Along with a group of talented, dedicated brothers in arms, that championship run started with the architect of Twin Valley’s teams for 31 seasons. Coach Buddy Hayford, the man who has made Twin Valley soccer synonymous with a winning culture, was awarded the highest honor a high school soccer coach can receive this week, the National Soccer Coaches of America’s 2013 Boys Small School National Coach of the Year.
Each year the NSCA, the premier organization for those who coach youth-through-high-school soccer in the United States, chooses a top small-school coach and top big-school coach for each of the country’s eight regions. For region one, Hayford was selected as small-school coach of the year, an honor all in itself. Out of the eight small school coaches of the year, Hayford was selected as the national coach of the year.
Hayford, who preaches that no matter how good you are there’s always room for improvement, was left speechless by the honor. “You think about those kinds of honors and I mean I’m humbled to my roots,” said Hayford. “I can’t do any better then this one and I realize what an honor it is. I think about how many small school coaches have been given this honor, and it’s one a year. I’m in some select company and I’m honored my name could be included with those before me.”
This season, Hayford’s team went 18-0 on their way to a Division IV state championship, scoring 89 goals and allowing only one. The 2013 Wildcats were one of only three high school teams in recorded history to give up only one goal. Hayford also coached his 500th soccer game this year, with no intention of slowing down. “I love the guys (who play for me) and I love the challenge of walking on the field every August and putting together the best team I can.”
This year is what he describes as a perfect storm. A combination of hard working and motivated kids, no injuries, and a sheer will to win it all after coming up a goal short the year before. “It was 365 days,” said Hayford. “From the time they tasted defeat on the field in Royalton this group needed very little to excel. The only thing we could control was ourselves.”
Hayford also coaches girls’ basketball and track and field on top of his duties as athletic director at the high school. Hayford’s passion goes beyond the field or the gym. He reads books, attends clinics, goes to camps, watches film, and has even gone to Spain to watch the world’s best players. To him, the awards he collects along the way belong as much to his family, friends, and players past and present as they do to him.
“Relationships are everything when coaching,” said Hayford. “I thank my family, assistant coaches, and the players and their families. This is the culmination of the efforts of hundreds of people that share this with me. My name is engraved on the plaque but deep in my heart this gets shared with all of them.”
What keeps Hayford going after 31 years is simply an unmatched passion for sports, paired with a love for teaching his players just how fun sports are. “I don’t coach for awards, I do it because I love being around the teenagers, I love the sport, and the key is to make it as fun as you possibly can. I try to not make it feel like it’s work. Kids want to play because they want to have fun. So many coaches don’t understand that part of it.”