Hayden Smith couldn’t have had much more success on the diamond in her freshman year at Fayetteville Technical Community College. She was named the team’s freshman of the year, received academic all-conference honors and was selected to the all-region team.
She played in all 36 games, posting a .347 batting average (second on the team), .476 on-base percentage (first), .545 slugging percentage (third), four home runs (second), 27 runs (third), 23 RBIs (second) and 35 hits (third). A member of the Trojans’ inaugural class (FTCC just started its softball program), she proved she was capable of helping lay a solid foundation for the program.
But instead, she’s decided to end her career as a softball player and shift her attention towards the future.
“I wanted to focus more on my schoolwork,” Smith said. “Next year I plan on transferring to ECU, so I wanted to make sure I’ve got everything lined up for that.”
It definitely wasn’t an easy decision for her though. She’s been playing softball her entire life, so much that it’s become part of her identity. But Smith understands that there’s life beyond sports.
“I know that I can’t play softball forever,” she said. “Everyone’s time runs out eventually. But I’m definitely going to miss it. The girls I’ve played with and the coaches I’ve had were the best group I could have ever asked to be around. I wouldn’t trade those times and those memories for anything. And this past season was one of my best ever, so I’m really happy that I could finish on a high note.”
Going into college, Smith planned to major in physical therapy. She felt motivated to pursue the field after she saw how it helped her grandmother. Doctors had said that she might not be able to walk again, but through physical therapy she was able to regain her strength.
“Seeing that kind of improvement was a miracle,” Smith said. “I wanted to be able to help people as much as they helped my grandmother.”
A year later, Smith’s plan has changed, though the sentiment is more or less the same. She now plans to major in elementary education and minor in exercise science. She said the change occurred when she was helping out at a daycare where she worked in high school. After that, she said she felt a calling to work with children.
While she isn’t playing softball anymore, she does plan on staying involved with the sport as much as possible. She’s a volunteer with Dixie Youth in Dunn and has helped work at the district tournaments as well as this week’s state tournament.
Smith said she plans on taking classes at ECU that will allow her to potentially coach one day.
“I could definitely see myself coaching a school team or maybe a travel team,” Smith said. “All of my coaches growing up were great. They for sure shaped me into the player I’ve been and the person I’ve become. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have played college ball. I still come to some of their games and still talk to [Triton softball coach] Mark [Whitman} and some of the other coaches. Playing for them really was the highlight of my high school career. So if I could have that kind of impact on other kids, I think that would be a blessing.”