Keeter Hayes has spent his career working in the shadows of high school sidelines.
It just so happens doing that is getting the North Myrtle Beach athletic trainer even more time in the spotlight.
On Sunday, the 57-year-old Hayes will be officially honored as the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association’s Athletic Trainer of the Year at the organization’s annual banquet in Greenville. It will add to a lengthy resume that already includes five appearances as the head trainer in various all-star events, a long stint as the chairman of the South Carolina Athletic Trainers committee and a North Carolina High School Athletic Trainer of the Year award he won in 1986.
“It’s pretty special,” Hayes said. “I started out in North Carolina. It was a surprise then, and it was a surprise this time, too. The thing that makes this more special is the athletic trainers association here is a really good group of people.”
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He would know. When he returns from this weekend’s ceremony, he’ll be starting his 16th year at North Myrtle Beach, 23rd in the area and 36th overall in teaching and training.
Hayes, who graduated from Pembroke State University (now UNC-Pembroke) in 1977, went on to earn certification in the Teacher Athletic Training Program and Biology from North Carolina State. He then earned a master’s in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy in 2005.
Hayes moved to the area in 1990, when he was named the head trainer at Socastee. After seven years there, he joined the staff at North Myrtle Beach.
Immediately, he made a major impact. The school estimates approximately 3,000 annual student-athlete trips to the athletic training room. In total, Hayes is responsible for keeping the athletes in 15 different sports and several levels healthy.
In doing that, the school decided to name its top award for senior boys after Hayes.
“My dad was an athletic trainer in [New Jersey], and having watched him I truly know what Keeter does for our athletes and athletic teams,” North Myrtle Beach Athletics Director Joe Quigley said when he found out Hayes had won the award. “As far as I am concerned he is the best in South Carolina if not in all of the United States. He spends almost as many hours at NMBHS as I do. We are blessed to have him.”
The respect for Hayes, though, has by no means been insulated to his own school.
Longtime friend and Myrtle Beach High trainer Jim Berry – who won the award himself in 2000 – went out of his way in recent weeks to make sure Hayes was recognized for his accomplishments. Much of that had to do with their relationship before, during and after a light blip during last fall in which Berry was temporarily suspended. Hayes came out publicly in support of Berry.
“Keeter was right there by my side, being a great friend and colleague,” Berry said. “We’ve been close like that, always supported each other through thick and thin.
“The cool thing is, the week that North Myrtle Beach plays Myrtle Beach, we want to kick each other’s tail, but at the end, we shake hands. It doesn’t have any impact on our friendship.”
Oddly enough, the fact that Hayes ended up at North Myrtle Beach was little more than a stroke of convenience.
During the last five years he was at Socastee, he and his wife were living in Cherry Grove. He was driving 90 minutes each day up and down U.S. 17.
When the Chiefs’ job became available, he jumped at the opportunity.
“That was kind of a no-brainer when it opened up,” Hayes said. “Now, it’s funny; I’ll have been at North Myrtle Beach longer than anywhere else I’ve been.
“I never knew it would be the last stop. … I’m pretty sure it’s my last stop now. Unless something just incredible comes up, I don’t see myself leaving.”
Hayes will be one of two area coaches recognized on Sunday. Conway’s Stacey Baynham will also be officially named the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association’s Cheer coach of the year.
The banquet will kick off the organization’s four-day all-sports clinic at the TD Convention Center.