Staff photo / Jim Higgins coaches the Soddy-Daisy wrestling team during a home match in December 2016. Higgins, who stepped down as wrestling coach in 2018 but then took over the school's baseball program, formed a special bond with Hayden Maynor, second from left. Maynor, who graduated this spring, was a standout for the Trojans in baseball, football and wrestling — the same three sports that Higgins, a 1998 Soddy-Daisy graduate, played during high school.

While big wins will always be remembered, one of coaching's greatest rewards is found in the relationships built with players.

A unique bond inside and outside the athletic arena has been shared between Soddy-Daisy baseball coach Jim Higgins and Hayden Maynor, who graduated this spring after standing out for the Trojans in three sports: baseball, football and wrestling.

The two have always been there for each other whenever called upon, whether to deliver a decisive pin on the wrestling mat or to help track down a big buck.

"Watching Hayden grow up through the years and teaching him how to deer hunt, among other things, has been priceless," said Higgins, who has been a lifelong friend of the Maynor family and coached Soddy-Daisy's wrestling team for six years before taking charge of the baseball program after the 2018 season.

"Last year I made a shot on a deer and had a really hard time finding it," Higgins explained. "So I called up Hayden and asked him for his help because he has always been good at tracking deer and isn't scared to get down and crawl through a briar thicket. The dog actually went the wrong way, but Hayden persevered and didn't give up. He kept searching past midnight and found this tiny speck of blood on the ground, and we ended up finding the deer.

"He was so proud in that moment. It's been awesome to see him embrace challenges and enjoy God's beauty of the outdoors."

Maynor wowed many throughout his years with the Trojans, which included leading the way at linebacker and running back for back-to-back region championship teams, making big plays at third base for last year's district championship squad and fighting his way to the Class AAA wrestling 182-pound state final this year. In both middle school and high school, he was a varsity starter in all three sports.

Known for his toughness and a natural mean streak when competing, Maynor made an impact in whatever sport he was playing at the time — and Higgins made an impact on him. From a young age, he looked up to his coach and learned a lot about himself as a player and a person.

"Coach Higgins is definitely a father figure to me," Maynor said. "He taught me how to hunt, fish and play sports. He also taught me how to get through school and how to become a better man in this world. He does everything he can for me, and I hope to be as great of a person as he is one day."

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Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter / Hayden Maynor, who graduated from Soddy-Daisy this spring, excelled as a third baseman for the Trojans on the baseball diamond, and he also starred for them on the football field and the wrestling mat. Maynor has signed to play college baseball at Cleveland State.

With a charismatic personality, Maynor has been a role model for both of Higgins' sons, who are seven and 11 years old.

"Both of my sons look up to Hayden so much," Higgins said. "It's not just his athletic ability or his grittiness. It's how he carries himself. He is the first one to cut up to them and call their name out during a game or whenever. He gravitates towards them. If you were to make two young men like Hayden and his older brother Hunter, I don't know what else more you could ask for as a father."

With Father's Day weekend here, Maynor is grateful for the time and love Coach Higgins has given him. He grew up without his father in the picture and learned most of his traits from Higgins, along with his Uncle Brent and Hunter.

"A lot of people say he was just like me when he was in high school," Maynor said of Higgins, a 1998 Soddy-Daisy graduate who played baseball and football and wrestled. "We are kind of the same style and have a natural respect for each other. He knows I will always help him, whether it's with his baseball team or yard work around his house. For his kids to look up to me and my brother, it really motivates us and is special."

Higgins has never had to light a fire under Maynor, and the coach expects great things in the future.

"Hayden always has had a tremendous work ethic and enjoyed the process," Higgins said. "He never complained or went through the motions. He works hard in whatever he does and really works his tail off with his brother in his landscaping business.

"I am proud of him because he is always going to be there and give the shirt off his back for you. It's been awesome to watch him grow, and I hope the way he has carried himself inspires others."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.