Caleb Hoereth

Caleb Hoereth `24.
Caleb Hoereth `24.
Meilynn Smith
ET Ourn

Caleb Hoereth `24, fondly known as Leb, is the kind of person you can find on campus chatting with everyone he runs into. His outgoing personality has helped him create connections with his peers, and because of this, he says the Grinnell community has contributed to his growth in all aspects of his soccer, academic and personal identity.

Hoereth’s interest in getting recruited for college soccer brought him to Grinnell on Junior Visit Day, where he said he came to see head men’s soccer coach Brian Jaworksi with his high school best friend. Although Grinnell’s “middle of nowhere” location put him off, he decided to do another visit on his own.

“I happened to stay the night with some previous teammates. I got to kind of experience like the whole Dining Hall, what they do for fun, kind of a little bit more of the social aspects,” Hoereth said.

Although Grinnell’s individualized curriculum, as well as the close-knit community between professors and peers, drew Hoereth in, he decided to commit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I think it was April 30th. I chose them, and I slept at night and woke up May 1st thinking I made the wrong decision,” he said. “And here I am. I think, ‘Would I do it again?’ I think so. One of the main things I was looking for was a top-tier education while still being able to play soccer that I got recruited for, and I’d say I achieved that.”

Though Hoereth was able to meet other freshmen on the soccer team during the second semester of his first year, he didn’t meet the rest of the soccer team until he was back on campus as a sophomore. However he said that academically and athletically, it was difficult to adjust.

“We already have this whole new class of kids asking me, ‘Hey, how do I do this?’” he said. “I wasn’t here, so I was honestly in the same boat as all the first years.”

Meilynn Smith

Once he was back on campus, Hoereth continued to fulfill his biology major, having his eyes set on becoming an orthopedic surgeon. He said that when he started struggling in organic chemistry, however, he withdrew from the class and decided to make a change. Karla Erickson, professor and department chair of sociology, helped him realize his interest in public health, and he switched to a sociology major because of the absence of a public health major at Grinnell.

To learn more about the field, Hoereth said he participated in summer internships at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and the University of Chicago Crime Lab, all of which are public health-based. Even though he loved meeting new people at each internship, he said he realized that he wasn’t enjoying his experience as much as he thought he would. 

“I was kind of like, ‘Dang, this was great, and there needs to be people doing this work because it’s important. But it’s not fun.’ I didn’t enjoy doing it. As much as I loved everyone who worked there … I kind of sat and thought like, ‘’what am I good at? What have I done in the last four years that could kind of contribute to a new interest and a new career change?’” he said.

At that moment, Hoereth thought of his leadership and mentorship roles. In the past two years, he has not only been a Student Athlete Mentor (SAM) –– most recently co-president of the SAMs organization –– he was also the 2023-2024 men’s soccer team captain. “The skills that I’ve gained through SAM and my leadership role on the men’s soccer team is something I like and am good at … It’s fun. I like helping people,” he said. “It helps build connections with them when you help people through different issues and things like that. So I said, ‘alright, so sports psychology.’” 

His leadership and love for connecting with people also led to his decision to revive the Men of Color Empowered and Engaged organization with Jordon Ryan `24, a Black student on the men’s basketball team. Hoereth said that since it was their last year, they wanted to ensure the group could consistently meet and be a lasting space for Black students.

“It’s been nice being able to continue to talk about life, not only in Grinnell as a Black student, but also living in Iowa. We’ve been able to kind of relate to our different race struggles and issues that we’ve all experienced,” Hoereth said. 

After reflecting on his last four years, Hoereth believes he has had a stressful and nonlinear journey, but he said he’s glad he changed his mind to be happy with his current path. He said that though he sometimes wishes he had come to a quicker realization with his major during his freshman year, he is content with how interesting his journey has been. 

“I was able to meet a lot of different people, kind of increase my knowledge in different fields and areas that probably wouldn’t have happened if I was able to just do straight sociology and psychology,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things that I don’t think I could have done if I wasn’t at a place like Grinnell.”

After Grinnell, Hoereth will be attending the University of Michigan School of Social Work to pursue sports psychology in the fall. He said that he is excited to start a new chapter, but has been trying to soak up his last couple of weeks in Grinnell. 

“Here I am, about to graduate. I feel like these things always come quicker than you hope or want them to. But focusing on my studies and hanging out with my people as much as I can is my goal before I walk that stage.”

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    Mark WilloughbyMay 6, 2024 at 9:38 pm

    As the Dad of one of Leb’s soccer teammates, Jaxon Willoughby, I can attest to Leb’s leadership and mentorship skills. He has been a huge support to Jaxon since he started at Grinnell. Leb is one of the good guys, and as for his people skills – well, for me, he’s the Mayor of Grinnell, isn’t he?