Less than 10 years ago, Sam Haynes, managing director of The 10 Academy in Irvine, California, found himself struggling with his place in life.
New to this country, Haynes bounced around multiple colleges in an attempt to find his proper footing as a soccer player.
Fast forward to 2018, and Haynes has definitely found that footing.
Haynes’ work at The 10 Academy, a nationally recognized soccer training program which conducts technical development training sessions with players, has created a significant buzz in the soccer community.
As a professional technical development trainer, Haynes has crafted a program that has attracted more than 100 players in under two years. He trains and mentors a slew of youth soccer players across the country, focusing on mastering the sport’s basics while also fostering a positive relationship between player and trainer.
“I would say the biggest thing is caring about the players, and creating a bond with them that goes beyond the pitch,” Haynes said. “I really do care about them, as a human being and as a player. I’m very passionate about giving players something that I didn’t have growing up, that’s how I know I am giving tremendous value to them, because I wish I had myself in my life when I was a young player.”
Haynes also uses social media to connect with and inspire legions of athletes with his positive mindset, having connected with as many as 70,000 youths from across the world.
“Through social media, people contact me from all over the world, even places like Africa and Venezuela. They are inspired by my page and say ‘thank you so much for what you do, you inspire me to become a better player and person,’” Haynes said. “That’s the beauty of social media, if used in the right way. I’ve been able to make a lot of relationships with people. I find that very humbling and rewarding.”
At The 10 Academy, Haynes embraces each player’s individuality. Before any training program starts, he meets with the athlete and their family to understand their motivations and personality. He then crafts a training routine tailored specifically to that player. Haynes’ innovative training techniques were recently honored when he was voted 2018 Innovator of the Year by Hudl, a software company that helps athletes and coaches review game footage and improve team play.
“I’m really not one who loves to be in the spotlight, those that know me personally will tell you. I like to just go about my work quietly and efficiently. I never expected to win this award. It is, of course, a really proud achievement, because I only started (The 10 Academy) a couple of years ago,” Haynes said. “I don’t have affiliations with any big club or company so it’s nice to get some credit for what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working very hard to try to influence the youth of America in a positive way. That’s what it comes down to really, my true focus, which is player development, and I think that speaks out louder than any award or accolade.”
Haynes credits his amiable demeanor with not only helping him attain his current success, but also helping him navigate a rocky trajectory that saw him arrive to the United States in 2009 from his native country of England with no family members in tow.
“The colleges I went to weren’t the most prestigious in the country,” Haynes said. “I didn’t go to the biggest schools with the best coaches or programs and I didn’t have a mentor growing up or in college. You can find your way anywhere. I am living proof. If you’ve got the drive, passion, vision and believe in yourself, you can get anywhere with what you’re doing. Just believe and work hard.
“Belief may be the biggest thing, and something that I just did not have when I was playing. I didn’t believe in myself, and I felt that translated into other people not believing in me either. This is something it took me years to change, and even today, there are days where it is tough. But I do believe wholeheartedly that through this academy, I am doing what I was born to do.”
Haynes first arrived at Eastern New Mexico University at the age of 18 on a soccer scholarship, but after an unsatisfying year, he moved on to Western Texas College.
“I was 18 in New Mexico, and I had never been to America before,” Haynes said. “I was thrown in at the deep end. When I first came to the U.S., the NCAA didn’t clear me to play until halfway into the season. It was one of the toughest things I have had to go through, flying halfway across the world to play soccer and not being allowed to play. I was then released at the end of the season and had my scholarship taken away. I thought about giving up. But, looking back, it made me who I am today and I am glad I went through those tough times at such a young age.”
Having transferred to Western Texas College (NJCAA) as a sophomore, Haynes had a breakout year, notching 22 goals and adding 18 assists, etching his name statistically in the Top 15 players in the country.
“Even though my second year was also by no means easy, I proved to myself that I could do things on the pitch that I was doubting the year before, the things I didn’t have the chance to show in New Mexico,” Haynes said.
After his stellar year on the pitch at WTC, Haynes then moved to Brewton-Parker College (NAIA) in Georgia. “I had to do everything myself, I created my own highlight tape, I contacted all of the coaches myself, nobody was helping me to find a school for my final two years of eligiblity.”
“I had to restart every time I switched locations,” Haynes said. “I had to integrate to new people, new cultures and in to new teams. I didn’t connect with any of the coaches when I was playing. I was a petulant youngster, a child. But I didn’t feel like they gave me the support I needed. I was the type of player that needed an arm around him, but I had a very hard shell that no coach was able to get through. I take full accountability for not reaching my full potential as a player, but I do wish I had that mentor, that figure in my life that could straighten me out.”
Haynes graduated in 2013 and began searching for his next avenue, which led him to coaching soccer in Southern California.
“I left college and decided to try my luck as a commuter coach in California, working in soccer camps in CA. I had a job offer in Atlanta, but I was young and I wanted to explore more of the USA. It was never going to be easy. But I packed a bag and started all over again, again.” Haynes said. “I came to California with one bag. I had nothing and nobody, but managed to make it work eventually.”
Haynes’ interactive coaching style quickly turned heads among players and their parents.
“When I graduated, I never thought I would be a coach or trainer,” Haynes said. “But I learned a lot from the coaches I had. I molded together all the things I learned from them and understood how every different player needs a different method of coaching. While working for the camp company a parent came up to me and said ‘you are great with kids. You build an amazing bond with them, do you do individual training?’ After that, I started doing personal training. It really did fall in to my lap.”
In 2016, Haynes decided to expand on his personal training duties by opening a Training Academy, and in early 2017, he made The 10 Academy a reality.
“I already had a player base and I was training, I just hadn’t branded it,” Haynes said. “It really just took focusing. Peeling back the layers of what I do and being able to set programs and actually put a name to what I was doing. What is my focus? What is my mission? What do I want to accomplish?”
Haynes took social media seminars to learn how to broaden his brand. An undertaking which he has proven to be wildly proficient, as evidenced by The 10 Academy’s Instagram pages, which have garnered more than 70,000 followers.
“I thought, ‘why don’t I brand what I am doing and build something great?’” Haynes said. “I learned how to market myself through social media while staying true to my ultimate goals of player development. Word of mouth helped and the academy grew relatively quickly.”
Today, The 10 Academy is thriving and Haynes has ambitious plans for its future.
“I never expected the academy to get to where it is,” Haynes said. “But I do feel that I’m only at the tip of the iceberg. I feel like I have achieved five percent of what I want to accomplish. It’s still very early. My ultimate goals are to hold Development Clinics in different states and even in different countries. I want to work with the U.S. Youth National Teams as a technical trainer. I want to become the best trainer I possibly can. I also want to open a performance center in Orange County and build a brand big enough where I can have an even bigger impact on those that matter to me, the players.”
“At the end of the day, if you don’t love what you do, you’re only going to last a certain amount of time in the industry,” Haynes added. “I’m very fortunate to love what I do. I was able to build a tremendous brand of training in Orange County. Now, I’m striving for it to be the best in the country and one day, the world.”