As part of our Featured Player content series, SoccerWire is publishing Q&A articles with recently-committed players who are Featured in the SoccerWire Player Directory. The series will allow players to share their stories on the college recruiting process, travel and high school soccer, and their passion for the beautiful game.

In this edition we will showcase Eleanor Hays, who has committed to play NCAA Division I soccer in 2023 at the Clemson University. Hays plays travel soccer in the ECNL for FC Dallas.

SoccerWire: What made you decide to commit to Clemson?

Eleanor Hays: The summer after my 8th grade year I visited Clemson for the first time for an ID camp. I immediately fell in love with the campus, the people, and the program. From that camp, I considered Clemson to be a dream school of mine so when the recruiting process time came around, I knew that’s where I wanted to be.

SW: What was the recruiting process like and what did you learn about yourself while going through it?

EH: While being stressful at some points, I did enjoy getting to know the coaches of different programs and trying to figure out which school would be the best fit for me. I also learned that everyone’s recruiting process is different, and players should compare their timeline to someone else’s. If someone else is recruiting faster or to certain conference or program, it doesn’t diminish your accomplishments. And, take your official visits – they are definitely worth it.

SW: How has social media and being a SoccerWire Featured Player helped you with the college recruiting process?

EH: I think the 04 age group was one of the first to really use social and digital media in a big way in our recruiting process. My FCDallas team was very active on social media, SoccerWire and other sites to share updates about team wins, losses, DA or ECNL showcases, travel and to highlight individual players, like me. As an individual player, social media was a way to communicate about who you are as a player, a person and a teammate, even at a time when you couldn’t talk directly to coaches yet. It also helps you connect to other players. I appreciate the coverage I received from SoccerWire and how it helped raise my profile.

SW: What are your favorite subjects in school and what do you think you would like to study in college?

EH: I really enjoyed History and English classes in high school, which is why I plan to study secondary education with a focus in History. After I’m done playing soccer, I plan to be a high school teacher and coach.

SW: Outside of soccer, what clubs, organizations, and/or jobs are you involved in?

EH: I have been working as a kid’s soccer coach for the past few years and I love it. Watching kids’ faces light up as they achieve a new skill, or hearing them ask me to watch them try to score a goal is extremely rewarding and so much fun.

SW: What has your experience been like playing for FC Dallas?

EH: I have really enjoyed playing for FC Dallas for the past 6+ years. The connections the club provided were valuable to my growth as a player and my experience in the recruiting process. The facilities are amazing and the coaches and staff are great people. I attribute a lot of my success to Aaron and Ashley Gordon because they pushed me to become a better player and played a big role in my college recruiting.

SW: Do you have any pregame rituals that you like to do to get yourself ready for a game?

EH: When I get on the field, right before the whistle blows for kick off, I have a quick routine of stretching and hops I do before the game starts. It started years ago when I was consistently playing next to one of my longtime teammates, Hayden Colson. It became our pregame ritual, and we would fist bump each other after we finished each time. Even after she graduated and went to play at Auburn, I still did our ritual before every game and will continue to do so at Clemson. It helps me settle in, shake off nerves and get ready.

SW: If you could give one piece of advice to a younger player that wants to play soccer at a high level what would it be?

EH: While easier said than done, my best piece of advice would be to listen to yourself, believe in yourself, stay focused on your goals and do not let one coach or teammate along the way ruin your love for the game. It’s hard work, but I believe it will be worth it.

SW: Is there anyone that you would like to give a shoutout to who has helped you both on and off of the field?

EH: I just want to give a shout out to my entire 04 FC Dallas team from last year. That group of girls and those coaches are still some of the most important people in my life. The overwhelming amounts of support my teammates and coaches gave me while we were together is something for which I will forever be grateful. Even though most of them graduated a year before me, I continue to support them and their college teams, being their biggest fan because they were mine.

I also owe my parents the biggest thank you because they never let me forget that they would support me in any decision I made. Whether it was leaving “good luck” notes in my shoes, taking off work to get me to practice or games or packing my water jug for me when I was in a rush, my parents never failed to be there for me, both on and off the field.