Scoil Naomh Molaise

Posted By: Zachary Yonda
Posted On: September 22nd, 2018
Attending: Sligo Institute of Technology

IT Sligo


This morning Connor and I visited Scoil Naomh Molaise Primary School with our two coaches Alberto and Pau. The goal was to promote the Sligo All-Stars and encourage young kids to explore basketball through our club. There were 302 students ranging from about 4 – 11 years old and we addressed half at a time in their main assembly room. It wasn’t like any assembly room I was used to with a big stage and rows of stadium seating. This multi-purpose room was about the size of a classroom and around the perimeter were tables and chairs set up for various activities. The cathedral ceiling was lined with wooden beams and big windows to allow the room to be filled with natural light. Uplifting phrases like “high expectations” and “treat others how you want to be treated” covered the surrounding walls. It was a lovely opportunity for Connor and I to interact with local kids and share with them our story of how sport changed our life.

In each corner of the assembly room was a door to an adjacent classroom so when the kids filed in they came from all directions. Connor and I were both seated upon their entrance but immediately asked by the kids to stand up so that they could see how tall we were (mainly Connor). From that point on we had their complete attention. There were nonstop questions; “how big are your shoes?”, “how tall are you?”, “who do you play for?”, “who is the best on the team?”, and my personal favorite “how many basketball games have you won in your life?”. It took awhile to get all the kids seated and quiet but eventually things settled and Connor and myself were able to introduce ourselves, talk about our role with Sligo All-Stars and Sport Changes Life, and explain why we moved to Ireland. When shared that I was from Philadelphia I received lots of blank stares, although one kid came up to me later on and told me he liked the Eagles which made me smile from ear to ear. After the presentation we posed for a picture and began to mingle on our own fielding more questions, comparing hand sizes, and learning Fortnite dances. I felt like both a zoo animal and a celebrity.

I was originally caught off guard when one of the little boys handed me a pencil and asked for my autograph. It was such a sweet gesture, partly because I’d never received attention like that. I made sure to sign his along with the few other students who came up with him. Before I knew it there were twenty kids on top of me holding paper and pens closer and closer to my face. I couldn’t sign fast enough. For the first time in my life, I empathized with professional athletes in the United States without an escape from this type of attention and treatment. I felt bad when the teachers began calling kids back into their classrooms and I didn’t get a chance to sign everyone’s paper. In an attempt to include all the kids (and regain control of their classroom) one teacher told the students that they’d photocopy our signatures and make sure every kid had one by the end of the day. While thankful for some breathing room, the fan in me knew a photocopied autograph doesn’t come close to the real thing. Later when Connor and I joined the students outside for recreation I made sure that the few students who snuck out a pen and paper went back in with a signature.

Today left me wondering if superstar athletes ever feel bad if they can’t sign an autograph for each fan. I’d be surprised if they did. The kid whose paper is left blank might have their day ruined, but the athlete is numb to that feeling because pleasing all their fans is impossible and there will always be another group of fans pestering them for autographs. That is a sad reality. I never want to be so famous that letting kids go home empty handed doesn’t make a part of me hurt.

Today was the perfect amount.

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