By Lee Davis
As a young girl, Leigh Haynes gave several sports a try.
Basketball was fun, but she tended to foul out a lot. Her hustling, aggressive nature earned her the name “Bulldozer.” In a different mode, Haynes tried ballet, but it wasn’t for her. Something about the speed and aggressiveness of soccer made the game a perfect fit.
“I started playing Sunday afternoon soccer at the age of three,” Haynes recalled last week. “After that I played in a recreational league until I got to the competitive level. Soccer was always the sport I felt most comfortable playing.”
Choosing soccer may be the best decision she ever made. Haynes, who just graduated from Mountain Brook, was recently named the 2015 Gatorade Alabama Girls Soccer Player of the Year. She was the spark that led the Lady Spartans to a long reign as the top-ranked team in Class 7A before being eliminated in the playoffs by eventual champion Oak Mountain. “It was exciting – and humbling – to win the Gatorade award,” she said. “So many great players have won it before. But I couldn’t have done it without the support of my teammates and coaches.”
Haynes, a midfielder, scored 14 goals and passed for eight assists in 2015. She also was named All-State, All-Metro and Mountain Brook’s Most Valuable Player. Her college destination is Wake Forest University, a perennial women’s soccer power in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I’m excited about pursing my dream of playing college soccer,” she said. “I’ve always tried to set high goals for myself, and I’ll continue to do that at Wake Forest. Playing at an ACC school will make it challenging to get playing time during my freshman year, but I have a great support system to help me.”
As impressive as Haynes’ high school numbers were, they could have been even better. She would actually ask the Spartan coaches to take her out of one-sided Mountain Brook victories so less experienced players would have a chance to get on the field.
“I really didn’t care about building up statistics just to build up statistics,” Haynes explained. “When asked if I wanted to stay in a game to score more goals, I always said ‘no.’ It was more important that the younger players had an opportunity to play.”
Haynes’ intense work ethic is her trademark and probably will increase her chances of making an immediate impact at the collegiate level. She practices about three hours a day, several times a week on her own – in addition to club team practices. “If I wanted to achieve my goals, I had to do more than just the required practices,” she said. “Being a successful midfielder involves being able to read the field and know where to play the ball at all times. I don’t consider myself an outstanding midfielder, but rather someone who is working to become an outstanding midfielder.”
Her work ethic extended to the classroom as well, where Haynes produced a 3.65 grade point average. To do so, she made the ultimate sacrifice for any teenage girl in 2015 – no music and no cell phone.
“When I was playing club soccer in Georgia, the radio and cell phone was turned off to Atlanta and back,” she said, smiling. “It’s amazing how much school work and studying can be done in that length of time.”
Haynes had many great games and moments in her career at Mountain Brook, but the one she declared as the highlight may provide the best insight into her character.
Last season, the Lady Spartans dedicated a game to Sid Ortis, a Mountain Brook Junior High student who is battling cancer. Haynes doesn’t remember her statistics from the game, but she does know why it was important. “Although I don’t know him personally, seeing the community rally behind him has made an impact on me,” she said. “When I learned we were going to play a game in his honor, it was exciting that our team was able to show our support along with everyone else in Mountain Brook.”
Haynes isn’t allowing herself any down time during the summer months. She’s training six days a week, following a Women’s Professional Soccer League regimen as well as getting private training so she will be primed and ready when she heads for college.
“When it’s time to go, I’ll be prepared,” she said. “I’m nervous too, but it will all work out.”
Picking soccer over basketball and ballet definitely worked out for Leigh Haynes. ϖ