Last week, I spent five days up in Belfast working the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic as a team liaison for the Dartmouth Big Green. The Belfast Classic is an NCAA Division I basketball tournament hosted by Sport Changes Life in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Last year, four teams competed in the inaugural event. Given the success of last year, the field grew to 8 teams this year competing in two four-team brackets, creating a lot of buzz around the event and also requiring added preparation in hosting and working the event.
As a team liaison, I spent the entire week with the Dartmouth team, greeting them at Dublin Airport upon their arrival to sending them off on their flight home. Throughout the week, I made sure they were taken care of and on-time for all of their commitments (community engagements, meals, practices, games, etc.). As a little reward, I had an All-Access pass at the SSE Arena for the week and front row seats for all the games.
Court-side seats to watch the “Goliath” bracket Championship Game between Buffalo and USF
The 10 Team Liaisons (and Royce) with our guy Gerard (our tournament coordinator by day and bouncer by night)
All the Scholars worked the event, so it was great to reconnect with everyone and spend some time together. Mark Kilpatrick (Ulster golf scholar) shared the Dartmouth team liaison duties with me, so I got to spend a lot of time hanging out with him and getting to know him better. Kid’s an absolute STUDDD (English accent)! Everyone at Sport Changes Life did a lot to promote the tournament throughout all of Ireland by primarily encouraging many of the youth clubs and school teams we coach to attend the event. The purpose of the Belfast Classic is primarily geared towards growing the sport of basketball in the North and South of Ireland and getting youth players throughout the country up to Belfast to give them an opportunity to watch high-level basketball. The tournament is meant to encourage them to love the game, improve their own, and raise their aspirations in sport and life through the avenue of basketball.
Courtney and I were able to get our Tyndall College boys free tickets to attend the event.
Personally, looking back on the event, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work as one of the ten Scholars chosen to be a team liaison. Throughout the week, I couldn’t help but think back on my experience as a college basketball player at Amherst. Hanging out in the hotel and traveling with Dartmouth on the bus to team meals, practices, and games reminded me of life on the road as a player at Amherst. Team trips, whether it be for a single road game or a weeklong trip overseas (at Amherst, I was fortunate enough to travel and play in Italy during the summer before my sophomore year), provided great opportunities to bond with teammates and coaches. Having the chance to be involved with Dartmouth so closely throughout the week allowed me to briefly relive the lifestyle of a college basketball player on the road. To be honest, I found myself a little envious of the Dartmouth players as I watched their practices and games throughout the week. High-fiving the players as they rushed into the locker room after a great team win over UAlbany in their second game of the tournament reminded me how great it felt to win big games throughout my collegiate career. But, hey, I had my four years! All that being said, at the same time, I am appreciative that I am still playing basketball, part of a competitive team, and building camaraderie with my new teammates. I am definitely going to enjoy it while I have it!!