This May, the Hewitt community gathered at a signing day event to celebrate Caitlin Doran, Class of 2019. An avid athlete who played varsity soccer for Hewitt throughout her high school career, Doran will attend the United States Naval Academy this fall as a Division I soccer recruit. This is no small feat, as just a small percentage of students are accepted into the Naval Academy and an even smaller percentage have the honor and privilege of playing Division I sports. Reflecting on her athletic career thus far, Doran shared, “Soccer has helped me develop as a person. It’s a game that has taught me respect, perseverance, and the pleasure of competition, and I continue to learn every time I step onto the field.” As she wraps up her senior year, which included serving as captain of Hewitt’s varsity soccer team, I spoke with Doran about her passion for the game, why she chose the U.S. Naval Academy, and the importance of having female athletes as role models.
How did you develop your love of soccer?
My earliest soccer memory is not actually playing but watching my older brother. I think he is the real reason I started to play soccer. I went to all of his games growing up, and I remember how he played with such finesse at such a young age. Sure, I was sometimes distracted building mud pies with the other younger siblings (who would become my future teammates), but seeing my brother on the field was the first step to becoming the player I am now.
I started playing soccer when I was four years old, and over the last 14 years I’ve had a lot of great coaches, including my dad. However, I think my best teachers have been my teammates, who push me to play better and work harder everyday.
Tell us about your decision to attend the United States Naval Academy after graduating from Hewitt.
I first visited the U.S. Naval Academy when I was 12, and though I did not yet know exactly who I would be at 18, I immediately felt like it was the place for me. Even then I knew that I wanted to develop into the type of person who could be a midshipman, which is the U.S. Navy’s junior-most officer. Like the midshipmen, I have a strong desire to be a part of something much bigger than myself. As an athlete, my teams and coaches have been incredibly inspirational to me and I always push myself to do everything I can so that my team succeeds. It feels good to me to work with a group for a purpose greater than my own achievements, and I saw a familiar quality in the students at the Naval Academy. I gravitated toward the opportunity to get a free education and play on a great soccer team with inspiring coaches.
My parents have been two of my biggest influences in making the decision to attend the Naval Academy. They raised me to know that I am strong enough to do anything I put my mind to, and I’ve set myself up for a college experience that will really challenge me and push me to work hard. I will be taking a big step outside of my comfort zone this fall, but I know that I will be able to handle the experience because my parents are always there to inspire me and keep me positive.
What are you most looking forward to in college?
I am most excited to meet people from all around the world, make friends who I will know for the rest of my life, and challenge myself beyond many breaking points. I’m also really looking forward to getting back on the field. I have played my last soccer game as a Hewitt Hawk and I already miss it.
Tell us about your time as a Hawk. What lessons from your time at Hewitt will you bring with you to the Naval Academy?
Being a Hewitt Hawk for the past four years has meant everything to me. I have been playing soccer for a long time but some of my teammates were newer to the game, and that really pushed me as a captain to think creatively about how I communicated with my team about strategy and positioning. I think that creativity on the field helped me become more well rounded as a player. Hewitt has also taught me that my voice matters, both on and off the field. I feel like that is the most important lesson I will take with me to the Naval Academy and beyond.
What advice do you have for future Hawks who want to play sports in college or are interested in knowing more about the recruitment process?
My best advice would be to make sure you absolutely love what you're doing. Preparing to play at the college level is time consuming, and college coaches are not just looking for skilled athletes - they also want to see effort, ambition, and love for the game. I would also advise high school athletes who are serious about college sports to start the recruitment process early and to let their parents help them. Where you go to college is ultimately your own decision, but you’ll have an easier time if you allow your parents into the process.
I started my recruitment process by making a list of colleges I wanted to play for, choosing schools that would definitely make me work hard as an athlete. My parents and coaches helped me review and finalize my list, and then my dad and I started inviting those schools to my games and showcases. A few schools recruited me to play in their ID camps, which are highly competitive opportunities for high school athletes to play soccer for college coaches. I committed to the Naval Academy at the end of my ninth grade year, a few months after playing in their ID camp. Committing to a service academy is a bit unique in that there is not a 100% guarantee of acceptance based on recruitment alone, so I still had to work hard to keep my academic standing in line with those of the other applicants to U.S. Naval Academy.
Why is it important for girls to have female athletes they can look up to?
Female athletes are great examples of how hard women have to work in order to be successful and be recognized in this field. Their stories are maps for younger athletes, lighting a path and showing them the kind of commitment it takes to get where you want to be. I have plenty of female athletes to look up to, from Abby Wambach to Billie Jean King. These women inspire me to go after the things I want because they’ve shown me that with perseverance and love for the game, anything is possible.
As captain of Hewitt’s soccer team, I saw how important it was to be a role model for younger girls, to encourage them to continue developing themselves as athletes and students. If I didn’t have people supporting and inspiring me, I would not be the person I am today with the goals I hope to achieve. I’ve had my share of people to look up to and learn from, and I am thrilled that I got to be one of those people for some of Hewitt’s younger girls.