ECNL alumni from across the country take us through a current day in their life with video takeovers for A Day in the League on the Girls Soccer Network, alumni edition.
Mikayla Hampton, an Ohio Elite SA alum, went on to play college soccer at both Northwestern University and the University of Louisville. While in college at Northwestern, she majored in Communication with a minor in Industrial Product Design, before going to Louisville to pursue her MBA. Hampton is now working as the ECNL Regional League Events Manager, where she helps plan and coordinate national events and works to support other ECNL events on both the girls’ and boys’ side.
We also sat down and talked with Hampton to see how her time in the ECNL helped shape her and her career path.
How did your time in the ECNL help prepare you for the career you are in now?
I would say playing in the ECNL definitely gave me a good sense of being at the highest level and what that entailed. I had friends who played soccer pretty competitively, but there’s obviously something special about the environment that the ECNL creates. Having played in that myself, it gives me a different appreciation for the standards that we have, why we have them, and why it’s important to keep pushing those and raising the bar every time we go to plan an event or look ahead to next year and what we can add or the opportunities we can try to bring to the players.
What about playing in the ECNL when you were growing up made you decide that you wanted to work with the league?
I’ve always been super passionate about soccer, and I think a lot of people who played at a high level would say that, but the opportunity kind of came out of nowhere and it was one that took me by surprise, and I think I was most excited for the opportunity to see the league from the other side. In terms of being on the side of planning and pushing the league forward, rather than just being a recipient of the people that are working to create all of it. So, I was excited by the challenge to keep helping the league evolve. I felt like I had a good experience, myself as a player, that made me want to pursue this rather than walking away from the game in total and just doing a job that was not in sports at all.
How does seeing the league from the perspective of a player and now seeing the league from your current perspective help you in your position as Regional League Events Manager?
I have extremely fond memories of the events. I remember as a player, there’s a lot of things that you experience the benefits of without actually recognizing the work that went into it. For example, it’s such a cool experience with the atmosphere created at The Zone and The Shoebox, and now being on this side I know how much goes into planning, why we place things where we do, why we play music, and why we try to make an environment that invites you in and makes you want to stick around. I have that perspective now, but as a player I didn’t really think about how much goes into it. It makes the event super fun, but you don’t really realize it until you go to an event that doesn’t have any of those things. I’m coaching a youth team right now and we’ve been to more local events, and they’re great events, but it just kind of opens my eyes to how far above and beyond we try to go and why it’s so important. Having experienced it as a player and creating so many memories with my teammates at the events, I think that’s what kind of drew me to the job, and also that’s what helps me think about how we can keep recreating that for the next generation.
What were some of the biggest lessons that you took from your coaches when you were at Ohio Elite SA?
I feel like I learned so much because I was at Ohio Elite for 10 years and I think anytime you can stay at a place that long you really understand the culture that they built. I think something that I took with me that is kind of impossible to not implement in my daily life is just trying to find ways to utilize everyone’s skills. We started out during my younger years at Ohio Elite, we were not very successful in terms of results, but they were so process oriented and development oriented, that it helps you kind of understand the importance of buying into the day to day and buying into the big picture, which I think plays really well into what the ECNL tries to do, just understanding how the parts contribute to the whole. Having seen a lot of growth through my team at Ohio Elite, just from start to finish, I learned the value of not just trusting the process but loving the process and being engaged in the day-to-day intricacies of it.
Looking back on it, what was your most memorable experience you had when you were a youth athlete?
My last year at Ohio Elite we had lost a few games in November and December, and it put us in a tough spot in terms of qualifying for the playoffs. So, we had to win an absurd amount of our Spring games. I think at one point we had to win maybe eight or nine of our last 10 games and we had a really tough conference. So, we had a heart to heart as a team and decided we wanted to go for it because some teams kind of check out, and you don’t want to check out, but we decided we wanted to go for it. It was a huge challenge and we ended up getting to the very last game against Indiana Fire. It was a home game for us, and we had to tie or win to go to Rockford for the playoffs. It was a great back and forth game, I think we ended up tying 4-4, but it was just enough to send us through, and I just remember celebrating that we got to go to the playoffs and just having such a great experience. We didn’t end up making it to the finals, but it was the furthest we had ever gone, and that team was really special. Every event we really enjoyed every second of it. We spent a lot of time together as a team, whether it was at the zone, or going out to team dinners, but I just remember going out on such a positive note. It was one of those teams where you could probably reach out to any of the teammates at this point and pick up like we haven’t missed a beat.