Jade Hayes can already see it happening. The newly appointed assistant beach volleyball coach at Missouri State, she’s going to come across one of those pesky athletes. You know the type: The one who’s always asking why, the one who wonders if this way wouldn’t be more effective, or that way wouldn’t be a better way to rep out the intended skill.

She laughs because, well, that’s exactly the type of athlete she has been her entire life.

Jade Hayes
Jade Hayes

“(My coaches) probably hated me because I asked a lot of questions,” said Hayes, who lived in California for the previous two and a half years and twice competed in the p1440 Developmental Program. “I’m not a go with the flow kind of girl, I want to know why, and I want to pick their brains, and I want to offer ‘Ok, isn’t there another side? Couldn’t this work too?’

“I’m not your typical athlete that just does it. I want to pick their brains and dialogue with them and it was such a great experience to learn from the best. I hope it helps me when I stumble upon a kid and they’re annoying me because they’re asking so many questions. I’m gonna be like ‘Oh yeah, I deserve this, because that’s me.’”

It worked well enough for her, be it indoor or on the beach. A native of Ozark, Missouri, Hayes was named the Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year in 2010, eventually earning National Player of the Year honors upon leading Ozark High to a State Championship. And she also qualified for the state swimming and track meets.

The University of Missouri called, and it took just two years for Hayes to appear in 65 matches for the Tigers and earn a bachelor’s degree in health sciences and health professions.

But still, even with all that she had accomplished, there was this nagging sense that there was something more in volleyball.

For a good portion of her life, she had been told that she should get in the sand, try out beach volleyball. Problem was, there wasn’t really anywhere to play. There were no club teams, and the college game had yet to sprawl as it since has. She dabbled in it on occasion at the sand courts at the rec center at Missouri, “and I realized that was a desire in my heart,” she said. So she transferred to Central Florida, thinking there would be a beach program before she graduated, but it never happened, so after two years, she went up the coast, to South Carolina, where she competed for a year as a grad transfer.

Yet even with all of these moves, hopping from coast to coast, she knew the plan was to return home. Even when she moved to California, the center of the beach volleyball universe, in May of 2017, she knew the move wasn’t permanent. In fact, she was surprised it lasted more than two years.

“I wanted to get acclimated, I wanted to feel it out, and then I wanted to come back,” she said. “I want to grow the game in Missouri.”

And so she will. Missouri State is just 20 minutes from where she was raised. She’ll have more time with her own family, more time with coach Terri Del Conte, with whom she’s spoken of making this move for years. And she’ll come prepared with a base of beach volleyball knowledge gleaned from some of the best coaches in the world — Marcio Sicoli, Marcos Miranda, Leandro Pinheiro, Barbara Fontana.

All from asking why.

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