Regional play for the 2022 DII softball championship begins today. When the South Central regional tournament opens, head coach Larry Hays will lead Colorado Christian to battle on the heels of the Cougars first-ever RMAC championship.
However, that is only a tiny piece to the relative craziness that could unfold in the South Central Region. You see, Larry Hays may wind up coaching against his son Daren Hays at Lubbock Christian, a program that Larry himself led to the NAIA softball tournament in 2010. Larry and his son Daren may find themselves coaching against another Hays in this very same region, Hunter, an assistant at Oklahoma Christian. Hunter Hays is Larry’s grandson and Daren’s nephew.
Got all that? Good, because there’s more. Hunter is the son of Shanon Hays (Daren’s brother and Larry’s other son) who now coaches at Division I Grand Canyon and was named WAC coach of the year Tuesday. However, before he did that, he made coaching stops at Lubbock Christian, Oklahoma Christian and Colorado Christian. That’s right, he coached at the same three schools where his family is coaching at, and possibly going head-to-head, this weekend. Luckily for Shanon, he is tied up as the No. 1 seed in the WAC tournament and won't have to decide which game to attend, which would make for interesting Thanksgiving dinner conversation at the least.
That’s a lot to digest. So, let’s add some more to the Hays’ family reunion this weekend. Hunter Hays coaches his sister Hampton at Oklahoma Christian.
(Pictured: Daren Hays — Lubbock Christian)
”It’s a family deal,” Daren Hays said. “When we get together at family meals that’s what we talk about — players and games. I grew up in it, and Hunter and Hampton perpetuate it.”
”We are a huge sports family, so during holidays that tends to dominate most of the conversation,” Hunter Hays said. “Now that I’m in softball, I feel like that is even amplified, but it’s awesome to find a common interest with family and that is something that we can all share together.”
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Larry is the elder statesmen of the Hays' coaching tree. He led the way, coaching a variety of sports. He’s coached baseball at Lubbock Christian and spent 22 years at the helm of Texas Tech baseball. Of the 16 40-win seasons in Red Raiders history, Larry Hays coached 11 of them. Now, not only does he have a successful softball career in his portfolio, you can also add both women’s and men’s basketball to his resume, having coached both at LCU.
(Pictured: Larry Hays—Colorado Christian)
|Who's who in the Hays family|
|Larry Hays — Colorado Christian head coach|
|Daren Hays — son of Larry, head coach at Lubbock Christian|
|Hunter Hays — Son of Shanon Hays (Daren’s brother), Larry’s grandson, Daren’s nephew and assistant coach at Oklahoma Christian|
|Shanon Hays — Son of Larry, former DII coach who is now at DI Grand Canyon and is the WAC coach of the year|
|Hampton Hays — Hunter’s sister, sophomore at Oklahoma Christian|
”I always coached for the fun of it,” Larry Hays said. “My 20 years at Lubbock Christian University and my 22 years at Texas Tech coaching baseball were a blast. Now coaching softball at CCU is icing on the cake. It’s even more fun seeing my two sons and grandson Hunter having the privilege to get to coach at the college level. We have been blessed.”
For Daren, the table was set. Like his father he coached baseball at Lubbock Christian, becoming the first 300-game winner in program history, before spending a decade as a coach and Director of Baseball Operations at Texas Tech. And now, it’s the Chaps softball team. “I was still in baseball at Tech at that time,” Daren Hays said reflecting on the switch to softball. “I enjoyed being around it. We always loved fastpitch. My dad played professionally (Larry was a pitcher). I played ASA for a long time after baseball was over. So, we’ve always been part of the fastpitch game. And then my brother got us into the coaching.”
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With the success of Larry, Daren and Shanon, by the time Hunter could walk, he had to have known his fate. “Growing up in the family I did, it was almost inevitable that I would end up being associated in sports in some facet,” he said. “Baseball was my first love and after my collegiate career I had an opportunity to become a graduate assistant baseball coach at Oklahoma Christian. I had my sights set on remaining in baseball, but after my dad [Shanon] took the head softball position at Grand Canyon, an opportunity arose for me to switch over to softball to help under our current head coach, Shalee Rodriguez. Now that I’m in softball, I’m hooked, and I would never go back to baseball.“
(Pictured: Hunter Hays — Oklahoma Christian)
There is no denying that this family loves the game of softball. This weekend, they will be put to the test. Will they still love the game of softball when having to face each other with the season on the line?
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”It’s a tough deal,” Daren said. “It’s a weird feeling. When I was a baseball coach here [Lubbock Christian], we went over and played [his father’s] Texas Tech team. They were ranked highly and we beat them. But I couldn’t feel that great about it. Then the next year they beat us, and I really felt bad about it. I would rather not play them, but if we do, both of us are trying to win.”
”I think there will always be some sort of friendly competition that will go on amongst our family, regardless of what it is,” Hunter said. “We are all extremely competitive, but at the end of the day we know that softball is just a game and that there are more important things to life, like family. That being said, on the field I’d love nothing more than to win at every opportunity regardless of the opponent. Family bragging rights would be a plus as well.”
”Because we are family, we respect what each of us are trying to do with our teams,” Larry Hays said. “ We will do everything possible to win for our players and our university.”
(Pictured: Hampton Hays — Oklahoma Christian)
Hampton Hays, who is a sophomore in a utility role for the Eagles, has plenty left in her playing days, but one can only imagine that a future in coaching is in the cards. But first, there’s a matter of the South Central region all four will be attending to this weekend.
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As the youngest in the coaching tree, Hunter has learned from being around some of the best at their trade. But that doesn't mean he still doesn't want to win.
”It’s been a tremendous blessing to have great coaches, but even better men to look up to,” Hunter Hays said. “As a young coach I can only hope to obtain some of the milestones that they achieved over the years. However, I more so want to emulate the character that they have shown both on and off the field, regardless of their successes.
“As far as keeping up with all of the programs within the family, I’m constantly checking scores and hoping for wins for everyone. I love seeing all the success that we have all had throughout this season, but I would love to come out on top of the region.”