It would be safe to say there is hardly a person alive who has not played “Follow the Leader” at one time or another during their life. Just to be on the safe side, for anyone who is not familiar with the popular game that is mostly enjoyed by children this is the activity where you mimic the actions of the “leader” or you are out of the game. If he jumps, you jump. If she spins, you spin. Whatever it is, you must duplicate it. Generation after generation of youth have had fun and received great enjoyment from the simple exercise.
In the realm of athletics, “follow the leader” is not always so enjoyable. One reason is that when using the terminology of “leader” in sports means that they are at the top of whatever athletic endeavor they are involved in. As an example, for a player it means they have the best stats. For a coach it means the most victories.
Very seldom in this area is the person following capable of doing what the leader has done. It doesn’t matter if you are competing or coaching, more times than not the one coming behind often falls short of the achievements of the one they were trying to duplicate.
This is why one of the most popular adages in the coaching profession is the “You never want to be the one following a legend.” The reason is that no matter how well you do you simply can’t live up to the expectations that are often time unfairly placed upon you. You are always compared to the greatness that came before.
If you think it is hard to follow someone great in your profession, that is child’s play compared to trying to live up to a family member who was great in sports. There is hardly any worse position to be in than following a brother or sister who has achieved athletic greatness.
You might have rushed for 100 yards or scored 20 points in a basketball game only to hear, I remember when your brother rushed for 150 or scored 30. You accept knowing that whatever you do it is never enough to stop the comparisons. You must or it will eat you alive.
Very few can successfully “follow the leader” when it comes to sports. The are exceptions though.
Ted Reeves is one.
The 1975 Jonesboro-Hodge High School graduate not only turned out to be a great “follower” but an even better “leader”, which is why he is now a member of the 2022 Class of Inductees into the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame (JPSHOF).
Reeves now joins his older brother, Alden, in the hallowed JPSHOF hall. The elder Reeves was a multiple sports standout at JHHS, starred at Louisiana Tech in football, got drafted by the NFL and then became a legendary, state championship winning, prep football coach for over three decades.
Talk about leaving a hard path to follow.
Undaunted, Ted not only followed along the same trail, he blazed new ones leading to tremendous success and creating a legacy all his own. Was trying to equal the standard of greatness in athletic competition his brother had set important to him?
“It really wasn’t about that,” said Ted. “Sure, it was important to me to do my family proud, but I never really felt any pressure to do as well as Alden. We are several years apart in age so by the time I got to high school he had already started his coaching career.”
That is not to say that the elder Reeves didn’t have an impact on his younger brother’s career not only as a player but also as a coach.
“Alden was always there for me,” reflected Ted. “I was blessed to have a brother of his ability to learn from and lend encouragement.”
Like his older brother, the younger Reeves played every sport that was offered at JHHS and played them well, becoming a 4 sport letterman and making All-District in football, baseball and track. It was baseball that turned out to be his strongest suit and landed him a scholarship to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, where he was a four year lettermen and led the team in batting as a sophomore.
After graduation, like his brother, Reeves went on to become an educator and coach. Once again this would mean following a legend, which his brother had become after leading Captain Shreve in Shreveport to a state title in football.
Did his brother’s success play into Ted wanting to coach?
“What really made my mind up was when one day the teacher was teaching a class, but nobody was really getting it” recalled Ted. “I realized then how important it was to be able to convey a message and being that I was always pretty good at getting a point across and I knew I would enjoy helping someone learn.”
His skill of being able to help a person understand served him well as an educator, an even better as a coach. This is proven by the fact that for every sport he coached, great success followed. As the all-time winningest head baseball coach at JHHS, he led his teams to a 113-49 record, seven district titles in nine years and a semifinal berth in the playoffs, still the best playoff showing in school history. Six times Reeves was voted as the District Coach of the Year.
His impact wasn’t only felt on the baseball diamond. In nine years as an assistant and defensive coordinator for the JHHS football team he played an integral role in the Tigers winning seven district titles and three straight state championships. The 15 shutouts he orchestrated in the ’86 and ’87 seasons are still a school record for a two year period.
In his four years at Weston High, his baseball teams and boys basketball teams won district championships twice. He also led the girls basketball team to the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and was named District Coach of the Year four more times.
In 2010, Reeves became principal at Jonesboro-Hodge High School before becoming the Maintenance and Transportation Director for the Jackson Parish School Board for five years. A two year stint as Superintendent of Schools for Union Parish completed his nearly four decades of service.
The one who dared to follow greatness ended up blazing his own unique path. Through his ability to lead, countless young men and women were able to be successful in their athletic and classroom endeavors on their journeys into adulthood.
What does he do today? Professionally Reeves is the safety supervisor for an oil field company in Texas. When not at work, the majority of his time is spent mentoring his grandchildren, including coaching them in the various sports they play. Hopefully they will be diligent learners. One thing for sure, they are fortunate to be able to follow such a great leader.