Coaching them up
Hayes teaches lessons through Little League
OTHO — As a Little League coach and organizer, Justin Hayes tries to teach his players lessons they can carry with them the rest of their lives.
As a volunteer firefighter, Hayes trains to protect members of his community.
It’s all part of his efforts to make Otho a better place to live.
“I want to give back to the community as much as possible,” said Hayes, who grew up in Otho. The 37-year-old lives in Coalville.
He started coaching a 14 and under team when he was 20.
Hayes took a break from coaching in his later 20s. He returned after his son, Drake, 11, started playing about seven years ago.
“He plays on our team we have now, but he also plays for the Fort Dodge Legends,” Hayes said. “He comes to a few practices and maybe a few games. He’s mainly involved in the Legends.”
So Hayes has focused on developing the skills of other youngsters.
“Since my son doesn’t really play on our Otho team, it’s given me an opportunity to work closely with other kids,” he said. “We start practicing in April if the weather is nice, play games in June and finish in July.”
While Hayes said that’s not necessarily a lot of time, it’s enough time to make an impact.
“That’s not a lot of time, but for me I like seeing the kids develop individually and also develop fundamentally in baseball in a short amount of time,” he said. “To me it’s nice to be able to teach kids how to deal with defeat or struggling at something and working through it and overcoming something that may be difficult for them — improving as a person or a kid. And improving their baseball skills as well.”
The Otho Little League has three tee-ball teams, a first- and second-grade team, a third- and fourth-grade team and a fifth- and sixth-grade team. About 100 children signed up for the Otho Little League this year.
Although Hayes has led the Little League organization for the past four years, he said he does it with a lot of help from others.
In addition to the organizers, coaches, umpires, concession stand workers, grounds crew and people who help fundraise, all have an impact on making the league a success.
“In these communities we help each other out,” Hayes said. “People donate their time in a bunch of different ways to keep these communities moving forward.”
Hayes, a 2002 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate, played ball when he was younger. His father coached Little League. Hayes played in a teener league where games were played at Patterson Field. He later played for the Dodgers at Senior High.
Coaching a game where players fail more than they succeed can build character.
“For me it would be that you always will have an opportunity to succeed if you keep trying,” Hayes said. “In baseball they consider a good hitter, a hitter that bats .300, which is only getting a hit three times for every 10 at bats. It may seem like you’re not doing that well, but that’s a pretty good reference to batting average as opposed to other averages in sports.
“If you make a bad play or you strike out, kind of like in life, if you keep putting your nose to the grindstone and work hard, you will overcome defeat. Teaching kids that stuff at a young age will help carry them through other aspects of their life as they grow up.”
When not involved in Little League, Hayes devotes his time to the Otho Volunteer Fire Department. He’s been volunteering for the past 10 years.
“It’s been great,” Hayes said. “We have amazing leaders — our chiefs and lieutenants.
“Training is always fun. There’s good times and bad times, but it’s all for a good cause.”
Hayes’ full-time job is at Elanco Animal Health in maintenance.
Hayes said communities like Otho are focused on family, which is something he values.
“I feel like Fort Dodge and Otho are close-knit family driven citizens,” he said. “When times are tough, people team up together and help each other out as much as they can.”