When we arrived in Belfast for training, we were told that one of the main goals of Sport Changes Life was to “raise aspirations of the young people we work with in Ireland.” Taking this in to consideration- my fellow scholars and I began our first week of coaching and working with youth in Letterkenny.
We worked with various groups of boys and girls of all ages. We were able to work with Mulroy Hoops and the Letterkenny Blaze. Each group brought with them different skills, personalities, and challenges. However, all of these groups brought with them smiles, eagerness to learn something new, and gratitude. Each coaching session, all of the kids would be asking us to give them tips or new drills for them to work on. The passion that all of these children have for the game of basketball and their willingness to get better isinspiring. The gratitude they have is even more inspiring, as after every single session almost every child came up to me individually to thank me. In American, we are so fortunate to have AAU basketball, easy access to gyms, easy access to basketballs, local teams to play on, and college basketball scholarships. Here in Ireland, that isn’t the case for these kids. You wouldn’t believe how hard it was for me to find a girls basketball and a gym to shoot at. (Where I have to pay each time and they won’t turn the lights on for me) Most kids have to drive 45min-60min to just get to a practice for a club team, and they don’t get their full college education paid for because they are good at basketball. Yet – these are the most thankful and appreciate people I have met. They play the sport for the sole reason that they genuinely love it.
All I can say back is thank you. When basketball ended for me a year ago- I was burnt out. Frustrated. Lost love for the sport that was once my whole world. The fun was taken out of the game. When I watch these kids play, watch their passion and gratitude, my heart goes back to that first time I fell in love with basketball. And it’s not just the kids- it is the entire community as well. The parents, families, basketball clubs, and their willingness to drive us to coaching and training sessions and take care of us in a foreign country is amazing. All I can say is I am so thankful. Thankful that these incredible people of Letterkenny have raised my aspirations, raised my love for the game again.
So while I am on this journey to “raise the aspirations of the young people I work with,” the amazing people in Letterkenny have already raised my aspirations and given me a completely different perspective on the world, and for that I am so thankful.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog- a look into my national league team and the amazing families who have become my new family!