Wednesday, January 14, 2015
 
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Basketball is a Family Affair for the Hayes Family

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[January 14, 2015]  MOUNT PULASKI - Steve Hayes is truly "living the dream." While many fathers would love to have the opportunity to coach their children in sports, that is often just a dream. To Hayes it is a reality that makes him "the luckiest guy in the world."

Hayes has had the added unique experience of coaching both his daughters at different levels of basketball during their youth. His oldest daughter, Alec, is currently a senior on the Mount Pulaski High School girls basketball team and his youngest daughter, Skylar, is just coming off a second place finish in the state tournament as an eighth-grader on the Mount Pulaski Grade School girls basketball team. Hayes has had the pleasure of not only coaching both daughters but also experiencing those proud dad moments in a special way. "The extra time with the girls is priceless, to say the least," Hayes says, "I am so blessed. I love playing and they love playing."

However, it was not quite that way in the beginning with a young Steven Hayes at Mount Pulaski Grade School. He says he did play a little biddy basketball, but at the time he was not really into it. It was his best friend, Rick Edwards, who actually talked him into pursuing basketball later on. "As a sixth grader, I was the manager. I didn't even want to play, except Ricky played, and he was my best friend. He talked me into more or less seeing if Mr. Gasaway would let me be the manager." At that time he admitted not having a big desire to play, but once he took part in the practices, he was "off and running."

Coach Robert Gasaway remembered this time as well. He recalled having Steven in class in sixth grade and on a spelling test he had the word manager. A young Steven used the word in a sentence and wrote, "I am the manager of the Bruins." Mr. Gasaway wrote back on the test under that sentence suggesting, "Next year why don't you tryout for the team?"

Hayes did just that his seventh grade year and went on to become a state champion for the Bruins as an eighth grader at the1980 Class B State Tournament. Hayes remembered that undefeated season and playing a rather large team from Carmi. "They [Carmi] ran out on the floor and every one of those kids was a foot taller than us. That's back when they measured you for height and age and that's how you made A or B team. So they measured you at the beginning of the season so whatever you can grow, you grow." But still after all these years he laughed and wondered, "Really? Who measured these dudes? They were huge!"

Mount Pulaski won the close game though, thus proving size doesn't always matter when you've got the speed to go along with a lot of heart and determination.

Those boys from the 1980 team might have been small but they were still destined for big things on the basketball court in high school as well. First they had to take their knocks on the freshman and junior varsity teams under the coaching of Bill Rucks. "I remember a freshman game at Lanphier that was not pretty," Hayes recalled. He also remembered playing Uwe Blab's brother, Olaf, at the Charleston Tournament. But it was Hayes and his 1984 teammates, who had thankfully grown since those junior high days, who brought home the 1984 Class A state tournament second place trophy from the Assembly Hall in Champaign under the guidance of Coach Ed Butkovich. Those Mount Pulaski boys played against Brian Sloan, Lowell Hamilton and Thad Matta, all who went on to achieve basketball success beyond high school. Matta, in fact, currently coaches the successful Ohio State Buckeyes basketball program.

Meanwhile, Hayes has went on to coaching in his own right. Jump ahead years later to when his daughter Alec started playing biddy basketball at Mount Pulaski Grade School, and she would soon be followed by little sister, Skylar. "Every time they signed up for biddy ball, I helped out," said Hayes. Then after Alec's fifth grade season, Hayes approached Coach Jamie Anderson and offered his help. Once he filled out the volunteer form, he was the assistant coach throughout the rest of Alec's grade school career and that led to also coaching the up and coming, Skylar, in junior high.
 


Two years ago Steve approached Coach Eric Leever and asked if he could help out with the Mount Pulaski High School girls basketball team while Alec was still in school. He was also looking ahead to eventually helping to coach Skylar at the high school level. It all fell into place, he noted, as former assistant coach Kristin Rucks-Smith took the Athletic Director's position. This has allowed Hayes the best of both worlds. Since the junior high and high school seasons overlap very little, Hayes was able to roll from one to the other without missing a beat.

Both Alec and Skylar have also been able to reap the rewards of basketball success on the court much like their father. Alec was a member 2012-2013 Lady Toppers Class 1A second place State Champion basketball team her sophomore year; while Skylar just earned a second place finish at the IESA Class 8-1A State Tournament as a member of the Honeybears.

Alec has been the starting guard for the Lady Toppers the past two seasons. Despite the Lady Toppers struggles on the court this season, there are still good times shared by the father and daughter. "The other day at the Tri-City Tournament against Ramsey she had a really good game with 19 points, including 4 threes," said Coach Hayes. "She was on fire. She was out there giggling and laughing and that's what it should be about you know, when they're having fun."

Not only is Hayes enjoying coaching his daughter's senior year but he is also enjoying those special dad moments. He mentioned how the moments in practice that no one else gets to see but the coaches are pretty proud dad moments. It is evident that he is treasuring each and every one.

Meanwhile, basketball is truly Skylar's passion. Hayes said it all began with Junior Toppers (biddy ball) and the fact that her sister played, too. According to the elder Hayes, Skylar did and still does look up to her big sister. "I remember it like it was yesterday, when she would make a shot in Junior Toppers she would jump up and down and pump her fist in the air. She is a very emotional young lady." Hayes added that in his opinion that is very important to success. "You have to care enough to fight, get mad, hurt, get sad, and to use those emotions to drive you, " he believes. He also noted how she has always worked at the game and any free moment includes basketball. "There are many an evening and weekend where I hear, "Dad, can we go to the gym?"

Skylar has attended many basketball games throughout her life, including many college games and even WNBA games. She also attended Notre Dame basketball camp two years ago and plans to go back this year. Last year she also attended ISU basketball camp in Normal. In addition to making some close friends there, she also became acquainted with the coach. Coach Barb Smith even invited Skylar to some games this season and invited her into the locker room to hear the pregame chalk talk and the halftime talk.

The last three summers, Hayes mentioned that his daughter has also played AYBT (American Youth Basketball Tournament) ball also. In this league, he says, you run into a lot of all star teams made up of the best in the areas, so the competition is excellent. "The summer ball has kept the ball in her hand and a competitive edge in her mind," he says.

Competitive and driven are certainly words that can be used to describe this younger lady. Those traits have earned her a great deal of success on the court over the years and particularly this season. As her junior high career came to an end, she finished as the leading scorer for Mount Pulaski Grade School with 1,341 points. (According to the trophy case at MPGS, Jaymes Zachrich is the boys leading scorer with 1,232 points).

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Her Honeybear teams also never lost a home game their entire grade school career, while compiling a 42-4 record overall.

During this year's state tournament, Skylar set three state records and tied another one. Those state records are:

Most points in a single game 31 - against Joliet Laraway
Most field goals in a single game 13 - against Joliet Laraway
Most points in a state series (3 games) 73
Tied most points in a championship game 26

Skylar's greatest moment with her dad occurred during regionals at home versus Springfield Christian. Following the Honeybears win, Skylar says, "I ran up to my dad's arms and he picked me up probably like 20 feet in the air and we were both screaming and probably crying a little bit even. That's my most memorable moment with my dad."

For Coach Dad, it was another special moment Hayes got to share with yet another daughter on the basketball court.

In addition to great success on the basketball court both girls enjoy other sports as well. Alec is a three-sport athlete participating in basketball, soccer and track. Skylar is also a three-sport athlete, enjoying basketball, volleyball and track. In fact, Skylar was a member of the IESA Class 7-1A State Champion Honeybears volleyball team last spring and went on to be a state qualifier in track.

Although these girls might appear to be all about sports at this point, it is of great importance to note that these three-sport athletes excel in the classroom. Alec is currently tied for co-valedictorian of MPHS and was most recently December Student of the Month. Although she is undecided where she plans to attend college at this time and not sure of her future career plans, it is safe to say whatever path she chooses to follow she will continue to flourish.

Skylar's future plans at the moment include moving on to volleyball, which is just getting underway at MPGS. Skylar was also the MPGS October Student of the Month. Her future goals include playing basketball at the next level and one day she even has her sights set on the WNBA. "To keep playing basketball all the way to the WNBA," she says, "It's a big dream."

Hayes smiles at the thought of both of his daughter's accomplishments and future dreams. "What a gift," he says, "Are you kidding me? Book smart, street smart, and sports and just to have them so well-rounded. And I don't know what it is. It has to be on my wife's side because I have no idea where this all came from," he said laughing.

Oh yes, that wife and the mother of these two fine young ladies, happens to be the former Jessica Schreiber of Lincoln. As a 1982 graduate of Lincoln Community High School, she excelled in the theater department and on the speech team. "No sports for her," her daughter Alec noted.

Hayes credits his wife for being the chief transporter, the family's support group and the one who runs the household. She is also the main cheerleader in the stands while he and the girls are on the court. These were not always easy tasks as Jessica suffered a stroke at the beginning of the 2012 school year.

Steve recalled one morning how his wife could not sleep and he was concerned with what she was telling him. She knew something was not right and he knew to be concerned. "If she felt it was less than something serious, she would have slept it off herself," he says. However, he was concerned with the disturbing look on her face and he had the instincts to call 911.

The paramedics rushed her to Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital where the staff was able to act fast. They were able to give her a shot within the one-hour window of having a stroke and that shot did its job, according to Hayes. "She had lost use in her left side and her hands and foot were the most traumatized. Her face drooped a little bit but it came back pretty quick. Her cognitive skills came back really quick, too."

She bounced back really quick, he thought, "But then the struggles started with therapy and working on that hand and foot a lot." As she worked hard in therapy and fought through her situation one would never know now what she went through. She is currently ninety-eight percent recovered from that stroke, according to her husband.

Daughter Alec took note and admired her mom's work ethic throughout the ordeal. "She taught me to never quit pushing forward and always keep going on no matter what. And that's in everything I do. She had to learn to walk again. It certainly teaches you not to take things for granted."


Skylar echoed her sister's sentiments, "The whole stroke thing kind'a pushed me. The little things pushed me to go farther and farther. She's really smart and she helps me with my grades, keeping them up so I can stay on the basketball team. She's always there, in the stands cheering the biggest, the loudest, she's always there to pick me up after practice, there to take me to games, take me home from games, always gets me food, and she's just always there."

Skylar also claims that she needed to get in shape when she walked with her mom in a 5K in Elkhart a year later following the stroke. It was her mom's first time back walking that far of a distance. Last August, Jessica took part in the 3-day, 60 mile Susan G. Komen walk for breast cancer. There is no keeping this woman down nor chance of slowing her down. "Off and running" seems to be a theme for this family...on and off the basketball court.

[Teena Lowery]

Editor's Note:

Just a little "What are they doing now?" about a few of the people mentioned in the above article

-
Steve Hayes has a full-time job, too, as a Division Manager at the Department of Revenue

- Jessica Schreiber Hayes is the Director of the Illinois Certification Board

- Rick Edwards is the Executive Vice President of the Williamsville State Bank

- Jaymes Zachrich is a physical education and social studies teacher and a varsity basketball coach at Ayersville in Ohio

- Brian Sloan, MD is currently the Assistant Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine at Indiana University

- Robert Gasaway is retired living in Mount Pulaski and recently the MPGS gym was named in his honor

- Ed Butkovich passed away in 2002 and recently the MPHS gym was named in his honor

- Thad Matta is the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team

 

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