The 10 Academy may be young, but Sam Haynes’ personal touch has created an insatiable thirst among California players.

The concept that players have different learning styles isn’t exactly a novel one. Coaches and trainers understand this reality, but most don’t make the effort to truly address it.

Sam Haynes does, and that’s why he’s the 2018 Innovator of the Year.

As the managing director of The 10 Academy, Haynes embraces each player’s individuality. Before training starts, he sits down with every athlete and their family to understand their background, motivations, personality and aspirations. He then crafts a workout routine tailored specifically to that player’s strengths.

Word of Haynes’ innovation has spread quickly. Started in early 2017, The 10 Academy is already working with more than 100 players, including some of California’s brightest young stars.

“The relationships I’ve built with some of these players goes beyond being a soccer coach,” Haynes said. “I feel like I’m more of a mentor, more like an older brother or somebody that can answer the, ‘Hey, I need help with this.’ I go to dinner with their families and hang out with them."

“Every single player learns differently, and if I don’t fully understand the player, I’m not going to be able to get my point across and give them what they need.”

As a player, Haynes encountered a number of leadership styles under coaches from Columbia, England, Portugal and the United States. He had rough interactions with some of them, which imprinted the importance of the coach-player relationship.

That insight is what drives The 10 Academy, which solely conducts one-on-one sessions with players. New trainees start in an introductory meeting with a technical development trainer to plan out their specific program. Those programs work on thought processes in particular areas of the field, breaking down situations to help each athlete understand how to make complex decisions. The program also stresses off-field communication to develop players’ intellectual sides. The 10 Academy’s main focus is technical development, and Haynes believes the program can improve players through demonstrations and repetition.

Haynes acknowledges he’s likely leaving money on the table by not introducing group practices, a tactic he’s considering for the future. But for now, the individual relationship is the top priority. That attitude has some of the West Coast’s best athletes clamoring for his service.

“I probably will expand in the future because there’s such huge demand,” Haynes said. “I’ve scaled my offering because I’m trying to keep it as player-centric as possible for now. For the last 18 months, I’ve been doing individual training only. That really shows all I care about is development. I could earn a lot more money with multiple players at one time.”

Once players started catching wind of The 10 Academy’s unique training, word spread like wildfire. Word of mouth and testimonials were critical, but Haynes’ social media activity helped boost the business. Despite its youth, The 10 Academy has more than 60,000 followers on Instagram.

Learn more about Haynes and his fellow finalists, then start thinking about how you and your soccer club can evolve to compete for next year’s prize.