In just these two past weekends, important events have come to fruition. These events were shared with others, most notably all the Sport Changes Life family in Belfast. This time of year is a wonderful chance to spend quality time with good company. Rather than spending it with my close family, this year went a little different for me. I spent Thanksgiving with those I thought to be strangers just 3 months ago. We all were brought together in Belfast and enjoyed this holiday exchanging the highlights of everybody’s year to date. With finals looming, it was a wonderful opportunity to relax and share the holiday with now close friends. Belfast was in its first weekend of showcasing its festive Christmas Market. Beautifully established by the ornate City Hall, the market showcased many shops offering holiday goods. From the taste of France to kangaroo burgers, from hot chocolate to mulled wine, it’s suffice to say the Christmas Market brought about my holiday spirit. With this refresher over, finals week and the Belfast Classic commenced.
In the upcoming days, the completion of such an important event became a very rewarding experience. For the first time, 4 NCAA teams came to play in Europe. So much hard work by the SCL team was put into this event, it would be too long of a blog if I described it. The final day of the Classic brought an important realization on just how influential the event was to Irish basketball and the affect it had on the people attending the event. As an American from Philadelphia, where pride in basketball is unparalleled, I realized how fortunate I was to be exposed to top-tier sporting events that inspired me as a child wishing to play at that high level. Seeing the crowd build up by the entrance, arriving in the arena met with roaring sounds and pungent odors of stadium food, and finally seeing the court displayed at center stage were among the numerous joys experienced that have now had resounding effects on me. I have been away from American basketball for quite some time and this event allowed me to remember all those significant experiences I enjoyed playing and watching the game I love. From the customized flooring to the college pep band, the Belfast Classic reminded players and coaches alike the joys of picking up a basketball. This realization was also aided by the young Irish that attended the event. The success of the games would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and passion shown by the fans, especially from all the boys and girls representing their clubs across the nation. I was able to see about 15+ kids from Old Leighlin, the club I help coach, enjoy an incredible day of basketball. It was through their passion and enjoyment that showcased the Belfast Classic’s tangible results. They had never seen a basketball event in such magnitude and skill and were decked out in memorabilia from foam fingers to Sport Changes Life beanies. I stood court-side, as I looked up upon the thousands in attendance, it was easy to spot the enormous smiles and greetings from the rambunctious group.
I was extremely proud to be apart of the Sport Changes Life organization after this groundbreaking weekend. This event showcased the true values of the organizations mission to inspire and bring others together through basketball. From the cheering fans happily accepting face paints from colleges they had just learned existed, to the final shot at the buzzer giving Towson the championship, you could not write a better ending or script to a phenomenal weekend.