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Boys tennis: Gary Hayes earning state awards

No matter where longtime Northwest Indiana coach Gary Hayes goes, the approach doesn’t change.

“I’m 66 years old — I walk away if I don’t have the intensity,” Hayes said. “Don’t go there if you don’t want to bring it every day.”

It’s that direct stance that has led to many successes for Hayes in both high school and college coaching circles. After many decades of involvement with high school tennis, this past season’s efforts at the helm of the Portage boys’ team brought Hayes into new territory. For the first time, Hayes was distinguished as the Division 1 coach of the year and the 2013 Ed Yarbrough award winner.

The latter is given annually to an Indiana coach who has displayed a longtime commitment to developing a tennis program in the community. The late Yarbrough, who coached Jasper, is the all-time Indiana high school tennis victory leader.

“For someone from Northwest Indiana, going down south, I felt very honored to get that award,” said Hayes, who is also the boys basketball coach at Griffith. Hayes likely will step away from coaching tennis this offseason.

At each of his stops, he was a proven winner. Through the 2012 campaign, Hayes spent 32 seasons on local courts (including 30 winning years). And amid the obstacles of moving through a few different schools — due to his opportunities to coach basketball and taking on boys who in many cases that had never played before — he compiled a 406-162 record. He coached for 17 years at Lake Station, six years at Wirt, four years at West Side, one year at Griffith, and four years at Portage.

He transformed Portage from a team at the bottom of the barrel in the Duneland Conference into one of the most viable threats in the area. The Indians posted multiple upsets in their 16-3 record this fall. No matter what talent he was dealt, Hayes built a culture of athletes that were willing to work. His 1982-84 Lake Station Boys’ squad stands out, going 49-7 and winning the Highland Doubles Tourney.

“Some years you don’t have talent and you don’t have success in winning,” he said. “I don’t care if they’re winning or losing, as long as they’re playing hard.”



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