Thank You Ireland

Posted By: StephPoland
Posted On: June 23rd, 2018
Attending: Maynooth University

I wanted to dedicate my last blog to all of the incredible people that helped make this past year in Ireland truly remarkable. I first and foremost want to thank Sport Changes Life and the Rory Foundation for bringing me to Ireland and providing me with the opportunity to get my master’s degree, continue to play basketball, and coach some pretty terrific kids. Also thank you to the other 23 Victory Scholars. I was honored to be surrounded by such incredible, talented, and inspiring individuals. We didn’t see each other often, but when we did let me tell you we always had a good time! We went from strangers to family, and I will always cherish the bond that we made.

Thank you to everyone in Maynooth: parents, kids, classmates, teammates, of course the man the myth the legend, Jim Walsh. Everyone in Maynooth welcomed me into their community and truly made it feel like a home for me. Thank you to my lecturers in the Business Management program for exposing me to a new area of study, and thank you to my classmates for challenging me in the classroom. Thank you to Maynooth basketball and all of my college teammates. The Maynooth team had such sweet, hilarious girls, and they helped make Varsities one of my favorite events this year. Brian O’Malley was my college coach and he was truly taught me what sarcasm was. In all seriousness, he was a great coach and always made practice super fun.

I also want to thank Maynooth Basketball Academy for providing me with the opportunity to coach over 1,000 kids in the community. I coached at the Maynooth Basketball Academy, four different schools, and helped coach the U16 Kilcock club team. I got to know so many kids well, and I was so happy to be embraced by such a loving, close knit community. I loved walking down the street and passing several kids that I had coached and catch up with them and see their love for basketball grow. I helped coach the Maynooth Community games and it was great to see that the u13 team was almost entirely comprised of the girls that I had coached at the local girls’ school. Their first experience playing basketball was when I went into their school and now they are voluntarily joining teams to continue to play, which is truly beautiful to see.

I also want to give a special thank you to Jim Walsh. He did so much for me since the moment I arrived in Maynooth. He has gone out of way to make sure that I was comfortable and settled in Ireland. He generosity is incomparable. He drove me to games, made me dinner, and took me and my sister on a trip of a lifetime. When my sister came to visit me in Ireland he offered to drive us to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher and through the Wild Atlantic Way. Before I left to go on my Euro trip he gave me a huge financial gift to thank me for my hard work and to help support my travels. Jim Walsh is a terrific coach, mentor, and friend. Irish basketball is lucky to have such a great coach that is willing to give so much back to the game and all of the kids that he coaches.

Thank you to the Portlaoise Panthers. This club has some pretty incredible people, and I am so thankful that they brought me into their family. Shout out to Lynda for driving me twice a week from Maynooth to Portlaoise and back to Maynooth. This woman is a rockstar. She would travel hours within a day and then to Dublin and never once complain! I am so thankful for our wonderful conversations and that she always let me take a power nap before practice. Thank you to Peter and Sinead Duignan for adopting me throughout the week. I loved our family bonding, and although I typically came for the dogs, I always stayed for the good company. Thank you to Peter and Grainne O’Sullivan for also letting me stay in their home after practice. One highlight was when my friend Paige came to visit and they made us a beautiful dinner after practice. Another fun highlight was when I had an unexpected sleepover at their house due to the snow and had to rock Grainne’s pajamas that were far too small on me. Peter was an amazing coach this year, and I am so appreciative of all of the time that he dedicated to the team, while also having a full-time job and a family with two beautiful small children.  Also shout out to Seamus Dooley and everyone else who helped the club run so smoothly. And of course, a big shout out to my Portlaoise teammates. The team was comprised of beautiful individuals that really made the club feel like a family. Special shout out to my fellow Americans: Steph and Tim. We were the big three, and although I think Portlaoise didn’t know what to do with us sometimes, we had some amazing times together! Portlaoise will always a special place in my heart and I cannot thank everyone enough for all that they did for me.

I just returned to America and I am so excited to spend some much-needed quality time with my friends and family. I am currently writing my dissertation. I am using qualitative research to evaluate human rights disclosures in corporate annual and CSR reports for 10 different Fortune 500 companies. I am specifically looking at the GRI, IIRC, and SASB to see if there is a golden standard of reporting and to see if the silencing of injustices can be prevented. Then, I am excited to announce that I will be starting the next chapter of my life in August as I move to NYC and start a job with a nonprofit called Young Survival Coalition.

Thank you again to everyone in Ireland who made this past year one of the greatest years of my life. I am so thankful for all of the memories I have made, and I know that I will be back soon. Ireland has truly become my home and the people there have become my family.

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