Jonathan Smith is an assistant principal at Paducah Tilghman High School and recently named the head coach of their football team. This very busy father of four was a former football star at Mayfield High School. He’s a huge Tennessee Vols fan and loves to fish. iMeet PTHS’ new head football coach who is ready to win in 2019!
Welcome to iMeet, Jonathan. Tell us about yourself...
I am someone who has been fortunate enough in life to have been surrounded by lots of great people. They have somehow helped me to stay on the right track long enough to get to where I am today.
I am originally from Mayfield, born and raised in a small house on Mason Street across from the current board of education. My parents still live there. After high school I went to the University of Tennessee at Martin - fortunately I figured out after a semester that a major in “frat parties”, “hunting”, and “fishing” wasn't going to pay the bills!
From 1998-2001, I floundered around in several different jobs, flirted with college courses off and on at WKCTC, but I never really found anything I was passionate about. Then I had a happenstance meeting with my then girlfriend, now wife, and one of her coworkers. The coworkers husband was looking for someone to help him coach a middle school football team in Massac County, Illinois.
Little did I know that a simple conversation would change my life forever. He was not just wanting help, he was wanting me to be the head coach. That one season coaching middle school football finally pointed me in the direction of life that felt natural, fulfilling.
After that season I knew I had found something I was and had always been passionate about. I finished my associates degree at WKCTC, transferred to Murray State, and completed my Bachelors of Science in middle school education with an emphasis in math and social studies. All the while I continued to coach football as an assistant at Paducah Middle School.
In 2007, I was hired as an algebra/geometry teacher at Paducah Tilghman where I have been ever since as a teacher, administrator, and/or Coach. Like most of us who played football at Mayfield, we are as dedicated, passionate, and crazy about the sport of football as you possibly can be.
For all of us, winning every game we were a part of was the only acceptable outcome. I'm still as big of a Mayfield Cardinal fan as you will ever find, except for one game a year, and for that one, now, the gloves will come off.
WOW, That’s a great story Jonathan. Tell us about your family...
I am blessed with the best wife in the world, Sarah. We’ve been married for 14 years. We have three children of our own: Hunter, 14 (8th grade); Lilly, 10 (5th grade); and, Andrew, 7 (2nd grade). We have also adopted our niece who has lived with us for five years, Nautica, 17 (senior).
Our oldest, Hunter, loves to hunt, fish, play Fortnite, and plays soccer, baseball, and football. Lilly is the outgoing unicorn lover in the family. She loves to sing, act, is somehow taller than any of my four kids at age 10 and is an amazing soccer player.
Andrew is the one who is going to turn my hair gray! He's as competitive as his father and wants to do nothing but win at everything he does regardless of the cost. He is a phenom soccer and baseball player. He gets his athleticism from his mother...
We have three dogs - two Australian Shepherds (Pepper and Daisy), and one Pomeranian (Bella). My wife is the manager for the Paducah Teachers' Federal Credit Union.
You were just named the HC of the PTHS football team! Congrats! Tell us about your journey...
Wow... As previously mentioned, I got my start as the head 7th/8th grade coach for Massac County in 2002. In 2003 I moved over to Paducah Middle School as an assistant coach. I remained as an assistant at PMS and volunteer on the high school staff at Tilghman until I was eventually hired in 2007 by then head coach, Perry Thomas.
During my time as a volunteer I served as part time equipment manager, film man, and anything else they needed me to do to help get my foot in the door. In 2008, I began working for Randy Wyatt who took over for Coach Thomas when he took the job as head coach at Campbellsville University. I worked for Coach Wyatt until 2014.
Working for Coach Thomas and Coach Wyatt, I coached almost every position on the field at some time or another and was promoted to associate head coach where I served at various times as special teams coordinator and offensive coordinator. I was also part of the 2009 3A state championship team.
In 2014 when Coach Wyatt resigned I applied for the head coaching position. I wanted to continue coaching. After the interviews I was approached by our head principal, Art Davis, about applying for the assistant principal of curriculum position. With encouragement from my wife, I applied, and got the job.
The only downfall of taking a role in administration was that I could no longer coach. From 2014-2017 I was out of the coaching game, but I bet I never missed watching more than 1-2 practices a season, and never missed a game.
During this time PTHS went through two more coaches. In 2017 I was a part of the administration team who selected Coach Steve Duncan to take over the program. I was a very big fan of his, I knew he did things the right way, and I also knew that my son was getting really close to being in high school playing football and I wanted to get back to helping so I could eventually be a part of a staff to coach my son.
Mr. Davis graciously allowed me to come back last season as a volunteer. Little did I know that two weeks out from our opening game vs McCracken County that Coach Duncan would be forced to medically retire. I remember that day, my conversation with Mr. Davis, my conversation with my wife, word for word and minute by minute.
I wasn't really prepared to take over as interim head coach (for goodness sakes I had been out of the game completely for four years), but I also knew that things sometimes happen for a reason and if nothing else, I wasn't going to let our kids down by saying “no” and having someone else coach them.
Our student athletes this year were special. hey were a selfless group who were bought into doing things the right way, setting an example for others the way it was set for me. I can't begin to tell you how awesome it was to be a part of it.
You are also an assistant principal at PTHS. Tell us about what your job entails...
I am currently the assistant principal in charge of curriculum and instruction. In layman's terms... I handle the state accountability testing, curriculum we teach, transcripts, scholarships, school improvement plan, substitute teachers, master scheduling for teachers and students, guidance counselors, RtI, ESS, and a whole other list of things that come up day-to-day.
Before this position, I taught algebra and geometry. I really miss the relationships I built with students in the classroom, I miss the instant gratification of a student's face when you know they "got-it."
Being the boss, to put it simply, is hard. It's very difficult to always bring your A-game, to know others are watching your every move, monitoring how effective you are. It’s hard to sometimes make the right decision over the easy one, and it’s sometimes hard to disagree or say no to those who are your friends or who you respect dearly because it’s the right answer to give.
The best part of my job as an AP, though, is that I get to see all of the talented teachers we have in this building do their job and learn from them. We have an amazing staff, the best in the business.
What being an administrator has taught me is that there is always more than one way to do something, to surround yourself who are loyal to you, and most importantly, to listen to thoughtfully and respect those who may be different or view things differently than yourself.
I know that being an AP is a hard, time-consuming job as is being a HC. How do you balance it all?
I have two really big jobs; I know that, and I embrace it. With both of my jobs I understand the important role I have on making life better for others than it was for me. love to use my own personal failures as examples to my players, students, and coworkers.
It certainly isn't easy to do both. I can tell you like I have told others who have asked... there are some days I am a really good administrator because I'm a really bad coach, and there are other days I'm a really good coach because I'm a really bad administrator. I have learned the hard way the last couple of months (and I still don't have it figured out...) that time management and efficient use of every minute of my day is key.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I don't have any... but, when I do decide to take a few hours off of being a husband, dad, administrator, and coach, I love to fish and hunt. I'm super competitive, and I really enjoy fishing tournaments on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. I also enjoy making my own fishing lures from scratch. I also make time to run 3-4 miles each morning to help clear my mind.
Who is your favorite NCAA basketball team? How's the season going so far?
Without question, I'm a die-hard Tennessee Volunteer fan. For once, we are pretty dang good this year in basketball. Go VOLS!
What was your favorite Christmas present this year?
My wife and kids took pretty good care of me this year, but my favorite gift was a hall pass from her yesterday to go fishing on my day off rather than the standard list of honey-do's.
Any goals or resolutions for yourself in 2019?
It was such a pleasure to find out all about you on iList this week Jonathan. We wish you every success in your duel careers as an educational administrator and coach. We hope 2019 is your your biggest winning season ever!