Hayden taking on new challenge after 2 decades as Apex lacrosse coach

College Sports

WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — A familiar voice rings out at an unfamiliar venue. Long-time Apex lacrosse head coach John Hayden has found a new home at Barton College.

“I still am very passionate about coaching,” Hayden demanded. “I loved working at Apex but I’m ready for a completely different challenge and this is that.”

Hayden built the Apex program from scratch into a powerhouse, winning three state championships in his 20 years with the Cougars.

Now, he’ll get the chance to help do it again at Barton College, a program in its second year of competition.

“When you’re building a family, when you’re building a program, you need people who have done it before and John’s had that experience,” said Barton head coach Warren Shumate.

“And I don’t think there’s any egos. We’re all in it for the same reason, we’re trying to build something special, build it for the boys, build it for the right reasons.”

It’s a recipe that worked well for Hayden at Apex. But the veteran coach always knew he would eventually turn to the college ranks.

“This is going to force me to have to be better,” said Hayden.

Still, the announcement that Hayden would no longer be leading the Cougars program took many by surprise.

“I was glad that people didn’t say ‘Well, I knew you were done’ or something like that,” Hayden admitted. “Because I wasn’t.”

For Hayden this is a chance to go back in time — back when everything was new. Back to being the hunter, not the hunted.

“I love the building of the program and trying to build a culture — that is a winning culture,” Hayden said.

The Bulldogs assistant coach is ready for the challenge.

“I think this can be a really special place,” gushed Hayden.

Just like the place, he came from.

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