Hayley Reitsma has received much more than just the thrill of competition and joy of victory while being a NCAA Division III softball player at Hope College.

HaleyThe junior catcher from Grand Rapids, Michigan (Grand Rapids Christian HS) has learned about herself and discovered her career and life aspirations while starting behind the plate for the Flying Dutch for three seasons.

“Softball has been a big part of my growth as a person,” Reitsma said. “It has really helped me gain confidence and leadership skills. It also has helped me find a profession that I want to do, something that is both task-oriented and people-oriented.

“The more I’ve had time at Hope, the more I have found that investing in relationships is something that gives me energy.”

Reitsma plans to attend Physician Assistant school after graduating from Hope College and taking a gap year.

The three-year starter and two-time member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Honor Roll has chosen biology as a major and business as a minor. Playing ball and studying sciences has become a family tradition.

Her brother, Mitch Reitsma ’16, a former pitcher for the Hope College baseball team, has been accepted to the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. He is currently working on completing a Master’s in Business Administration from Grand Valley State University.

“My love for the sciences comes out a little bit from my love for athletics and working out. They were always something my brother and I were interested in,” she said. “I followed his footsteps to Hope. I followed his footsteps to the sciences. I’ve fallen in love with the sciences now that I’m here and have really gotten into it.” 

Reitsma found that, once she began her studies at Hope and pondered her future, she wanted to take a different career path than her brother’s.

“I looked at my life goals. I really want to have a family and be a pretty active mom. The fact that P.A. school is two years, then there’s more flexibility in the schedule once you get into the profession, was really appealing to me.”

Reitsma is thankful for all the opportunities Hope College provides for her as a student-athlete — on and off the diamond. She said they helped her figure out her career path.

“I’ve been able to have a placement through my development psychology class at Evergreen Commons. It’s with senior citizens, spending time talking with them and doing activities with them. That’s been really fun,” Reitsma said. “The different classes and opportunities that have been afforded to me have helped me figure out what I want to do.”

Reitsma is in particular appreciative of the community support at Hope College, whether from professors, coaches or classmates.

Being a student-athlete brings with it unique scheduling challenges, especially in a compact spring season. Reitsma said she has not had to sacrifice the quality of her learning while playing softball and being a co-captain for the Flying Dutch.

An interaction with a chemistry professor, Dr. Elizabeth Sanford, had a significant impact, Reitsma recalled.

“The professors are really flexible. They’re awesome,” Reitsma said. “Last year in the spring, I did an individual project as part of an organic chemistry lab. Dr. Elizabeth Sanford was the one working with me. She said right away, ‘I know you’re a student-athlete. I know your hours are going to be different than other people’s. I’m giving you a project that’s flexible with the hours, it’s not going to be as labor intensive in big blocks of time. You’ll be able to come in as you can. She was so helpful at the outset recognizing my schedule was going to be different.’

“I’ve found when missing classes, my classmates have been super helpful, too. The whole community in general wants everyone to succeed. There are definitely resources available.”