Junior Tyler Haynes is a Key Member of the Boys Varsity Basketball Team


Credit to Michaela Erfling

Tyler Haynes poses with his mother Tonya Haynes and father Teron Haynes. He has worn number 32 since his freshman year.

By McKayla Bogda

“North Knights, North Knights,” junior Tyler Haynes cheers to the crowd at varsity boys’ basketball games. Since his freshman year Tyler has been a manager for the team and plays a few games a year. He is not the first student with special needs to be on a FHN sports team, but he has a special place on the team.

“He’s a key player in a different way,” Tonya Haynes, Tyler’s mom, said.

Tyler’s parents wanted him involved in an extracurricular activity when he started high school, and with their help, he decided to play basketball. They talked with the coaches and the school. Students with special needs in the past have been able to be a part of sports teams, so the coaches were very open to the idea. He participates in all of the practices, attends all of the games, including away games, plays one to two games a year, including winter warm-up, and gets to warm up with the team before games. When he is not on the court he is on the sideline talking and laughing with the team or giving out water or pumping up the crowd while watching the game.

“It doesn’t matter what’s happening, because you can always count on Tyler to say a joke or make everything lighter,” Rizwan Hyder, senior teammate, said.

From the inclusiveness to the sense of family, the team and coaches have had a great impact on Tyler’s life, according to Tonya. Joining the team helped ease the transition into high school for him and helped his morale, spirit and confidence. He loves everyone and feels very embraced by the school.

“He’s made to feel so important, that I think how important he feels and how involved he is and how embraced he is offsets that he’s not a starter,” Tonya said.

Tyler’s interest in basketball started from a young age. At age 6, he started attending Camp Giant Steps, a camp for autistic kids, where he played basketball. According to his mother, he has always had an interest in basketball and tended to choose it over other activities. He also is a part of KEEN, Kids Enjoy Exercise Now, through SLUH, where he plays basketball. There is a basketball court at his church where he likes playing as well. He also watches professional basketball, and his favorite team to watch is the Cleveland Cavaliers, his favorite player being Lebron James.

“Everyone loves him. He loves basketball just as much as we do,” Rizwan said. “He works just as hard as we do. We love having him around, he’s a great guy.”

The first game that Tyler was put into his freshman year, Tonya remembered some of the varsity members saying “Tyler’s going in” and getting excited for him. She said this showed the true nature of the team. At this game Tyler ended up scoring a three-pointer and the whole team erupted with excitement for him.

“The three pointer was an amazing moment,” Tonya said.

His parents are beyond grateful for the opportunities Tyler has at FHN. They are especially grateful to the coaches for being so kind and inclusive. Tonya recalled one time she was running late with Tyler to a travel game and Coach Davis called her to make sure everything was alright and they were on their way. She was astounded with how much he truly cared.

“I just want to thank the school, the students, the team members, the coaches, the staff, the custodians, the cafeteria workers, everyone is just so kind to Tyler and our family,” Tonya said. “We couldn’t ask for a better school and a better group of people for him to spend his high school years with. He’s so happy.”

After high school, Tyler’s parents plan for him to attend college. They hope to get Tyler involved in a program like the one here at North, where he can play with the team. If not, they will make sure basketball is still an extracurricular activity in his life through recreational leagues, but they believe they will work it out.

“He loves everyone,” Tonya said. “He loves this school. He looks forward to school each day.”