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Hayley Manners: Why I Became a Campus Captain

As The Hidden Opponent kicks off the July 2024 Campus Captains application cycle, a few of our current and former Campus Captains share their experience in the program!

Hayley holding the Canadian flag

Hayley Manners is a graduate student-athlete at the University of Central Florida on the women's track and field team. Ever since the conversations surrounding mental health began to become destigmatized, she was interested in learning more about it. She believes mental health advocacy is important, especially in athletes, because athletes are taught from a young age to be "tough", but only ever think of this meaning physically, and completely overlook the mental aspect.

"For many sports, more than half the battle is mental and I want to be an advocate to encourage athletes that it's okay and perfectly healthy to look after your mental health," said Hayley. "I want to remind athletes that your sport is what you do, and not who you are."

Why did you join the Campus Captain program?

I joined the Campus Captain program to be able to further educate myself about mental health and to find a community of people who believe that it's equally as important. I found that everyone at THO is very welcoming and accepting of whatever place in your journey you are at! I coincidentally joined at a time when my mental health was at an all-time low—after sustaining a season ending injury—and found that this community provided great support to help me get through it.

Hayley long jumping

What has been your favorite part of the program?

My favorite part of the program has been the friends I've made and the opportunities that THO has opened up to me! I not only formed great relationships with my head campus captain and the athletes in my group, but I was also able to attend a variety of different virtual events that helped me learn more about mental health and advocacy.

Can you elaborate on some activities or events you participated in or hosted this year, whether that be at your school or through the THO community? 

As a new campus captain last year, I attended several monthly events offered by THO to further my education on mental health and student-athletes. My favorite event was spirit week, where Campus Captains's were challenged to create content on social media to promote and bring awareness to mental health in student-athletes. I got to meet founder Victoria Browne via Zoom, and created several mental health awareness videos as part of my advocacy!

Hayley wearing a crown

What has been your biggest accomplishment as a Campus Captain? What positive changes have you seen on your campus through the program?

My biggest accomplishment has been growing the network of mental health advocates in the community. As a newer campus captain, I'm still expanding the ways in which I direct positive change on my campus. I aspire to host an event this fall and an awareness meet in the spring to bring more attention to this important topic!

What has been your biggest takeaway from the CC program?

Biggest takeaway from the program is definitely the community. It's so uplifting as an athlete to be surrounded by and to have a network of people who support this topic as much as you do! Especially for someone like me, who came in wanting to learn more, I felt as though I could do that here because of the support.

What advice or recommendations do you have for athletes who are interested in applying to the program?

My advice for athletes interested in the program is to APPLY! Even if you only have the slightest interest, you never know how an opportunity like this can change your life. The people you will meet and the experiences provided are all incredibly worth it.



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