Sara Hayes featured in Full Count Softball
From Head Coach to Power Line Consulting (11/9)
Sara Hayes had achieved a level of success as a player and coach that many would envy.
When she graduated from Notre Dame in 1995, she was the career leader in 10 offensive categories and held eight single-season school records. She also led the Irish to a pair of NCAA Regional tournament appearances.
She then entered the coaching ranks where she first became an assistant at DePaul for five years, helping the school make its first two Women’s College World Series appearances.
Sara was part of the Blue Demons staff that in 1999 was named the NFCA National Softball Coaching Staff of the Year and would soon be offered head coaching opportunities. She ran the softball program at Northern Illinois for two years and then took over at Indiana, where she turned around a Hoosier program that in 2004 had its first winning season in 12 years.
The California native longed to return to her West Coast roots, however, and eventually would come back home to coach at Pacific and San Diego State where she oversaw hitting and catching and was heavily involved in recruiting.
However, Sara felt that her niche wasn’t in being a coach, but rather in helping young athletes achieve their dreams by connecting them with the right college.
“At San Diego State I felt something was missing,” she admits, “and decided to do something different.”
She says that in her last year of coaching for the Aztecs she would get 90 to 95 emails a day from kids and parents contacting her to express an interest in being recruited by SDSU, but not really being effective in their approach.
“It would be normal to get 500 kids in a month reaching out to me when I would have a list of just 20 or so kids I would be recruiting,” she explains. “I wasn’t interested in getting all this crazy amounts of e-mails, but I would take the time to respond and tell them why I wouldn’t or couldn’t recruit them.”
“I tried to give feedback best I could, but realized after watching film that many were misguided as to what level of play they realistically could succeed at. Still, I knew that there would be a lot of coaches who would be excited to get their emails and knew there was a better way to connect a player with the right fit in a college program.”
Sara saw that the problem was two-fold: too many athletes were not only being effective in targeting the right level of softball programs plus they also were not being trained properly to play at the next level.
“When we would have our initial meetings with the players and their parents,” the long-time coach remembers, “the athletes would have 10-20 schools they would be interested in—ones they’d see on TV or universities their grandparents went to—but they wouldn’t know the vast amount of schools available to them where they could have a great softball experience.”
“And as for their playing abilities, I felt like something was missing in the training of the girls. We would get kids with great resumes who played on exceptional teams and had good backgrounds, but couldn’t throw effectively or hitting efficiently.”
Taking a leap of faith, Sara quit her coaching job and admits, “I left before I knew what I really wanted to do. I had to start at ground zero and started my company, Power Line Consulting, with a focus on recruiting and we started with about 20 to 30 kids.”
“I decided I wanted to empower athletes to find what they’re looking for and dig into their minds and hearts,” she continues, “so they can figure out the softball side of it and then give them the tools needed so they can connect with coaches who are interested in them.”
The former Notre Dame star catcher and outfielder also brought in some talented former softball players and coaches to add to her staff.
- Jenn Salling, who was a 1st Team All-American at Washington and member of the 2009 national championship team who brought in a strong knowledge of hitting, slapping and infield defense,
- Michelle Hawkins, a former coach of 13 years at schools like Penn State, Michigan State and Chicago with a strong expertise in the recruiting process,
- Megan Denio, a former standout player at Long Beach State who has a vast knowledge of areas such as slapping, hitting and outfield skills,
- Becca Heteniak, who was a two-time All-American pitcher and hitter at DePaul after being trained and mentored byDon Sarno of Yorba Linda, and brings a strong understanding of foundational techniques to both pitchers and hitters.
Sara decided to concentrate her business in three areas and combine them in one overall package to maximize the opportunity for a player to make it to the next level: the areas include college-bound services, skill development and athletic performance training.
Here are her thoughts on each:
- College-bound services
“We work as a team to do evaluations in hitting, defense, strength and conditioning and live game evaluations using four coaches where we come together to discuss what level the athlete can play at, her personality and outstanding things we can market and then advise her on making a target list, how to make calls and e-mails to the coaches and then connect the college coaches with the athlete.”
- Skill development
“Our staff trains softball athletes in hitting, slapping, pitching, catching, infield and outfield defense. Every six months we do an evaluation using Right View Pro to study their hitting as we videotape a lot and add goal setting to that.”
- Athletic Performance training
“We have two coaches who have college level experience and one of them worked with the Navy Seals to train female athletes on how to succeed at all levels.”
In 2008, Sara and Power Line opened up a 4,300 square foot softball facility in San Diego and this fall built out a 2,000 square foot Sports Performance Center.
Her staff has grown to seven people who oversee more than 200 athletes coming in each week to use one or more of the services provided. In addition, many of those coming through Power Line “do internships and participate in give-back camps working with young rec girls to teach them how to play and do skill development.”
On the wall of the new facility are the words “Dream Train Succeed” and to the Power Line Consulting team that means providing the synergy of all they have to offer to play softball beyond high school and club ball.
Sara points out that “we’re not a recruiting service or just a workout gym. We cover the entire process of making to the next level and in that way we’re set apart pretty well.”
The prices are surprisingly reasonable. A group workout can be as low as $10 per session and for a team of five or more athletes runs $199 per person for a six month contract which includes four evaluations, workshops, personal advisement, a skills video and college marketing.
The results show that the program is working: 60 athletes have come through Power Line and are playing at the collegiate level.
“I thought coaching would be the career I’d always be in,” Sara laughs as she looks back on her mid-career change. “But there’s nothing better than helping an athlete achieve her dream of going to a school where she can get a great education and playing the sport she loves.”
article from Full Count Softball