Caitlin Hayes Feature - University
It was a journey that began back in 2013 for Caitlin Hayes, when she first came on to the PASS4Soccer network program.
The defender played for both Manchester clubs before going on to make her senior debut for Everton Ladies – she captained the side in 2014.
Hayes went out to the United States later that year, to study Kinesiology at Mississippi College, as well as playing for the women’s soccer team.
Being a student-athlete is quite a unique experience, for anyone. As well as studying for a life-changing degree, you’re also, in Hayes’ situation, a full-time footballer travelling the country too.
The Warrington-native spoke at length about her time studying and playing at Mississippi College and believes being a student-athlete “helped” with the transition into the professional game.
“Being a student-athlete helps you step up in any profession that you choose to go on to,” Hayes said. “Being a student-athlete is one of the hardest things to do; a constant demand to complete all work and compete, both at your highest level, each and every day.
“It’s a title that both defines and refines character as you grow in an environment that demands discipline, leadership, respect, hard work, passion, accountability, etc.
“This combination of qualities are what separate you from everyone else and I honestly believe it puts you on a path for success in whatever direction you decide to go in.
“If I was to talk specifically about becoming a part of the 2% of athletes that actually make it pro, it was a huge part of the reason I was able to make the step into the pros.
“At university, you train every day on the field and some days you’re up before the sun in the weight room. In the fall, when weekends come around, you’re either on the road traveling or in the locker room preparing for the weekend games.
“Just the schedule alone makes the transition easier because it’s already like the schedule of a full-time player, without the commitments of class, thankfully.
“With such a demanding schedule, dedicated to the improvement of both the individual player and the team as a whole, the amount you improve year-by-year is scary.
“In my freshman year, I finished with no honours, but by my senior season, I finished as a First-Team, All-American, which was a dream come true and testament to how much I put in over the four years.”
The Choctaws are in the Gulf South Conference (NCAA DII) and Hayes enjoyed a successful four years playing for the women’s soccer team.
Mississippi College improved their finish in each year between 2014 and 2017 and, in Hayes’ final campaign, she helped the team to a second-place finish in the conference.
The centre-back played 30 games in her first two years with the team. In scoring terms, her sophomore year was the best as she found the net nine times.
Hayes earned GSC All-Conference First-Team honours and was selected to the DII Conference Commissioners Association All-South Regional Team in her junior year, after playing 18 games and scoring four game-winning goals.
The defender’s senior year was a testament as to how far she came over the four years. She played every single game (20) and kept 10 clean-sheets, including three-in-a-row against West Florida, Valdosta State and Christian Brothers.
For anyone thinking about going to the US to study and play, Hayes spoke about her initial thoughts when she had committed, but admitted that she hasn’t looked back after her “courage” to move to another country was one of the best decisions as she hasn’t looked back since.
For anyone thinking about going to the US to study and play, Hayes admitted that it was “daunting” at first, but is thankful that she did go through with it.
Hayes said: “GO FOR IT! It really is as simple as those three words. If you’re considering going to the US, you’re already drawn to the possibilities that it has waiting for you, and from my from years’ experience, they won’t let you down.
“Back in 2014, I was the captain of Everton Reserves and had already made my debut for the first-team.
“I had a tight-knit group of friends and my family were my support system, so, at the time, moving to America wasn’t a decision that was made lightly, it took some time of consideration, several conversations, and a whole lot of courage to pursue a dream that originated from watching ‘Bend It Like Beckham’.
“If I’m being honest, at the time, moving across the world without any experience of traveling, living or even being by myself, was a daunting thought, which is why I’m so thankful for the courage I had.
“Just because I had courage, doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared or felt fear, it was simply a decision to release it.
“Courage can’t be present without fear, it’s a decision to act, chase and pursue what you desire, despite any reservations that you may hold.
“I’m so thankful that I simply went for it because I haven’t looked back since. I left my four years as a better player, with friends that had become family from all over the world and, to top it off, a degree in kinesiology.”
Hayes is now in the bracket of two per-cent of student-athletes, who go on to make it in the pro game. Part two of our feature with the defender will be released soon.