Oregon's Haley Cruse Wants To Inspire Younger Generation
Oregon softball star Haley Cruse opened up to Softball America in an interview about returning to the Ducks for another year, how the 2021 season is going and her rise to TikTok stardom.
Read below for the full interview.
Softball America: How tough was it last year to get that season canceled and how did you deal with those emotions?
Haley Cruse: It was really hard at the time. We were coming off of a rebuilding year and we were excited to see the success that we were having. We were excited to see how we were going to compete in conference play, and to see how we matched up against opponents, and obviously, that was taken away from us pretty abruptly. And I know that the entire team was hit really hard, but especially the seniors. Because we didn't know whether or not we were going to have another opportunity to play again.
It was a roller coaster of emotions, and it was very hard to accept at the time. So after that, it was just kind of a long waiting game to see what the season was going to look like and whether or not we were going to be able to come back. That took quite the toll. And it was hard to stay motivated at times because we weren't sure whether or not we would get that opportunity to play again. So taking the time to put in the work still not knowing what the future would hold was difficult. But I think our entire team did a good job of staying connected during that time and motivating each other and it all worked out for the best in the end.
SA: What's the process like deciding to come back for another season?
HC: At that point when we found out about the season, I think I had already made my decision that if I were to get an opportunity to play again, I would want to. I just didn't feel right leaving the game on that note because it's so important to me and it's something I've worked so hard and so long for that I wanted to make sure I could end it on my terms. And so as soon as we heard that we were able to have another season I was already committed to coming back. I think it was more just a waiting game rather than actually deciding whether or not I was going to play again.
SA: What do you expect from your team this season?
HC: I think our team was extremely prepared for this season because we have just dealt with so much adversity throughout the last few years that this was just another bump in the road. And I think that we are very well equipped to handle it. We have the depth that we've lacked in years past. So now that we have everything put together, I think we were just ready to come out and compete and see what we can do. We honestly have nothing to lose.
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SA: You’ve mentioned before that you weren’t a highly sought after recruit coming out of high school and now you’re an All-American. What would you tell a young girl coming out of high school who is in the same position?
HC: Tell them to never get complacent. I think in high school, it's easy to just get by sometimes. When you get to college, that doesn't fly. You have to separate yourself behind the scenes. And you have to really put in the extra work because you're not just going to skate by in college. You have to find a way to work your way up. And I had to develop a work ethic that I thought I had but I never truly did in high school because, you know, it came naturally to me and I relied a lot on my natural talent. So learning to combine that natural talent with a strong work ethic is the key to success in college.
SA: What made you want to start making TikToks? And what comes along with putting yourself in the public eye as an athlete?
HC: Social media for me has always been just a means of self-expression. Even before TikTok, I just always enjoyed it and I enjoy sharing parts of my life on it. So when I started, it was honestly just my teammate Jas (Sievers) and I having fun and sharing it with people to see. We didn't expect anything from it but it did take off, so it just became something that was really fun for us in a season that was really hard for us as a team.
That was what got it going, but then I decided to keep posting as an individual. Like I said, it's a means of self-expression for me because it doesn't feel like it's a job to keep it up anymore. It's something that I do for fun. If it's something that I can continue doing in the future, I'd love to. I was not expecting it to take off the way it did. But since it has (taken off), it has brought a lot of responsibility on me. I used to be very free posting whenever I wanted, and now I just have to be aware that there are a lot of eyes on what I'm doing and just learn to think of myself as a role model.
SA: What’s next for you in terms of a career path?
HC: If there is any way for me to make a career out of what I'm already doing, then of course I would love that. But all I know right now is that, either way, I want to stay involved in sports because that's always been my true passion, and not just softball. I'm a huge sports junkie in general. Whether it's in front of the camera or behind the scenes, marketing or whatever, I just know that I want to stay involved in sports and give back to softball, especially, (since it is) the sport that has given me everything.
SA: What’s your dream job right now?
HC: At this point, my dream job is to do anything that allows me to inspire the younger generation—I think, whether it's speaking engagements, or whatever. Just something that will allow me to have an impact on younger people—especially younger softball players because they have inspired me so much throughout my career that I want to do whatever I can (for them).