Aspiring local writer, Tessa Sayers, recently interviewed DuBois Jaycees member, Neil Hanes for her blog entitled, "Why You Play." Her blog shares the personal stories of local athletes who used their experience in sports to catapult them into their successful career paths. Sayers graduated from Central Catholic High School, and is currently going to be a Sophomore at Temple University this upcoming fall.
We thank her for sharing her talents with us, and look forward to seeing what she does with her future writing aspirations.
As he was standing on the sidelines watching the Penn State DuBois Basketball team take on Penn State Greater Allegheny, Neil Hanes realized he made the right decision by stepping away from his job in the insurance industry and stepping into his new role of a personal development coach.
He had been involved with Penn State Basketball for nine years, two as a player, four as a volunteer coach and three as assistant head coach. But this was the first year he was able to take his life coaching to the court. And that was the first game he saw it start to pay off.
“There was one game where things weren’t going well, attitudes were flaring, but then we got to a point where things started clicking,” Hanes said. “The team started coming together and they saw they wouldn’t have much of a season if they didn’t start coming together and playing together. No one cared how much time they were getting, it was all for the greater good.”
When he was younger, Hanes dreamed of being a professional basketball player, but his size made that almost impossible for him. Throughout the years, he went from a starter in middle school to a bench player in high school, but he was able to grow with those changes and fit into his new roles.
At first it was hard for him to adapt, but according to Hanes as soon as he changed his mentality from bench player to supporter and coach, things started to fall in place for him.
But anytime I’m able to help an athlete or help a team whenever I’m making a difference in people’s lives, that’s what matters the most.
“As a player I felt like I wasn’t contributing enough until I started getting into the coaching mindset,” Hanes said. “I would love to coach the rest of my life, but I don’t know what life has planned, so I’m just going to do it until I can.”
For a while, Hanes was fine with only coaching on the hardwood, but as time went on he started to lose interest in his office job and wanted to take a new direction. It was after he met 8-time entrepreneur, best selling author, and local executive and personal development coach PeggyCaruso that Hanes decided to take what he learned as a bench player and assistant coach along with years of people coming to him for help and advice and make a career out of it.
He learned that Caruso had a spot she needed help with and he would be the perfect guy for the job, helping young athletes and teams build their confidence and overcome obstacles and challenges that they face on a daily basis.
“Peggy knew that I had a passion for coaching basketball, so she sat me down and explained to me her need and her business and I just immediately went and got on board," Hanes said.
While he was in the process of becoming a certified life coach, Hanes took another step towards his new career and shadowed Maureen Horan, the sports psychologist for the Penn State DuBois baseball team.
Horan, knowing the new direction Hanes was taking, asked if he would be interested in helping her. Under her direction he was able to perform different exercises with the team, including visualization exercises and an exercise that he calls the “hot seat.” Each player will get a turn in the seat and their teammates will go around and say one thing and they do well and one thing they need to work on.
“That single exercise is where you see the most dramatic change in the team as a whole,” Hanes said.
He also helps improve performance by encouraging athletes to find their strengths and find their own ways to help their team. Hanes also helps young athletes by working on fixing every problem they are facing and by making them push themselves to reach their goals.
With this help, the Penn State baseball team made back-to-back appearances in the United State Collegiate Athletic Association Small College World Series in 2016 and 2017.
Now, three years later, and with a life coach certification and experience with sports psychology, Hanes is taking what he learned to his own team.
“We would have monthly sessions and we went from basically having a bunch of shy kids who were from out of state and who were having trouble preforming and fitting in to a team,” Hanes said. “I was happy with the outcome we got as far as everyone coming together for the greater good and leaving their selfish ways and egos behind and knowing that it’s all about the team from here on out.”
It doesn’t matter if you are playing three minutes or thirty minutes, at the end of the season you still get to climb the ladder and cut the net down. For Hanes, his ability to bring teams together and help struggling athletes goes deeper than the training he has went through. It goes the whole way back to his high school and college playing days.
He went through the struggles that the players are currently going through and he can sympathize with them honestly, having been in their footsteps before. But he can also provide insight and hope for their future.
“It doesn’t matter if you are playing three minutes or thirty minutes, at the end of the season you still get to climb the ladder and cut the net down,” Hanes said. “I always say that because that is what I got to do. My junior year we won the campus’ first conference championship and then we got to play in the national championship and no one can take that away from me.”
At the end of the day that is the reason Hanes changed careers, volunteered his time and has spent countless hours coaching, he wants to see his athletes grow and he wants his story to inspire others, not only in basketball, but also in life.
“The fact that I’m blessed to be able to coach both on and off the court is an accomplishment and an honor,” Hanes said. “But anytime I’m able to help an athlete or help a team whenever I’m making a difference in people’s lives, that’s what matters the most.”
For more personal stories on local athletes, check out Tessa's blog: http://whyouplay.blogspot.com/.