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The pursuit of excellence: Camber Hayes' dedication to athletics, academics and community

Player Profile

<p>Camber Hayes is the first athlete in Miami University history to win the Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholar Award</p>

Camber Hayes is the first athlete in Miami University history to win the Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholar Award

On April 4, Miami University soccer player Camber Hayes, a junior midfielder from Bowie, Maryland, became the first student-athlete in Miami and Mid-American Conference (MAC) history to receive the Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholar Award.

Each year, the Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholar Award is awarded to collegiate athletes of color who excel in their sport, maintain excellent academic standing by keeping a minimum GPA of 3.5 and are active in their campus and community. For Hayes, a biology and pre-med major, maintaining the balance between academics and soccer has been a learned process, which started when she first got into the sport.

For all of her academic achievements, Hayes excels at soccer too. She was named Second Team All-MAC in both of her first seasons at Miami. Last season, she was named to the All-MAC first team and recorded 11 points. 

Growing up, Hayes wasn’t interested in playing soccer. She would often travel with her family to watch her older brother and sister play. At first, she hated the sport; however, after several years of watching her siblings, she became interested in playing. She played mostly with the Baltimore Armour Girls Development Academy, a youth travel team.

Even though her club team proved to be a big commitment for her, Hayes maintained good grades in school. According to her parents, Reggie and Valerie Hayes, she was always a good student.

“Camber is very competitive in the classroom and on the soccer pitch,” Reggie Hayes said. “She used to do this Jeopardy thing in fifth grade, where the three students with the highest grades could pick the teams. Camber would actually cut people from her team if they weren’t good enough to keep up so she could win the competition. She has always been very serious about her grades.”

For the Hayes family, academics were prioritized over athletics. The family would do their homework together at the dinner table every evening, so they could help each other with anything they didn’t understand. Because they prioritized school over sports, Reggie and Valerie Hayes would require the kids to finish their homework before going to practice. Camber Hayes said this helped her learn to manage her time to accommodate soccer with school.

“They always made it a priority over soccer,” Hayes said. “That foundation was carried into high school and into college now, where I know how to manage my time pretty well to get my schoolwork done while competing in soccer.”

Hayes, who attended St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C., played varsity as a ninth-grader. In that year, she was named MVP of the team, which made it to the DCSAA state championship. After her first year, she decided to play club soccer only. 

In high school, Hayes found herself traveling an hour away for practice every day. She had games and tournaments nearly every weekend, some of which required several hours of driving or flying. At times, she would travel as far as New Jersey, San Diego, Florida, Chicago and Arizona for weekend events.

The constant traveling meant Hayes was busy all the time, but she still made it into the National Honor Society. Hayes said she accomplished it with the help of her parents’ dedication to organizing her and her siblings’ game schedules.

“I don’t know how they did it,” Hayes said. “My older siblings played, so they would split up and go every which way to make sure they all showed up to our games on time. Looking back, seeing how much time and money they spent on us is amazing. They had as much dedication in it as us, and it’s amazing.”

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Reggie and Valerie Hayes said their daughter’s ability to keep good academic standing while competing in soccer was all on her. Reggie said she never needed to be reminded to do her homework or study for tests.

“Camber is a good kid, like everyone else in our family, so we didn’t have an academic concern that she wasn’t doing her work,” Reggie said. “By the time finals rolls around, she knows what’s the minimum grade she needs to get an A. She stresses over that stuff all the time. She’s a very competitive student.”

Photo by Miami Athletics | The Miami Student

“Camber is a good kid, like everyone else in our family," Reggie Hayes, Camber's dad, said.

When it was time to choose what college she wanted to attend, Hayes and her parents kept academics as the priority. 

“If you pick a school just for soccer, you may end up hating it,” Hayes said. “I love soccer, but it’s a short term thing. I can’t be playing soccer in the next 15 years, but my degree will last longer.”

Initially, Hayes wasn’t even considering Miami as a potential college. It wasn’t until coaches visited her at a local tournament and invited her to visit that she decided to look into the school.

“My parents told me to give it a shot,” Hayes said. “I visited, and I loved it. The campus is so pretty, and the coaches are super nice and welcoming. They showed me how they could help me grow as a player and a person.”

Miami Head Coach Courtney Sirmans, who is in her fourth year at the helm of the soccer team, originally thought it would be difficult to convince Hayes to commit. 

“I was really nervous when she came [to visit Miami],” Sirmans said. “She came to an IB camp where only four people showed up, and I was worried that she wasn’t going to commit because we weren’t really successful at that time. We were trying to convince Camber to come here and be a part of something really special by getting the program back to where it was and beyond.”

In her first year at Miami, Hayes showed incredible leadership for her teammates. In fact, she was nominated to be captain in her second semester of her first year. It was surprising for a player to be nominated captain that early, but her teammates and coaches all agreed that she was the right person for the role, and she became a vital part of the team’s success. 

Sirmans said Hayes is a great captain because of her ability to listen to her teammates. 

“I think what Camber’s teammates love about her is that she's not someone who says a lot,” Sirmans said. “She is very much an observer and a great listener. I think a big reason why her teammates nominated her is because she’s a good listener, because other female athletes want to be able to talk to someone who’s not a coach.”

At Miami, Hayes has maintained a 4.0 GPA. She’s also active in several campus organizations, including the Miami Scholars Program and Athletes in Action. She participates in the Miami Bridges Program and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation organizations, which aim to increase diversity on campus and make the Miami degree more accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. Her involvement in campus organizations, her academic standing and her performance on the field allowed her to win the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award this year. 

As Hayes finishes her junior year, she is starting to think about life after college. She has shown that she is an outstanding student, and she plans to go to veterinary school after college. However, Hayes still wishes to play soccer professionally, which Sirmans believes she has the talent for. 

“I don’t think her career is done,” Sirmans said. “Obviously, she’s got a senior year here. If Camber wants to play, I think she can play.”