More Than An Athlete

Hayley Manners

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I started playing sports when I was just a toddler.

My parents put me in every sport you can think of - I played basketball, volleyball, soccer, and flag football. I was a really good gymnast, and I remember always being one of the fastest kids in school when we would race each other at recess.

Being an athlete was always a dream of mine.

But as a kid, I didn’t know where athletics could take me. I had no idea that being involved in sports could go beyond just being an athlete.

I was just a kid who enjoyed being competitive, after all.

Eventually, I took my talents to the track and became a long and triple jumper. I’m living my dream of being an athlete and, although I’m not done yet, I’m fascinated by the idea of working in the sports business. 

Through my studies, I dove head-first into learning the logistics of the sports industry. 

I’ve spent the last six months carving out a name for myself and building my personal brand and have met some incredible people along the way.

I aspire to help grow the game for women and give back to the communities that developed me into who I am today.

Humble beginnings

I was born and raised in Toronto, which makes me a proud Canadian. 

Growing up in Canada, people didn’t really talk as much about playing a sport in college, never mind going to a Division I school.

The collegiate recruitment conversation is much different here than in the States.

I honestly didn’t even know what a future in track and field could look like at the time.

When I jumped my PR of 5.77m in grade 11, that’s when I started learning about the recruiting process and hearing from both Canadian and U.S. schools with offers to be part of their collegiate teams. 

Let me be clear: I was definitely not some hotshot prospect coming out of high school. 

Although my resume featured being the number one long jumper in Canada for U-18 girls, and the U-18 National Champion in the long jump that year, my marks did not compare to the top jumpers being recruited here in the United States.

I only heard from about four or five schools in the U.S., and I went on three visits to schools in Canada. 

I knew that ultimately I wanted to leave my hometown and challenge myself to compete among the best in the NCAA.

College in the U.S. is just a completely different experience, and I wanted to be in the most competitive environment possible. 

I ended up choosing Central Michigan University for undergrad, and it was the best decision I could have made for myself. 

I never would have imagined myself thriving in a small college town, especially after growing up in the city. 

But those were some of the best years of my life, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world. 

When it was time to transition into the graduate recruiting process, it was crazy how many schools were interested in me compared to high school. 

I packed up my life and took my spikes to Florida and signed with UCF.

I really wanted to compete in a Power 5 conference during my grad year, and I got to UCF just in time to be able to do that in the Big 12. 

Plus, as you can probably imagine, I’m a Canadian who is used to the cold all year, so I feel spoiled to be able to train in the warm Florida weather.