WHEN he packs his bags and heads to Brisbane at the end of the month, Paul Jones will feel satisfied he has left the Hervey Bay Swimming Club with a bright future.
Jones, the man who turned the Hervey Bay swim program into a perennial force, has decided to step down after devoting almost two decades to Hervey Bay swimming.
Jones's long and successful coaching career with Hervey Bay will end at the Queensland Short Course Championships before he takes control of Nudgee Junior College's swimming program.
The 42-year-old has coached hundreds, if not thousands of swimmers, triathletes and surf lifesavers since taking over as head coach in 1997.
Not only is the club losing its long-time swimming coach, it's also losing a fine mentor, an astute motivator and a character who brings a quirky sense of humour.
During his tenure, Jones guided a stack of swimmers to state and national titles, but more importantly created an environment in which all members could continuously learn and reach their full potential.
When Jones arrived at Hervey Bay Aquatic Centre, the club had a small group of "competitive" swimmers struggling to make their mark at state and national level.
Now it is regarded as one of the most successful regional clubs in Queensland and ranked in the top 25 of the state.
Hervey Bay also had a record meet at the national age championships in April, with three swimmers making finals and another three finishing in the top-20.
One of Jones's current charges, Josiah Wells, is the fastest 13-year-old boy in the country after winning gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle, while national triathlon champions Christian Wilson and Matt Hauser also benefited greatly from the coaching of Jones.
The father-of-two said it was about more than just medals.
"The enjoyment of seeing a kid after they have done a phenomenal performance or something they didn't expect is probably the biggest reward," he said.
"This could be a kid who came last, but came last with the most amazing time they have ever done and the joy they have when they come back is quite special.
"That's the biggest thing I try to do is make sure when they finish they look back at swimming as a positive."
Before joining the coaching ranks, Jones was an accomplished swimmer and part of the Currumbin patrol team that won gold at the 1992 national surf life saving championships.
As well as helping Hervey Bay's next generation of swimmers, Jones has led Wide Bay squads to the New Zealand Short Course Championships and also lent his experience and knowledge to state development teams.
The former Hervey Bay High School teacher never seeks recognition for the hard work he has willingly put in over the years.
He is a man who lives and dies by the times of others, but never takes credit for the success of his dedicated hopefuls.
Jones touched the lives of many swimmers, and according to the coach himself, they're what make the job most rewarding.
"It probably won't be the place, it will be the people I will miss the most," he said.
"I'm not looking forward to state titles this year.
"Watching your old squad compete will be one of the most difficult things I think I will ever do."
PAUL JONES FAREWELL EVENT
WHERE: Hervey Bay Hotel
WHEN: Saturday at 5.30pm
COST: $30 for adults, $15 for children 13 years and under
BOOKINGS: Email email@example.com
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