College Spotlight:

Hayley Carter, Oklahoma State

Christina Aguis  |  February 22, 2018
Image Taken at the 2017 Cowgirl Tennis Pro-Am, Friday, November 17, 2017, Greenwood Tennis Center, Stillwater, OK. Bruce Waterfield/OSU Athletics

They say those who can’t do, teach – but that’s not the case for Oklahoma State University’s newest assistant coach for women’s tennis. After four ITA All-America years on the court at the University of North Carolina, Hayley Carter entered the coaching ranks for the 2017-18 season.


Carter finished her college career with an extensive list of accomplishments, being named ACC Player of the Year, ACC Tournament MVP and ITA National Senior Player of the Year. The ACC’s all-time leader in women’s singles wins (168), she also excelled in the classroom as a First Team Academic All-American and the only women’s tennis player in ACC history to be named Scholar-Athlete of the Year.


Her decision to transition from playing was made easy when an injury coincided with a coaching vacancy at OSU.


“I always wanted to go into coaching eventually, and the timing just worked out in terms of my injury and everything else and my kind of dream job opening up in a way,” Carter said. ADVERTISEMENT “I was recruited by Oklahoma State, so it was just the timing of everything. I couldn’t be happier, and I love it.”


Throughout her four years at UNC, Carter progressed not only through her tennis but also in her leadership skills, growing from a shy freshman to a vocal senior captain. 


“I tried to lead by actions. Once I started growing at UNC, I began to develop that voice, and by the time I was a senior, I tried to be the vocal leader,” Carter said. “That’s kind of how I am at OSU now, trying to lead by example and lead with my words.”


Heading into her new role, the 22-year-old Carter was nervous about being so close in age to her athletes. Any doubts were quickly settled, though, and in many ways, Carter’s youth has become an advantage, helping her relate to her charges.


“The team respected me right from the start and respected what I had to teach them,” Carter said. “I’m serving as their hitting partner and mentor and trying to show them how I had the success I had in college and how they can have the same thing with the right mindset.” 


One interesting wrinkle in Carter’s coaching experience has been working with players that she’s competed against in the past, like OSU senior Megan McCray. McCray and Carter are the same age and competed against each other in junior tennis at a national championship in San Diego in 2013, but the current senior now considers her new coach a mentor. 


“I think it’s a pretty cool thing, growing up and playing junior tennis at the same time and then having her coach me,” she said. “We relate on so many things. Unlike with someone who is so much older than you, there’s no pressure.” 


The new role has been a fun one for Carter, who expects it to get easier as the age gap grows, but one of the hardest things for her has been bringing a positive attitude into the office and onto the court every day. 


“In life there are ups and downs, and as a player I could be down for a day or two, but as a coach it’s your responsibility to come in every single day and bring in that energy and that positivity because if a girl is aware of that then she’ll feed off of that,” she explained. 


As she continues to learn and develop her coaching persona, Carter credits her coach at UNC, Brian Kalbas, and head coach Chris Young at OSU for providing models to aspire to. With her work ethic and tennis smarts, it may not be long until Carter follows in their footsteps to lead a program of her own.


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