WILMINGTON -- Every year, in the late summer, as baseball winds down and fall sports start up, coach Buddy Hayford has a little sit down with the Twin Valley boys soccer team. The purpose of this first meeting, said Hayford, is to have each player set a personal goal for themselves before the season begins.
"Sometimes their goals are a bit lofty," said Hayford, who also serves as the school’s athletic director. "But I tell them, they are always attainable."
As the top-ranked Wildcats prepare to host No. 4 Cabot in a Division 4 semifinal this afternoon at 3 p.m., Hayford believes his team has a good shot of accomplishing almost, if not all, of their goals.
Well, if goals scored in games is any indication of those "lofty" ambitions being met, Buddy’s boys are having a very productive season, in more ways than one.
In a quarters decision Friday, Twin Valley defeated Arlington, 5-0, to earn their 14th win and 13th shutout of 2013. And that’s just one school record the Wildcats have broken.
This is due in part to a formidable senior crew, which includes Keegan Reed, Jeremy Hunt, Dylan Johnson, Cade Nesbitt, Eli Park, Dal Nesbitt, and Colin Lozito.
Lozito broke the record for most assists in a season, along with D. Nesbitt high on that list. Lozito also climbed to the top of the school’s "most goals scored" list, and his name can now be seen just below Scott Hayford, coach Hayford’s son, and current top-record holder.
"I was fortunate enough to have both of my kids play soccer here at Twin Valley," said Hayford. "The major sacrifice any coach has to make is time away from his family."
Eli Park, D. Nesbitt, and the team’s Nick Nilsen also hold positions as top-scorers at their school.
Hayford said his family offers plenty of support, especially his wife Cindy. "Never once over the years has Cindy ever had an issue with the time away I have to spend."
He’s had plenty of mentors in his 31 years of coaching too, including legendary coach John Werner of Castleton fame, and coach Dan Shepardson of Norwich University.
He has also picked up a few tricks through the years from the pros. Hayford watches a lot of soccer on TV, and said he prefers European soccer over the U.S. league.
"It’s head and shoulders above MLS," he said. "Most of what I do with the team comes from what I learned from the Spanish National team."
When Hayford made the trip to Spain earlier in his coaching career, he got to sit in on a team practice with the world-renowned Club Atletico Madrid.
But Hayford said the majority of his knowledge comes from attending local team practices and games, at places like Williams College in Williamstown, Ma., where his son would attend soccer camp.
Hayford’s extended team family beyond his players include Jesse "J-Bob" Trudeau and Ryan Holton, the Wildcats’ assistant coaches, who also played for Hayford when they attended Twin Valley. Holton is also the JV boys soccer coach, and Trudeau works with the varsity team’s goalkeepers. Also just coming on board is TJ McCarty, who heads up fitness.
"They’re invaluable," said Hayford. "The boys enjoy having them around. They do so much for the team. You practice everyday, you’re on the road, attending camps. It’s something all of us coaches go through."
With a cool head on game day, coach Hayford always displays a calm style of coaching not often seen in today’s high-intensity sports world.
And he wants his players to remember one important rule.
"The game is for the players, not us coaches," said Hayford. "It’s all about fun, and it has never been difficult for me to keep it fun."
Hayford said he has never heard so much praise for a team than for the one he is now coaching, and to him, it’s not all about the wins he’s racked up through the years, but rather the relationships he has, and continues to create, as coach.
"How can you not be proud of the wins?" asked Hayford, who has led his teams to six state championships. "What I value most is the relationship I’ve had with my players dating back to 1981, and I hope I have imparted some important life lessons on them along the way."
David Aquino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.