January 17, 2014 09:51PM
By DAVID SMITH
Sun Staff Writer
WYOMING — Darnell J. Hayes may be a long way from Pennsylvania, but he has found a home at the Arcadia YMCA.
The 28-year-old took over as branch director at the 12-year-old facility in October. He fills the position formerly held by Scott McLeod.
Hayes, who played outside linebacker at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, had an initial goal of teaching, then a career in business, before deciding on a career in the wellness/fitness field. It was basically his experiences at the YMCA that led to his career choice.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology and exercise at Bloomsburg, followed by a Master of Science degree in exercise physiology.
He says that during school he was always training at the YMCA and it seemed like a natural place to get a job. He landed an internship at the Bloomsburg Area YMCA in 2009, followed by a stint as a senior program director. His last job before moving north to Rhode Island was as the membership, marketing and Youth and Teen Director at the River Valley Regional YMCA in Williamsport, Pa.
His goal at Arcadia is to grow the membership by tailoring programs to meet those needs. Toward that end, he says he is always looking for feedback from members. And part of that feedback comes during his three- to four-times-a-week workouts during which he can talk to members in the wellness center.
Hayes says he has always been athletic and thrives on competition. He had offers to play college football at Virginia Military Institute and the University of Richmond, but settled on taking an academic scholarship to play at Bloomsburg. The person that recruited him to play at Bloomsburg is now a linebackers coach for the Carolina Panthers, and one of his teammates at college, Jahri Evans, became a fourth-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints.
Did he dream of playing in the National Football League?
“Everyone that plays has that dream,” he says.
But at 5 feet 11 inches tall, he said he wasn’t going to be playing linebacker. He said he would have had to change positions to safety. But he always had a plan B — an education.
Given his background in sports, Hayes said that he would like to work with local athletes on strength and conditioning. He said he has reached out to local coaches and the high school in that regard.
“He is exactly what we were looking for,” said Tim Babcock, operations vice president of the Ocean Community YMCA, of which Arcadia is a branch. “Strong leadership and an outgoing personality. He also comes to us with Y experience.”
He was an obvious choice, Babcock added. With four months under his belt, he says he is pleased with what Hayes is doing.
Babcock said that it remains the goal of the organization to build a full-facility YMCA in the area with a pool and gymnasium.
“Nothing is set right now, but we are talking to developers in the area to see if we can partner with them,” Babcock said.
There are lots of models out that include combining senior centers and a community center, and the Y is exploring all possibilities. The current facility is being leased, which makes maintaining a balanced budget more difficult.
“The right piece is to have the right person leading it,” he said.
One of the new programs at the facility off Route 138 is an eight-week preschool class that started last week. The music and movement class is designed for 3- to 6-year-olds, and is an effort to acclimate youngsters to their bodies and allow them a chance to socialize.
Another class scheduled for the spring is an eight-week “Couch to 5K” program, which essentially is designed to take someone who is sedentary to where they could run a 5K. Class members will have access to a wellness coach, and depending on their fitness level, will start out walking to build their cardio level.
Other improvements have included painting some of the rooms at the facility, including the wellness center, where the treadmills and other strength training equipment is located.
Darnell and his wife Janice have two children and reside in Richmond.