Castle Ward

September 21st, 2014 | Uncategorized

This week, the four of us victory scholars based at UUJ studying Sports Management, went on retreat with our course mates to Castle Ward in Strangford. The estate was everything I’d imagined Ireland to be previous to arriving last month.


There were lush gardens, perfectly manicured and rich with a beautiful variety of flowers, bushes, and trees. The land stretched for miles, I think 600 acres to be exact.  The main house sits facing the serene Strangford Lough, a gorgeous waterfront that ended up being the backdrop of many of our group activities while there.


We were brought to one of the newly repurposed buildings on site, complete with a giant rock climbing wall and oversized tee-pee. There seemed to be tours going on at all hours of the day, as the site attracts many “Game of Thrones” fans from all over the world. It turns out many parts of the show have actually been filmed there, and most of the time I would see people dressed up as characters ready to give tours.


Once we arrived, we had fun getting to know each other through many classic icebreaker games, and it wasn’t long before we began to loosen up and have some fun. We spent an entire day being broken up into groups and working through activities that required leadership, strategy, and teamwork. It was frustrating at times, though eye-opening. Almost every activity we did had a strict time limit attached, and more often than not, we failed as a group.   At the end of each go at it, however, our group coach would hold a meeting, where we’d reflect on what went wrong, and how we could manage better the next time. Personally, the entire day left me with a great deal of insight that I didn’t have before when it comes to my behavior in a group setting, especially when under pressure. I know that some of the things I learned about myself from those activities will be of use to me not only during basketball matches or coaching, but also in the classroom and eventually the workplace.


Our accommodation was set on a beautiful farm not far from the estate, and the views were absolutely picturesque. I remember driving past a little house with beautiful hydrangea bushes and fields upon fields of green grass with cows grazing and thinking I could really just leave everything behind and enjoy the simple life for a while.


When all the activities of the day were done, we all enjoyed a quiz night at the local bar and continued our ‘celebration’ back at our accommodation. It was the perfect balance to all the more strenuous tasks we’d gone through to get to know each other (and ourselves) a little better that day. On the final morning of our trip, we were taken back to Castle Ward to enjoy some rock climbing, archery, and free time roaming about the land. Some people took out bikes and rode the trails, but I chose to adventure by foot and walked through the gardens.


All in all, it was a wonderfully eye-opening retreat in every sense. My eyes were certainly open to all of the amazing scenery that surrounded me, but also all of the new faces that will surround me for the rest of the year in my courses. I learned more than I thought I would about myself, which is always a good ting, and I definitely feel confident that the experience has left me prepared for a great year with all of my new course mates. 

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