Surrounded by friends and family, Kaylie Hayes achieved her dream last Thursday.
After praise and congratulations from two coaches, Hayes spoke for herself and then looked at the sheet of paper in front of her. When she signed her name and fully committed, Hayes could only think one thing: “Holy cow, I did it.”
Hayes has been a centerpiece as goalkeeper for the Oconee County High School and Oconee Football Club soccer teams for the last few years and got the see the fruit of her hard labor last week. Her three-year-old dream had been completed.
“Ninth grade was when I felt very serious, like this was what I wanted to do,” Hayes said. “One day it hit me, I want to do this for a long time.”
Hayes began club soccer in eighth grade on the OFC team and joined the OCHS varsity team as a freshman. She was told by high school coaches that she needed to dive more and get her jersey dirty, otherwise the team would move to another keeper. Hayes’ hard work and ‘lead by example’ attitude made it so that her coaches never considered replacing her again.
Hayes signed to play keeper for Erskine College, one of the oldest church-related liberal art schools in the country. The Flying Feet are a Div. II team located in Due West, South Carolina.
“When I went to practice there, I felt that was actually where I wanted to be,” Hayes said. “I really clicked with the team and the coach saw it, too. I felt like I needed to make my decision now or otherwise I’d regret it.”
Hayes was unable to attend collegiate camps and speak with coaches over the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns. Erskine was the only school to make an offer and had been in contact with Hayes before the pandemic, so for her, it was the best way to follow her dream.
“[Erskine’s] always been there and I always wanted to go practice up there,” Hayes said. “I think everything just fell right into place.”
Hayes didn’t know what this year would be like, but she knew she’d have her friends and family with her. Oconee County’s field house was packed with teammates and family members who all came to celebrate Hayes’ achievement.
“It means so much. I love my team and I’m glad it’s being shown by them just being here,” Hayes said. “I try to be as close to my teammates as possible because I think it’s so special to have that connection with your team. Especially as a goalkeeper, you kind of need that relationship, so seeing everyone here made me very happy.”
Hayes plans on studying sports management while at Erskine and making new friendships along the way.
When reflecting on her high school career, Hayes pointed out how her friends help her play better.
“School is definitely very important to me because I have all my closest friends here,” Hayes said. “Because of that, I grow every time I play.”
Some seniors might get “senioritis” after being accepted and committing to a college, but Hayes is not one of them. She’s missed out on enough soccer already this past summer, and Hayes has every intention to make the most of her last high school season.
“Everything definitely paid off,” Hayes said. “It’s kind of hard to explain, but I feel like all the work that I put in for high school will show all year round. Whether I’m playing club or high school, I always put effort into it.”