From the field to the future

Freshman makes development academy


photo by Kate Knauff

Freshman Eleanor Hays poses with a soccer ball. She plays soccer for the FC Dallas U-16 development academy for Girls. “The development academy focuses on developing our skill and our talent so we can go farther with soccer into college and possibly professionally,” Hays said.

Three years ago, Eleanor Hays was one of the many girls who anxiously waited for her turn to show the coaches what she’s got. As she approaches the field with a few of her former teammates, she knows it is now or never. She runs through the drills and scrimmages with her small tryout group, hoping to make the FC Dallas development academy. 

Now a freshman, Hays made the FC Dallas U-16 Girls’ Development Academy three years ago when the Girls’ Development Academy was first established. The academy is a prestigious program focusing on the development of world-class female athletes.

“I remember there were a lot of people there [at tryouts],” Hays said. “It was really crowded, and we took up about four fields. We had to wear numbers on our shirts. I was nervous, but I got to play with a ton of my teammates that I was already playing with, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.”

Hays has played soccer since she was 4, and before joining the development academy (DA), Hays played for FC Dallas Junior Development League Red. 

“My proudest moment would probably be this past summer when my team won third at nationals,” Hays said. “We were the only team to not get any goals conceded.”

Hays practices three times a week: usually on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. She has games on Saturdays, and on Sundays she goes to regeneration at 8 a.m. At regeneration, they do anything from running and stretching to shooting and technical work.

“Eleanor is a really good team player,” Hays’ teammate Taylor Cheatham said. “She is not negative and she holds you accountable. If you are not giving effort or if you’re making a mistake, she will get onto you, but not in a mean way. She’s just a really good defender overall.”

Coach Aaron Gordon said they have seen improvements with her technical work and her overall understanding of the game. 

“Her game wasn’t perfect but it has always seemed to evolve and she always seems to get better at every aspect of the game,” Gordon said. “Her passing, heading and ball striking have gotten better.”

Hays said she looks up to Christen Press, who plays on the Women’s National team, because even though Press did not make the team at first, she worked hard and eventually made it.

“I look up to [Press] a lot because she didn’t give up, she made the most of her setbacks and learned from them so she could come back better,” Hays said. 

Hays said she hopes to continue to play soccer and aspires to play on the Women’s National Team or the Portland Thorns, and her coach said he thinks she will have a bright future because of her work ethic.

“[Eleanor] works hard in training and she works hard off the field,” Gordon said. “It shows in how she has improved tremendously over two years. Because of that, I think she will be able to play at the next level. Certainly a high level in college at a Power Five university. I even think she will be able to be called into a youth national team if the timing is right or she continues to improve.”