If there is one word to describe this weekend it would be EPIC.
4 teams. 2 days. 1 winner.
Let’s set the stage: We arrived at the SSE arena in Belfast early Friday morning to a glistening arena. Empty seats. Bright lights. The Sport Changes Life logo in the middle of the court. As we head backstage- we walk in to the four American teams’ (Towson, Holy Cross, LaSalle, Manhattan) locker rooms. We walk out to the entrance to see all the merchandise- t-shirts, hats, and of course foam fingers. Past the entrance, in the Odyssey Pavilion, we arrive in the Fan Zone.
This is where our epic weekend began. We were given our “All Access” passes, which allowed us virtually everywhere in the arena. (so OFFICIAL am I right?) We then got to play with local school kids in the Fan Zone. We had a basketball hoop set up for the kids to shoot, we were giving out foam fingers, and a local radio station was putting on some great jams. All of the kids came over wearing their adorable Christmas jumpers (Irish for sweater) and they were fascinated we were American. I was asked five times to say, “Oh my gosh” in my “American accent” and the kids would crack up every time I said it! After getting all the kids pumped, it was time to head into the area for GAME TIME!
All of the scholars were given different jobs throughout the arena, and I fortunately was given the very important role of court mopper! I had a sick Sport Changes Life mop and I got to sit court side right underneath the hoop. My job was to monitor the young basketball players who got to mop the court at timeouts, and I was to mop the court anytime a player fell on my side of the court. It was actually really nerve-wracking because I was afraid I was going to trip on national television. I am pretty sure my face got red every time I had to run out on to the court. Some interesting moments during my short lived professional mopping career are listed below:
I am unsure if CBS sports will have me back as a court mopper, but I really enjoyed my job, so much so I might even have to put it on my resume!
The basketball games were so much fun, with all of them coming down to the wire. Saturday’s championship game had my blood pressure through the roof; Towson hit a winning shot at the buzzer! The crowd (over 9,000 people! SAY WHAT?!) went insane and it was just an unbelievable moment for everyone involved. It was in this moment that I looked around and saw thousands of young Irish basketball players screaming and jumping up and down. I couldn’t help but think to myself- that’s what this is all about. Having these kids get to see high-level American basketball in such an exciting fashion, will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Most importantly, it shows these kids that if they work hard enough and dream big enough, anything is possible. And that’s what Sport Changes Life is all about: inspiring youth. I am feeling very thankful I got to be apart of such an epic weekend, and be apart of the everyday change Sport Changes Life is making in kid’s lives.
Huge shoutout to all the staff at Sport Changes Life and the Ulster University scholars who worked countless hours to make this event such a success!