walk in the door every night, they don’t care if we won or lost. They’re just happy to see their Daddy,” he chuckles.
He sees the sweet innocence in his children’s faces; he remembers the reverberating words from coach Moose; he thinks of the kindness of Kines—and knows that kids are more than athletes, that he is more than a coach, and that a bigger game is happening than the one they played that night. 78
Photos by Al Blanton