A Wingman Always Has Your Back

A Wingman Always Has Your Back

Jul 11, 2017 / By : / Category : Campus Visit, College Life, Interview, NCAA, Recruiting Process

Aileen Ascolese

Welcome to this special interview, #94 with former Alfred University soccer player, Hayley Hammer.

For those of you dreaming of competing in college, listen to athletes like Hayley who have already traveled the road and are now looking back.

Alfred women's soccer

Hayley Hammer #3

Looking back to high school, how did you think about playing soccer in college?

Hayley HammerIn high school, I never knew how the recruiting processed worked, I just knew I wanted to continue playing the sport I loved and I would do anything to do that.

What was your athletic recruiting experience like?

My recruiting experience wasn’t the best. Once Coach Aileen was at Alfred, I quickly learned what my recruiting experience should have been like.  Every recruit who came to Alfred when Aileen was the coach, met every player on the team. We had team breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. The recruit would also come to a practice or game and see how we played as a team. The recruit also stayed over with players on the team and really got to know them and make friendships. I didn’t do anything like this when I was a recruit for Alfred because Aileen wasn’t the coach at the time.

Why did you end up choosing Alfred University?

I chose Alfred University because I knew I was able to be on the soccer team and actually get playing time. I also chose it because it was a beautiful campus and the class size was small.

Would you recommend NCAA Division 3 to potential college athletes? Why or why not?

Hayley HammerI would 110% recommend NCAA Division 3 to potential college athletes.  Playing Division 3 allowed me to play the sport I love at a competitive level while receiving a great education. Automatically, you have friends from day 1 and make friendships that will last a life time.

It is an all too familiar scenario for athletes that the coach who recruited them will not be there when they graduate. Can you talk about your experience and how you dealt with it?

I originally reached out to Coach Yanke about playing at Alfred University. The graduate assistant, Christine, came and watched me play at an exceptional senior game in 2013, but the head coach did not.  Right away, Christine said I could play on the Women’s team at Alfred University. I then scheduled a visit at Alfred to see if I liked the campus and the team. The recruit visit consisted of a campus tour and a 5 minute meeting with the head coach.  I only met 2 players that were on the team at that time. Even though the recruiting visit wasn’t that much, I knew that all I wanted to do was play soccer for 4 more years and this was a chance for me to do it. After I verbally committed, 2 weeks later, Coach Yanke got fired.  At that time, I didn’t know what that meant for me; was I on the team or was I not on the team?

A couple weeks later, I found out that Coach Aileen was the new head coach at Alfred University. I was able to meet her at an Alfred University reception and automatically I knew I would love her as a coach. In the matter of few weeks, I went from walking on a team that didn’t have high expectations with a coach that I barely knew, to having a coach who wanted to turn the program around and gave me a fitness packet over 80 pages to prepare me for preseason.

I was fortunate enough to have Coach Aileen for my four years at Alfred University. She took me in and made me the soccer player I am today. I couldn’t be more blessed to have her as a coach and I am incredibly thankful.

How important is it for students to find a school with the exact major they want to pursue?

It is very important to find a school with the major you want to pursue. I originally went to Alfred University majoring in Athletic Training. My sophomore year, I had to take a Chemistry class that was required to take for the athletic training major. I found myself loving the Chemistry class and professors. I began to like it a lot more than athletic training. I didn’t like athletic training that much and began to realize I didn’t want to have that as a job for the rest of my life. I researched job opportunities if I majored in chemistry and just had that gut feeling to switch majors. It was one of the best decisions of my life. I enjoyed going to class and made relationships with the Chemistry professors that I didn’t have with the Athletic Training professors.

How did playing soccer in college affect your confidence and leadership abilities? How were you different as a senior than you were as a freshman?

When I was a freshman, I was shy at first until I made friends and knew what the team was all about. My confidence of leadership increased from my freshman year.

My junior and senior year I was the captain of the Alfred University Women’s soccer team.  I knew what the team and I had to do to get the job done, whether if it was a drill in practice or an Empire 8 game. My leadership was shown mostly on the field. I always worked my hardest and always played with pride. 

By my senior year, I had more confidence with the ball than I ever had, all thanks to Aileen.

The career of an athlete, even a successful one, isn’t easy all the time. Were there times at Alfred when you struggled with the physical or mental strain? What kept pushing you to excel?

Alfred women's soccerWhen you’re training 6/7 days of the week, you’re guaranteed to have a physical or mental strain.  The love of the game and the pride and dedication towards my teammates always got me through the mental strain. Some days, I found myself not wanting to train because I was tired but in the end, I knew I only had so many days left of playing soccer and I had to take advantage of that.

Sport at the college level certainly places winning as a high priority. Alfred soccer had its share of struggles on the field while you were there. By your senior year, the program had improved greatly. What was your experience like and what advice would you give to athletes entering college programs that have not had a lot of success?

If a program doesn’t have a lot of success, you shouldn’t be satisfied with that.  With pride, dedication, and hard work, I truly believe you can do anything and go anywhere.

What should recruits expect on their campus visits and what is your advice to them while on their visit?

Recruits should be able to go on a visit and see if they would fit in with the team or not. Team breakfasts, lunches, Alfred women's soccerand dinners, are always helpful when there is a recruit. Every member of the team should meet the recruit, because in the end, they are being recruited for a reason and you should want them to come and help your program.  My advice to them would be ask lots of questions. They don’t have to be sport related, they can be about anything.

What are some of the lessons you learned playing soccer at Alfred?

The most important lesson I learned as an Alfred University soccer player was to never leave my “wingman”. This Wingman Awardmeant that on the field, I should always have my teammates back and support. It also meant, that off the field, I should be there for my teammates at any time they need me and we are family no matter what.  I received the “Wingman” award from Coach Aileen my Freshman, Sophomore, and Senior season.

How did Coach Aileen Ascolese impact your life? What is the nature of your relationship with Coach Ascolese today as opposed to your first couple years playing for her?

Coach Aileen, not only impacted my life, but truly made me the soccer player I wanted to be. She became more than a coach, she became family.  We started Alfred University Women’s soccer together and ended together. She’s been there for me since Day 1. 

By the end of Senior year, we’ve been through it all together. We went through loss after loss together my freshman year.  She was there for me my sophomore year when I was injured and was unable to play for half the season. She was there when the team and I struggled through battles Junior year that we just couldn’t quite finish. We had our first winning streak together in the beginning of my senior season. We got out first conference win together againstAileen Ascolese Elmira. We got our first conference tie together against Utica.  We held Stevens together for the first time ever 0-1, when were usually down 5 goals in the first half.  

For the first time in a long time, Alfred University had a coach that not only impacted me, but impacted the program and school as a whole.  We actually became competitive in the Empire 8 by the end of my Senior year and we finished the season 7-9-2, which is more wins than the previous 3 years together. Coach Aileen had taught me everything I know. She taught me to work hard and never give up and always have pride. I am truly blessed that I had her as a coach for 4 years.

What are you up now and what is in the future for Hayley?

I am going to D’Youville School of Pharmacy for the next 4 years. I hope to get my doctorate and become a Pharmacist.

Hayley, one bonus question: What advice would you offer to young men and women hoping to continue to play their sport in college?

Never give up on something you truly believe in. Times may be hard and continue to get harder, but there is always a brighter side with hard work, pride, and dedication.


Next, check out: Is NCAA Division 3 a Good Option Athletically?.

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