By Jake Hartman
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Fifth-year senior Alex Jones’ motivating journey as a softball player at the University of Kansas has provided her with guidance for a career path after graduation. Throughout her first two years as a Jayhawk, she saw great success on the field, garnering the team’s rookie of the year award after her freshman year and then being elected captain her sophomore year. It wasn’t until the fall of her junior year, in 2012, when her life was changed forever. In a fall season game against Johnson County Community College, Jones tore her ACL.
Jones knew she had always wanted to work in sports, but she had assumed that it would be on the business side. It wasn’t until this injury that she had a chance to reevaluate that decision.
“I knew I wanted to stick with sports, but I didn’t know what facet that would be in,” Jones said. “(Tearing my ACL) broadened my perspective on that side of medicine. My dad is a physician so I’ve been around medicine my whole life, but I thought I would take my mom’s route, which is the business side. Once I experienced rehabilitation and working directly with my athletic trainer, who was working more as a physical therapist, I could really see myself in the role of a physical therapist.”
Something as traumatic as a torn ACL could send any athlete into depression, but Jones persevered through it and is now better for it. This shows the true character she has.
Jones battled through her rehabilitation process for six months. She worked tirelessly to get back to the sport that she loves so dearly, to get back to helping her teammates on the diamond.
She is extremely important to her team in more than one aspect. Jones is both an outfielder and a pitcher. In her redshirt junior season, she started 42 games in centerfield and eight games in the circle for the Jayhawks. She led the team with 11 stolen bases and also in ERA with a 1.94. She also tied her career-high with seven wins in the circle for Kansas.
The thought of having to mentally and physically prepare for both positions to an outside fan can seem like an impossible task as some athletes struggle to properly prepare to play just one position. This is something that Jones embraces and takes great pride in. She has an attitude about the situation that would make a coach grin from ear to ear.
“When people ask me which position I like to play more, my answer is always that I just love to play the game of softball,” Jones said. “I’m two completely different players when I’m in the outfield compared to when I’m in the circle. In the outfield I’m loud, I’m vocal, it’s a completely different mentality. But whenever I’m in the circle, it’s (my mentality) completely zoned in, the ‘I’m going to shut you down’ type of attitude.”
“I feel (playing two positions) is a good way to keep me on my toes as well,” Jones said. “I feel like in the outfield you don’t touch the ball on every single play of the game, whereas a pitcher you do have it every single play. I really enjoy that balance. More than anything, I just love being on the field.”
This is the type of attitude that coaches wish every player on their team had.
This positive outlook helped her get through rehab to get back to playing the game she loves. It’s the type of attitude Jones is going to need to get through either PT (physical therapist) or PA (physician assistant) school that she plans on attending after graduation.
Before she can look too far ahead to graduate school, the fifth-year Jayhawk has a season ahead of her to finish. Kansas is 15-7 with only 12 games remaining before the conference schedule begins. Jones is very happy with the way things have started and was excited about where the team can go this year.
“I knew going in (to the season) that our defense was solid,” Jones said. “That has proven to be true already this season. What we were sitting back and waiting to see about was our offensive game, and whether or not we were going to be able to produce enough runs as we have in the past.”
“We used to rely so much on the big hit,” Jones said. “And this year we knew we were going to have to produce runs in a different way. It’s really been great to see that change (since the start of the season). (At) First it was a little rough, but we’re figuring it out and we have the potential to be an amazing offensive team. So that makes me excited to see the progression over the rest of the season.”
There should be little doubt that Jones’ attitude will be able to help her team reach its potential in all aspects. She is a positive role model to her teammates on-and-off the field.
After she finishes impacting her Jayhawk teammates on the softball diamond, Jones will use her first-hand experience to influence other athletes when she decides to become either a physical therapist or a physician assistant.
Jones hopes that she can continue her schooling somewhere close to her home in Enid, Okla. Once she does go to graduate school and has her medical license, undoubtedly she will change other athletes’ lives as hers was changed just a few short years ago.Through one of her darkest moments she saw the light about how she can make a difference in the world. The tireless hours of work she put in, and the unwavering positive attitude she had, will absolutely carry over into her profession. Whatever athlete is in the position to have some sort of work done to an injury, would be extremely lucky to be with such a warm-spirited and positive person like Jones.