From Ama to RMU: Kaoru Hayashi


Hayashi missed the 2022 season after suffering an ACL tear Photo credit: Samantha Dutch

Evan Basista

For kids in Japan, there are plenty of options to get involved in sports. Its most popular spectator sport is baseball, and Japanese martial arts such as judo and kendo are taught as part of the compulsory junior high school curriculum.

However, for Ama native Kaoru Hayashi, playing soccer would always be the sport for her.

“I have an older sister and a twin,” Hayashi said. “My dad used to play soccer until high school, and my older sister used to play. So there’s no choice but to play it. It’s kind of automatic.”

It might have taken a little time to warm up to the sport, but Hayashi fell in love with the game after a while.

“I think the first time [playing soccer], I didn’t really like it, but I can make friends on the team and meet many people,” Hayashi said. “Playing with my twin is the biggest thing that makes it fun.”

Hayashi has been playing soccer in North America for her entire collegiate career. She began with two seasons at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, where she led the program to back-to-back conference championships. She recorded six goals and 16 points in 19 games while earning a first-team all-region nomination and a SWAC All-Tournament Team selection.

However, when she transferred to Robert Morris, she experienced growing pains and did not immediately feel like she fit in.

“I transferred here during a spring semester,” Hayashi said. “I knew transferring would be hard because people are already close and know each other, and it was also during COVID. So it was hard to hang out and have new friends. And then I’m an international student, so my English was not good. I was not confident to speak. Even now, I feel that a little bit, but two years ago, it was more of wanting to stay away.”

Hayashi shared why she chose RMU, saying, “I was supposed to transfer to other schools, but it was during COVID and right after tearing my ACL the first time. So I was not confident, but the coach here knew me really well. Then I was confident to have playing time.”

It was announced last month that she was cleared to play again, but it was not always clear that that would be the case during her recovery process.

“It was almost a year, and it was my second time on the same knee,” Hayashi said. “I even thought about quitting soccer because I was not confident I’d be back 100 percent. I was worried people would think I’m not as good as I was before. It was actually the hardest time I’ve ever experienced. But the people surrounding me, my family and friends back home, were always cheering me up. They always believed in me coming back stronger. That was my biggest motivation to come back. It was hard, but I’m so happy to be back now.”

There are differences between playing soccer here and in Japan, the main one being the facilities Hayashi said was much nicer than back in her native country.

“University sports are not as big in Japan. We usually don’t have many fans at the games, and we pay, like club team soccer. It’s very different. I’ve never experienced university soccer in Japan, but I would say it’s much better here.”

Hayashi also talked about how RMU has helped her academically during her time here.

“I’m a psychology major, but I don’t know what I will be doing with my degree right now,” she said. “I’m always trying to get a high GPA. The professors are so nice, and they always care about me. If I have anything I can’t understand or struggle with, they always help me. I think that’s one of the biggest things helping my success in academics.”

With a number of key younger players on the team, such as freshmen Elisa Corvalan, Renae Mohrbacher, and Paloma Swankler, there was an opportunity for older players to help lead them.

“I don’t really talk a lot, but I think my strength is being hard-working,” Hayashi said. “It’s not the typical ‘captain’ kind of leadership, but I think I lead by example.”

Over her career as a Colonial, Hayashi had four goals and four assists in twenty-five games. When asked about her favorite memory during her time here, she said, “It was the games where I scored the game-winning goal. I think I had it twice, one against Wright State and one against Mount Saint Mary’s. It felt so good.

Hayashi shared what she most looks forward to as the women’s soccer team prepares to start their spring season later this month.

“I just came back to play, so I’m fully back on the pitch but not fully back with my technique. So I’m trying to bring that back and be ready for the fall semester because that is my last semester playing here in the United States.”