Travis Hawkins is Seymour's master motivator

Oct. 14, 2013 @ 02:09 PM

The notebook is never too far from Travis Hawkins’ bed.

The Seymour girls soccer assistant coach keeps it there because inspiration can strike any time, even in the middle of the night.

“Sometimes I’ll be laying in bed and I can’t sleep,” Hawkins said. “I’ll be thinking about, ‘How can we get better?’ It’s hard for me to turn off the coaching gene. I’m always thinking. Like this (loss to Morristown West), I’ll be thinking for four hours.

“When I think, ‘What are we weak at?’ sometimes a drill will come into my head and I put it down. I don’t use all of them but sometimes after I wake up the next morning I look at them and I’m like ‘That really makes sense. That’ll work.’ ”

That’s how the coach thought up having his girls sing nursery rhymes as they run in practice. He’s done the opposite, too, forcing them to practice without talking. Hawkins’ analytical, cerebral style of coaching has made the Eagles, the No. 3 seed in next week’s District 2-AAA tournament, one of the most technically sound squads in the area. 

Seymour opens the tournament against No. 6 Sevier County at Johnson University on Monday. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

“He understands how to make the adjustments,” said Seymour coach Ron Blaydes. “He’s constantly making adjustments on the field. He sees the whole field where I may see what’s in front of me. That comes from playing, being around and doing it for so long.”

Hawkins is the de facto on-field tactician for the Eagles while Blaydes handles a lot of the administrative tasks. The younger assistant, not yet 30, has coached many of Seymour’s players for years at the club level after a playing career at Maryville College.

It’s one thing to have all these advanced, technical ideas — like special formations he’ll plug in for certain opponents — but it’s another to communicate those concepts to teenagers. Hawkins, with a background dealing with different personalities in sales, is pretty good at that, too.

“He focuses one-on-one with people,” said Courtney Dyer. “If he thinks they’re struggling, he’ll pull them aside. He’ll talk to them. He really conforms to us. I don’t deal well with being yelled at, so for me he’ll pull me off.”

Hawkins learned lessons in motivation even before his career in coaching took off. He played in Maryville for legendary coach Pepe Fernandez, who has won more than 570 games as the men’s and women’s coach for the Scots. Fernandez pushed Hawkins’ buttons as a senior, making Hawkins more and more angry.

But his play was phenomenal. Eureka!

“I started thinking back,” Hawkins said. “He knows exactly what I need to hear at the right time. So from then on I’ve started to think about that with the girls. Some of them need to be pushed. They like to be pushed, even if they don’t like to hear it, they play better after they’re pushed.

“Some of the girls, like Courtney ... they want to be pulled aside and told exactly, tactically, what the change needs to be.”

It works for the Eagles. Hawkins is incessantly active on the sideline, sometimes yelling, other times quietly demonstrating adjustments with players near the touch line. His players absorb what he’s saying, even if the drills seem a little eccentric at times.

Senior Sarah Brewer said Hawkins helped the team develop a strategy against district juggernaut Morristown West. Seymour held the Trojans to just three goals, their lowest output in more than a month. 

“He always knows the right thing to say to calm you down,” Brewer said. “He knows how to coach each individual player. ... I just like whenever he gives me advice, because it’s always right.”