Coach Adam Hayes Brings Heart and Soul to Crown College Storm
One of the more interesting aspects of interviewing coaches is that it is usually quite easy to figure out which coaches were former defensive coordinators and which ones were formerly running the offense. The defensive coordinators are usually the ones that are a bit more cautious and worried. They fear mistakes of their own offense and often stay up throughout the night wondering how their defense is going to be able to subdue the juggernaut that is the opposing offense they will face that Saturday.
On the other side, offensive coordinators are genuinely much more positive about things. They see their quarterback finding the small opening to make a big pass play, their running back finding a seam magically appearing and then running for 35-yards, or their receiver making a move against a top corner that creates separation which leads to a big score. These are just upbeat men who see a big play for their offense as just inevitable.
At Crown College there is such an offensive coordinator. A guy that if you spent just sixty seconds with, you couldn’t help but think your day was going to be just a bit better. A coach who, you can tell, his players completely trust and who feel they have his complete trust. That man is Coach Adam Hayes.
Just six years out of college and not even 30-years-0ld, Coach Hayes has already been the offensive coordinator at Crown College for four seasons. It was easy to see when he was offered the position that he was the perfect fit for the job. From 2007 to 2010 he starred at the quarterback position for the Storm, and led them to their most successful offensive seasons that school had ever seen.
That offensive success also meant three winning seasons in four years, as Adam put up huge numbers that still stand as school records to this day. In fact, he holds every major passing record in the school, not just for career, but for season and individual games. It was a truly remarkable career that left him as a true living legend in Crown College lore.
While he enjoyed great success on the field, no one should believe for a moment that Adam Hayes is standing around polishing plagues depicting his accomplishments. This is a humble guy who is the true essence of what a man of God should look like. A characterization that he strives openly to achieve as he works to instill in his players the need to see the big picture of life beyond the guy they look at in the mirror each day.
It was always destined for Adam to be playing football. His father was a junior high and high school football coach, and so football was as much a part of the Hayes household as evening dinners. While really doing well on the field, it was the bond he had with teammates that really made the experience a true joy.
“I just loved the camaraderie stuff. There is such a unique friendship you form on the field. It develops into lifelong friendships because there is nothing like the teamwork you find in football.”
Coach Hayes’ master plan was that he would head off to Montana State, a school about 20 minutes from where he grew up, play football and get a teaching degree. He always admired his parents who had both been career teachers, and wanted to follow in their footsteps.
The plan was working out to perfection but soon Adam found that Montana State was not the place for him. He loved the football side of things but there were other aspects of the school that just did not mesh well with his character and his beliefs.
“It was an environment that the football was awesome, and I learned a lot about football there, however, there were a lot of things going on that I didn’t want to be a part of. I wasn’t a part of the party scene. It was difficult to be a guy who wasn’t a part of that. I wanted to play competitive college football, but I didn’t want to play in that kind of environment. I had never been in an environment like that before where coaches swore at players and I didn’t see myself being like those kinds of coaches. I was one who believed that coaches were role models to me, so I wanted somebody that was more like the image I was looking for.”
Wanting a change of scenery, Adam decided that it was time to find a school that was much more in line with his personal beliefs, and it didn’t take long to find his new school.
“So I started looking at Christian colleges where I really thought they would be a good fit for me. I knew a lot about Crown College already and so I sent an email to the coach at the time and I asked if they were interested in having me become a part of the team. They recruited me and, even though I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, I really thought this is where I want to go,” he explains with a laugh.
Crown College was not an entirely new idea to him. He had visited the school in his sophomore year when his older brother made a campus visit there, but he was seeing that now this was the place that was for him. He was just 19 at the time and can’t really place his finger on why he decided that this was where he was going to college, but he is perfectly aware of who was ultimately responsible for the decision.
“I was looking for a different school to go to. I don’t know if it was Crown, or if it was Coach Auer, but I just found that it was God’s hand in everything. I know that He wanted me here.”
The school was a natural fit for Adam. Not only was it a place where he could play the sport he grew up loving, plus gain the education he was seeking, but it was a place where he felt open to explore and share his faith. He found that Crown was a place that really stood out for the latter reason most of all.
“We are one of the few schools that are really genuine about our faith; there aren’t a whole lot left out there. I love the faith component here and I really enjoyed that it’s a big part of the program.”
After graduating from Crown Adam and his wife, Courtnie, headed for Pocatello, ID where he took a job at Century High School as a teacher and coach. He was teaching, which is what he had always envisioned for his life, but a year after starting at the school his alma mater came calling and soon he was headed back east.
“My offensive coordinator, Jay Carr, had resigned and went on to take another job and that kind of opened up the offensive job. So Coach Auer gave me a call and told me to go and apply for it, but I looked at it at the time and thought that there was no way that I was going to get the job. I had coached, but only had a year and a half of experience. I still wound up getting the job and talked it over with my wife. She’s a Minnesota gal, so she thought that it was a great idea. We thought it was good for us to move back, and so this was something that was good for both of us.”
Coach Hayes may have been surprised by the offer from Coach John Auer, but his Head Coach knew from the moment that the position was available that Adam was the perfect fit. “He always had a great mind for what we wanted to do here,” Coach Auer recalls. “It wasn’t just his knowledge, but his ability to teach and inspire that made him the perfect choice.”
Surprised by the turn of events did not mean that Coach Hayes came unprepared. He had led a highly successful offense as the Storm’s quarterback, and so he knew exactly what he was looking to do. The lessons he had been taught plus his years of experience had shown him the scheme he wanted to implement.
“From 2007-2o10 we had a winning seasons in every year but one season, and one of the top scoring offenses in Division-III. We even averaged 40-points a game in one of those seasons, so I knew playing in that offense that it works. I have an amazing trust in that scheme, and it is a kind of cross-hybrid of things that Coach Auer brought over from St. Cloud and used for a long time, and Coach Carr brought a lot of stuff over from Bethel where he was an assistant coach there. So, it was a kind of a blending of those two and was something that I wanted to stay with because it was the identity that I knew we were here, but I also had some ideas of my own that I wanted to implement.”
The results have been quite significant since his return. The Storm were winless the season before he came, but with him running the offense the team won two games in 2012 before back-to-back seasons of 4-6 in 2013 and 2014. This season they are already 3-3.
In each of his first three seasons running the offense the team made marked improvement. The 2012 team still finished in last in the conference in terms of total offense, but improved by over 25 yards per game, and improved three additional points per game. The 2013 team added another 30-yards and four points per game average from the previous season, and moved to ninth in the conference. Last season’s team had quite similar numbers to the previous season, as does this year’s team.
The offense is really taking to Coach Hayes’ direction and, as his skill players become more acclimated, the results are showing. They have averaged nearly 25-points per game over the last four games, which is a pretty amazing number considering that they were shutout in one of those contests. What that tells the coach is that his team is getting it, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
“We want to be a power football team and to find different ways to attack defenses. That is really our identity, and we are having success, but we are also missing on some key opportunities that we have to get better at. We can’t improve if we don’t take advantage of the chances we make.”
If all that Coach Adam Hayes was evaluated on was his ability to coach and lead men he would be quite a guy already, but it is the character of this young man that makes him so unique. For a man under 30, his grounding in his faith and what truly matters in life is something very special. This is a guy who values his relationships with his players and seeing them grow as devoted and loving followers of Jesus that really matters most to him.
“The biggest one that I’ve been preaching is that they need to see that it is not about them. Life becomes immediately better when you stop caring about yourself. That’s a great football message, because it’s a team game, but it’s also a great life lesson. Especially for us as Christians, when we’re not focusing on us and realizing it’s not about us, that makes it better to be a good worker, a good father, a good husband, which really makes it easier to be able to do the things you want to. Football is a great way to practice that, to practice to sacrifice, all those kinds of things that are going to translate into real life. It’s the important lesson we really want them to learn that it’s not about them; that it’s really about serving other people and providing your service to others.”
A lot of people give lip service to those kinds of words, but this is a man who is truly living it out. Coach Hayes seems to find the positive no matter what, and his players are really responding to him. He is really making a difference in their lives, but he is the first to admit that they are having a much bigger influence on his life.
“The players themselves and the kind of guys they are really make this a great place to work, and really make this place I like to come into work. Is it just such quality guys that really have the right attitude about life and that makes this the easiest job imaginable. They are truly special. ”
His ability to relate to his players comes on many levels, first of which is that, as a former student, he understands exactly what they are going through. Many of the professors at Crown College today were there instructing when Adam was a student. This clearly gives him a decided edge in building rapport with his players.
However, he is not naïve enough to believe that being a former student gives him an instant connection. He knows that all people are different and he needs to be different in how he approaches each player.
“The way you try to connect is different for every player. I think some guys it is really easy to connect with them through football, and that’s where we’re always trying to build a relationship. I also understand being far away from home and coming to Crown, and so I’m able to connect with people in that way. For other guys you just try to find whatever it is. One of the best ways to try to work on that is by talking with them about their faith walk. So I talk with them about what we can do to help progress our own faith walk together.”
This is the really unique and amazing part of Adam Hayes. He isn’t approaching his players as the almighty coach who has all the answers. Instead, he is acknowledging that he is falling short at times, and he is just as much in need of their assistance in his Christian walk as they are in need of his.
The authenticity of Coach Hayes is really something to behold. Today’s students are really savvy about discerning those who have a façade on, and seeing right through their act. They know their coach is as real about his love and concern for them as their own parents are. He has modeled how a player should perform and carry himself on and off the field and the players he instructs have really taken to the teaching he has provided.
The Crown College Coach is a guy that most fathers would love to see their daughter come home with, but make no mistake here. When his offense takes the field they will be a team of good Christian men, but they will also be a group of players, working as one, who will beat their opponent with their hearts, their bodies and their minds. They will be physical, they will think smart, and they will go for the throat when they have the chance.
In that way they are also very much like their coach. Adam Hayes is a devout follower of Jesus Christ, who for 165 hours a week would be the nicest guy you could ever want to meet. However, for three hours on Saturday he is the commander of an army of men whose sole mission is to win in the trenches, on the ground, and in the air. They will not win every battle, but you can be sure of one thing – more often than not they will win the war. He inspires that kind of optimism. Can’t you feel it?
By Robert Pannier