When Rachel Hayes first decided to get involved with TOT, she had one big goal in mind: serve her community. Three years later, Rachel is serving three territories in Texas, the first director to take on so many territories.
Hayes is in her second year of serving the three territories, and she said she has learned a lot since first taking on the challenge. Not only was she transitioning her TOT program, her family was, and is, also transitioning by moving to a new location.
“It was a big transition from one territory to two,” Hayes said. “We are much more comfortable this year. We know how to function with three territories. We’re successful and still doing our best to do what we can, but we’re also doing things a little differently than what we’ll do a year from now, just because we’re in transition.”
Hayes and her team of four teachers, her husband included, teach more than 40 classes a week to 40+ schools, equating more than 350 children getting the TOT experience. But Hayes is quick to say that it isn’t about the numbers for her.
“My vision and passion isn’t just about numbers,” she said. “What we’re doing with three territories is way bigger than us. To watch how our first year was just me, I directed the program and taught classes…it’s grown to something that is beyond me.”
Hayes isn’t oblivious that the numbers matter financially when it comes to the bottom line. She said it was a big leap of faith when her family first signed on as a franchise owner but she said perseverance plays a large part in what makes the TOT program successful.
“If you believe in what you’re doing, it’s easy to get other people to believe, too,” she said. “Being persistent and having a heart of a service…my prayer when we first started was to serve the community, but also give back when there’s people in need. Within three years, that’s happened. Just keeping the mindset of, ‘it’s not about me, it’s about the kids we serve.’”
Her first taste of TOT came when her son brought home a flyer as a preschooler. She said she knew it was a great program and could see the development in her son, and when the opportunity arose two years later for her to start a franchise, she took it.
It was a bit of an unlikely path for Hayes. Originally, she was an upper elementary and middle school teacher, she started considering getting a masters in counseling, instead she took a u-turn.
“God said ‘nope, you’re going to do this with preschoolers,’” she said. “It kind of took me back a little. I’m always glad God knows better than we do. I definitely love the preschoolers.”
Hayes has had some incredibly special moments during her time as TOT director. Hayes got emotional recalling two special children who have shown her that what they’re doing goes beyond TOT.
“We had one little girl whose mom just cried at the performance,” Hayes said. “The little girl had low confidence and would not participate in any activity at school. Her mom signed her up for so many activities, but she wouldn’t go with the teacher when she came to get her. TOT came and she was like, ‘I’m not sure if she’ll try it.’ She was shocked she came with us and was unsure if she would perform because she’s shy and doesn’t do anything… for her to get out there and perform, it’s those kind of moments.”
Hayes’s other story was about a child that was in a class her husband was teaching. The girl’s father had been killed during the TOT year. Despite everything, the girl’s mother still wanted her to have TOT.
“Just to see how her family interacted with us during that time and felt like we were people they could come to for comfort and routine for their little girl,” she said. “That was an affirmation that it’s more than TOT. It’s more than basketball.
“It’s about connecting with these kids and their families. Serving them in a way that they know we truly care about them. There has to be something we’re doing along the lines of that for something tragic like that that happens, or when a parent is overwhelmed with joy because their kids confidence is sky rocketing. We are making a difference, we are impacting them in a positive way…ultimately that’s what it’s all about.”