Laura Hayes knew exactly why Cass High athletic director Nicky Moore wanted to talk with her last week, or at least she thought she knew.
Hayes has served the past two seasons as the assistant volleyball coach for the Colonels. But with head coach Alan Potter leaving to take a teaching position in Adairsville, Hayes assumed her days of helping out the program were over.
“To me, when you get a call like that, it’s not always good news,” she said. “… I figured he had found a volleyball coach, because I know a lot of coaches when they come in to take over a program, they have their own assistant in mind that they would like. I figured, I’m done. I’m OK with that. I understand and support programs that when you hire a coach sometimes they have their own assistant coach.
“That’s when he asked me, ‘What do you think about taking over for coach Potter?’”
Needless to say, Hayes was shocked.
After discussing what the promotion would entail, Moore asked Hayes to discuss the opportunity with her family. She spoke with her husband, whom she said was completely supportive, and the following day, she told Moore her decision.
“Yes, I accept,” Hayes texted. “Looking forward to the challenge.”
And what a challenge it will be.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak causing the school building to be shuttered in mid-March, the program has not been able to hold tryouts. It’s going to be a really tight turnaround with Cass’ first match scheduled for Aug. 6.
“Usually we have a team in place by the end of April or beginning of May,” Hayes said. “When summer hits, we are used to our summer conditioning and summer workouts. When school starts back, our first game is the next day. …
“I feel a little behind, but I do have a positive outlook that things will come together. We will be prepared for the season, even though we’ll be a few months off our usual.”
They will start conditioning workouts next week. As of now, Moore believes there will need to be two groups. With a current cap of 25 individuals allowed to be in a single group and 17 returners from last season, the Colonels will likely push past the limit due to incoming freshmen alone.
“We will just have to hold off on our tryouts until we get the go ahead from both Georgia High School [Association] and our Bartow County office,” Moore said. “We will start off with conditioning and workouts. As everyone will, we will take a rest during the dead week. … Hopefully, by then, our guidelines will allow us to have some type of tryouts.”
While the outside conditions surrounding Hayes’ hire make for a precarious scenario, she brings a lot of positives to the table. Her two years spent as Cass JV coach and varsity assistant give her plenty of experience with a vast majority of the roster.
“Most of the returning players know my expectations,” Hayes said. “I think we should have a good year. I don’t think it’s going to be like a 'new person coming in that they don’t know' situation.”
After starting the Summerville Middle School program in Chattooga County, Hayes led the team to an unbeaten debut season. The Cobb County native left to teach at Cass Middle following her third year coaching at SMS.
In 2018, Hayes received an email that Cass High was looking for an assistant volleyball coach. She’s now entering her fourth year teaching sixth-grade math at CMS.
With her connections at the middle school, Moore thinks Hayes will not only be able to bridge the gap during an unprecedented offseason but also help develop the Colonels for years to come.
“I think it’s going to make a huge difference,” Moore said. “She’s been involved with our program, so she’s going to have coached, possibly, even some of our upcoming seniors all the way down through our sophomore class. Also, with her teaching at our middle school, she is going to be somewhat familiar with the girls coming from Cass Middle School. ... She can also continue to talk to the girls at the middle school, since we don’t have a middle school feeder program. She can talk to those girls and encourage them, if they’re interested in volleyball, to get involved in some kind of club team, rec team or travel ball team.
“I think it’s going to pay big dividends for us and our program.”