I’m addressing this blog to all of those student-athletes out there, some that already know they are coming over to Ireland next year and others who don’t even know they will end up applying to be a Victory Scholar. I wanted to write to you guys to create a quasi-how-to guide to help you optimize your time volunteering, learning, and playing basketball through the amazing opportunity that is working with Sport Changes Life. While I originally thought I would rant on and on about the specifics of what you should do while you’re here, what sights to not miss, and how to balance coaching and playing while getting a Master’s degree, I realized that this year is not about following in the exact same footsteps of the people that came before you (*don’t worry Cork scholars, Ian and I will 100% be giving you all the info on best cafes, restaurants, bars, adventures, and the like*). While the unbelievable year of being a Victory Scholar is about impacting young people and continuing your education, it is also simultaneously and beautifully about personal growth and finding out who you are in novel and at times, challenging, environments. With that, I don’t want you guys to come over here with cookie-cutter expectations, roles, and guidelines surrounding what your year should be like, because in reality, everybody’s experience will – and should – be their very own adventure tangled up with mistakes, life lessons, and amazing memories.
I know this extremely well not only because my year is almost over now but because I have grown up with two amazing older sisters, best friends, and role models, that happen to both be Dublin Victory Scholar alums – and in turn have had the (self-imposed) privilege to struggle my whole life with striving to be my own, individual person. Despite these efforts and due to the impossibility of passing up the opportunity of living, getting a master’s, and coaching in Ireland for a year, I have obviously yet again followed in their footsteps and have been a scholar in Cork for the past 9 months. I also came over here very close to other previous scholars, my HC teammate Clare Sullivan and one of the Cork scholars last year Madi Ward – she played basketball with my older sister Katie in college and we even have the same (although spelt differently) name. Because of these connections, I knew both how great, demanding, and rewarding being a Victory Scholar can be, but also that I wanted to make my experience very much my own. So, since this year has already flown by and has become one of the – if not the – best years of my life, I wanted to leave you guys with some probably cliché, not too specific, take-away advice to help you fully invest in this unique journey ahead of you that is completely and wonderfully yours.
If I have learned anything this year, it’s to always actively be open to new things. This openness and acceptance of ambiguity and discomfort 100% entails saying yes to everything that may come your way (while obviously using healthy doses of discretion). Also, don’t just respond by saying yes, but take the initiative to ask your own questions. What I mean by this is to – as easy as it can be when in a new environment – do your best to conquer the temptation to remain in your comfort zone. While at times saying yes can be intimidating, annoying, and simply the opposite of what you want to do, your future self in May of 2019 or whatever year it may be will relentlessly thank you. It’s only in accepting and creating these offers to break through and overcome your barrier of what may seem easy or ideal that will lead to most importantly helping others, but also personal growth and making this experience your own. Helping out coach in that game an hour and a half away, staying after your training session to do the clock at your hall even though you have a project due the next day, or going for tea and scones with your player’s family or your lecturers at college, all may seem inconvenient with your busy schedule at the time, but in the long run, will become some of your most valuable, fulfilling, and favorite memories.
If I’d not agreed to go to the Cronins’ house in between coaching and training even though I had loads of college work to do, I never would have had the opportunity to bond with their family and their dog Charlie, eat delicious potato-rich meals, and form the weekly tradition of hanging at their house. If I’d remained in my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have been able to interview the CEO of Franciscan Well (an amazing brewery based in Cork) for a Business Development project. If I had decided to stay home and save money, I wouldn’t have had the hilarious and exciting weekends that were exploring London with Ian and Matt or Copenhagen with my best friends from home. Or if I had chosen to stay in the library during exams, I never would have had delicious cake and coffee with my lecturer, the head of the CIT Business department, and some of my classmates. It has been experiences like these that have allowed me to learn so much, mold my journey as a scholar into my very own, and make lasting connections with incredible people.
While I could continue on with loads more advice and lofty clichés, I think this insistence on saying yes is by far the most important. It’s how you’ll be able to fall in love with living in whatever community you’re in and it’s how you’ll be able to engage with others and strive to find beautiful value in everything you get the privilege to be a part of. I hope you guys can take this and run with it – clearly if you have been chosen to be a Victory Scholar, you are more than capable.
So ultimately, congrats on becoming part of the SCL family, I am jealous your year is yet to begin – take advantage of the seemingly long yet in reality very short, at times challenging and frustrating, but life-changing journey ahead of you. Make it your own, invest in the kids you coach, and enjoy it – it’s a wild experience that you will value for the rest of your life.