Hayes sisters focus on faith, game

Sophomore Jade Hayes and her older sister, Aleah, said being the daughters of a preacher and coach wasn’t always easy.

August 28, 2012

Sophomore libero Jade Hayes serves against Nicholls State at the Tiger Invitational on Saturday at the Hearnes Center. Her family was there to watch the tournament. SARAH BELL/PHOTOGRAPHER
Sophomore libero Jade Hayes serves against Nicholls State at the Tiger Invitational on Saturday at the Hearnes Center. Her family was there to watch the tournament. SARAH BELL/PHOTOGRAPHER

Jade Hayes had every opportunity to say she was the best volleyball player in her family. Better than her mother Joanna, a longtime high school gym teacher and club volleyball coach in Missouri. Better than her father Bruce, an athletic do-it-all athlete and preacher. Even better than her sister Aleah, a senior setter at Columbia College.

But given ample chances, the sophomore libero always opted for another term to discern her talents from those of her sister, to whom comparisons are often made: different.

“We are just different,” Jade Hayes said. “She’s just better when it comes to smarts and (volleyball IQ), and I’m taller. So I’m able to do front row stuff where she is more back row. That’s why we are really hoping that in God’s plans we are able to play beach together sometime.”

And by sometime, the Hayes sisters mean 2016, at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“They compliment each other very much,” Bruce Hayes said. “They think a lot, and they know what one another is thinking on the court. And Aleah has a volleyball IQ that’s off the charts.”

Before transferring to Columbia College prior to her senior year, Aleah Hayes, 21, played at Texas Tech and played club beach volleyball. The sisters spent more time together than usual this summer after the older sister moved to Columbia. The two watched Olympic volleyball together and, after watching the all-U.S. beach final, said they dreamed of playing at the next games.

“I know the kind of player she is, and she knows the kind of player I am,” Aleah Hayes said. “And everyone has always told us we work well together like we’re a Misty May/Kerri Walsh type. I’m shorter with brown hair, and she’s taller and has front-row talent. I think it’s something the Lord has put in our hearts, and it’s something that we’d want to do to play together as sisters.”

The daughters of a Christian preacher, hearing the Hayes sisters reference their faith is by no means unusual. A self-proclaimed Tim Tebow fan (“He might not have the talent, but he’s living for the Lord,” she said), Jade Hayes is quick to mention her beliefs in any setting, a trait that comes from growing up in and around the church.

Yet life as the preacher’s and coach’s daughter was not a care-free life to live as a child. Though Jade Hayes said she never saw much scrutiny in school or around the community, Aleah Hayes said she encountered the lion’s share.

“We lived in a glass house,” Aleah Hayes said. “In school we were picked on as the teacher’s kids. In volleyball at practice we were looked at as the coach’s kids. People made sure we did every rep and drill. And in the community we were looked at as the preacher’s kids, so eyes were always on us. It didn’t change who we were because we remained the same people our parents raised us to be, but it was something we were conscious of.”

The attention, she said, was never a weight on their lives, but instead a motivation for making an impact in others’ lives.

“I don’t think it was ever a burden for us,” Aleah Hayes said. “If anything, it was something that made us live our life for the Lord. It was more of a reminder that we could make a difference because people were watching us all the time.”

Jade Hayes seems to have taken that to heart as the go-to girl for inspiration on MU’s volleyball team. Aside from serving as the team’s emerging libero starter, she sees her next role as being the positive guiding hand.

“Volleyball is all about communication, and when we get quiet is when we get down,” she said. “Just being encouraging and being there to always pick your teammates up. And even if you’re not always up, showing it.”



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