PONCA, Nebraska (KCAU) — Players listened when Bob Hayes spoke.
“You’ve got to listen to him, he’s the guy,” Ponca senior Sam Ehlers said.
This is a matter of course. Bob began coaching at Ponca in 1984 as a soccer, basketball assistant and head of the girls’ track team, before heading the boys’ basketball team for 17 years. The program has won 12 regular-season conference titles and its first state title in 2007.
“We’ve been trying to develop a culture,” said Bob Hayes, head coach of the Ponca women’s basketball team. “We’ve succeeded with the kids and built a family culture. The parents embrace it, the kids embrace it, and it evolves.”
In recent years, Bob has spread it to the women’s basketball team. The team finished runners-up in state in 2020 and 2021 but is unquestionably off to a 17-1 start to the season.
“They’re fighting for each other, they’re really fighting for each other,” Hayes said.
“We played a lot of big games, a lot of high-intensity games, and it was a great feeling for him to just come and show us how proud he was of us,” Ponca senior Gracen Evans said. “We don’t just do it for ourselves, we do it for our coaches too.”
Patience is a virtue when you are part of so many teams. Something Bob has learned over the years. But it wasn’t just the longtime coach who was passionate about Ponca, it was the Hayes name itself. His wife, Kristie, kept about 1,700 score books for the Ponca basketball team, missing only four games. Bob’s influence on Ponca athletes and teachers old and new continues to deepen.
“We got our 500th win a few weeks ago and I got a card from my kindergarten teacher and I was like oh my god,” Hayes said. “She’s in her 90s and sent me a card, which touched me.”
“Coach Poulosky is our boys coach and his coach is Hayes,” Evans said. “One of our assistant coaches was coached by Hayes. He gave everything, not just on the basketball court, but in life. So every little thing he taught us was a big thing. “
It’s special to see former players return. But knowing that he played a big part in their lives, Bob was very happy. So what brought him back? Well the answer is simple.
“Kids, I think their energy keeps you young,” Hayes said. “The most important thing I want these kids to know is that I care about them.”
“He did a lot for this school, for this community,” Ehlers said. “I think all the teams that have gone through him have learned a lot. He works on and off the field. From him, I want to be a coach one day.”
At the age of 40, Hayes said retirement has not yet entered the game. Continue to develop new scripts and new courses for future generations of Ponca.
“Some of my peers walk away and say how do you know, they say you’ll know, they say it’s not funny anymore. To this day, it’s still funny,” Hayes said.