Manchester native finds home on WMU pitch
When you’re hometown is Manchester, England, it’s standard practice to grow up with a soccer ball between your feet, as did Nicole Hatcliffe, a Western Michigan University sophomore majoring in communication and a member of the varsity women’s soccer squad.
“I feel so privileged to be at WMU,” Hatcliffe said. “We are treated like professionals and being on the team feels like having another family. You would never find a campus like WMU’s in England—our professional soccer teams play in stadiums and on fields that are not even as big as Waldo Stadium. I am grateful for this opportunity to play at the highest level on a college team with scholarship support. There is no such thing as athletic scholarships to attend college in England.”
Hatcliffe can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t playing soccer regularly. When she was just 12 years old, her talents on the pitch were recognized when she was selected to play for the Blackburn Rovers Soccer Club, one of England’s premier youth clubs, in addition to her school-based teams.
Looking ahead while attending Elton High School for an opportunity to play college-level soccer, Hatcliffe set her sights on attending a college in the United States that had a Division I women’s soccer program and scholarship support.
With close family members living in Chicago, Hatcliffe said she narrowed her search to colleges in the Midwest, and with the help of her father, Tim, she identified Western Michigan University as an ideal place to earn a degree and a place on the varsity squad.
The 5’ 5” midfielder was a top goal scorer for England’s Bury College in 2010 and 2011 and she was named Player of the Match in an England Colleges vs. Australia tournament played in 2010. In her first season at WMU in fall 2011 she played in 16 matches and she has played in every match of the fall 2012 season to date.
Living in WMU’s Ernest/Smith Burnhams residence hall, where many Bronco athletes live, helped Hatcliffe make an easy transition to studying at an American university and living in the Midwest.
“I made so many friends right away because I was surrounded by people who I had something in common with,” she said. “We support each other by going to each others games and cheering. One of my best friends is a girl on the tennis team.”
Other things that have favorably impressed Hatcliffe about living in the U.S. are the wide variety of foods that are available and the abundance of lakes near Kalamazoo and throughout Michigan.
“The food supermarkets are at least twice as big here as they are at home and they offer an extensive amount of food choices,” Hatcliffe said. “I also love all the lakes and all the activities you can do in and on the water here; there are only a couple places in England that are similar. I look forward to traveling more outside of Michigan while I’m working on my degree. Last summer I was able to visit California for a week and I’ve also been Panama City, Florida.”