By STEVE KRAH
When Jon Will was playing baseball at Lanesville (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School he used to look into the future and see himself coaching his own team.
Little did Will know that would happen so soon.
Will, a 2016 Lanesville graduate, was hired when Zach Payne resigned in August 2020 as Swingin’ Eagles head coach after leading them since the 2015 season.
At 22, Will is one of the younger varsity head coaches in any sport in Indiana.
“I’m blessed that it happened at my alma mater,” says Will. “There’s no school I love more than Lanesville. It’s such a wonderful small community to be a part of.
“Everyone does know everyone.”
Jon is the youngest of Thomas and Marianne Will’s four children. Older brother Richard Will played tennis at Lanesville and graduated in 2005. His sisters are Jackie Kolkmeier and Cady Gustin. Jackie is married to North Harrison High School head girls basketball coach Jamie Kolkmeier.
The three older ones were all born in Florida, where Thomas and Marianne met while participating in a bowling league. Thomas is originally from Buffalo, N.Y., and Marianne from Youngstown, Ohio.
The family landed in southern Indiana, settled in Lanesville and had Jon, who went on to play tennis, soccer, baseball and golf at Lanesville.
After attending Spalding University in Louisville, Ky., where he saw limited baseball action and then Indiana University Southeast in New Albany briefly, Will decided to go into the working world. For nearly four years he has been employed at First Harrison Bank in Georgetown, Ind., as a vault teller.
Will attended Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville his freshmen year (2013) and was not on the baseball team.
At Lanesville, Will played one season (2014) for Rusty McCubbins and two for (2015 and 2016) for Payne. Those were Payne’s first two seasons leading the program. He is now a volunteer assistant at Providence, where he graduated in 2008.
Will played for McCubbins in the Lanesville Youth League.
“He’s a guy who can pick out a flaw in anyone’s swing and explain it in a way that make sense to just about anyone,” says Will. “Because of him I became a Derek Jeter fan. He showed me my role model.”
What Will appreciates about Payne is his general knowledge of the game.
“He would bring up things we as players would never think about,” says Will. “The whole staff was pretty energetic.
“They liked to get out there and have fun.”
Payne and assistants Josh Smith, Kyle Erwin and John Henry Graff poured so much into Will and his Lanesville teammates.
“They cared so much about developing young guys,” says Will. “They set high expectations. As seniors we rose to those high expectations.
“That drew me in. I wanted to do that.”
Will helped some with the 2017 team and more so 2018-20.
The Eagles are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Orleans and South Central (Elizabeth). Lanesville has won five sectional crowns — the last in 2019. The Eagles earned a 1A state title in 2017 after finishing as 1A state runners-up in 2016.
Will played second base and shortstop in the ’16 championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Two members of the Lanesville Class of 2020 — Gabe Gowens (Hanover College) and Matthew Lindsay (Franklin College) — are on college baseball rosters. Will says there are younger Swingin’ Eagles with college aspirations and have been attending showcases and using recruiting websites.
Lanesville’s coaching staff is a large one, which helps accommodate work schedules. Besides McCubbins (a graduate of St. Xavier High School in Louisviille), there’s Joe Gowens (Eastern of Pekin), Lane Staples (Jennings County), Garrett Sherrell (New Albany), Lucas Timberlake (Lanesville), Taylor Proffitt (West Washington) and Spencer Purcell (Providence).
“It’s tough to find help everyday,” says Will. “Everyone works their way into a different area everyday.”
Staples played at Spalding after Will transferred out. Motivator Purcell handles strength and conditioning duties for the Swingin’ Eagles. Proffitt works with catchers.
Former pitcher Timberlake was a Lanesville classmate of Will’s.
“We talked about how we would be coaching our own ball club one day,” says Will. “Then came this opportunity.
“I’m learning as much as the players are learning everyday. Nobody sees how much the head coach is doing behind the scenes until they’re doing it
“It make me appreciate all they do even more.”