Transformed by the Beautiful Game
The balance between academics and athletics always seemed natural, at least once I began my career as a Sea~Hawk. In my life before varsity athletics misdirection was rife. My blemishing habits reflected poor grades and I was playing beer league soccer devoid of the passion that was seemingly stripped from my youth career. However maladaptive, a balance between academics and self-indulgence seemed more apt during those years. Soccer merely offered catharsis as my guilt-ridden pores wept sweat onto the unforgiving PE2001 hardwood. By chance, that’s where my talents were spotted, and the balance began to shift.
The day I donned the Memorial crest for the first time I no longer simply represented myself. People in my community looked at me with regard and to epitomize what it means to be a varsity athlete, that is, well roundedness in academics and athletics. Welcoming that role was easy, as I knew what was expected of me from the program and its supporters. I wanted to make my community proud, and I wanted others to be proud of my community. Performing well on the field pushed me in the classroom, and vice versa.
In trying to cast honour over my community through my efforts, I simultaneously fished myself from disrepute and transformed myself into someone I could be proud of. Looking back, I got what I put in. I offered my blood, sweat and tears to the program, and it responded in kind - athletic awards, Academic All-Canadian commendations, and the opportunity to meet the most fascinating other. And it all seemed so effortless on the back of the Sea~Hawks.
After having completed my last academic semester in the Bachelor of Social
Work program, I will now be taking on a practicum at Eastern Health, which will anticipate a final placement not yet determined. I am unsure where I will end up in the profession, but I am persistently driven by responsibility. Too often we are unknowing of our social locations and the privileges they may present. If anything, studying social work has made me aware of how high up on the social pecking order I am. I am a white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied male with the ability to think at least somewhat critically. The world rests in the palm of my hands. Opportunity could not be more bountiful.
It is therefore my duty to take advantage of those gifts so that I can give back to society. To reference a former professor and mentor of mine, Dr. Paul Adjei, many doors are wide open for me. It is now my job to walk through as many as possible, leaving them equally as wide for those coming behind me, especially those who do not share the same privileges as myself. I believe this realization to be a direct reflection of my work with varsity athletics.
As a young soccer alumnus I am aware of the opportunities the program and its facilitators have offered me, nullifying any hesitation I may have had in giving my time and energy back to the Sea~Hawks. When Darcy McMeekin, our advancement officer proposed the idea of helping with a soccer reunion, again, I was delighted to have the opportunity to give back. Reaching out to former players from the 1970’s onward has connected me to the program’s roots, and puts into perspective the efforts that have laid grounds for my own development as a player and coach.
The connections I have made, and will make, in developing the reunion are invaluable. Our community of former student-athletes is flush with success stories, and moving into a professional career myself, sharing a milieu with those individuals might prove pivotal to my future successes. It is our hope that in reunifying student-athletes from across the years, current athletes as well as recent graduates might make similar connections that propel their careers forward.
Being an assistant coach for the Sea-Hawks is equal parts humbling and gratifying. Working with Jake Stanford, Andrew Murphy, and John Douglas pales my less tenured track record as a coach, and finding my voice among the staff is admittedly difficult. With that said, I realize my place in the team and continue to be a student of the game by observing my more certified colleagues. And I think that’s the point. There’s a paucity of quality player-coaches in our province, and without proper mentorship the ones that are volunteering their efforts are largely left doing guesswork. I believe Jake realizes this, and it is the reason why he gave me the opportunity to assist him.
I will always say that I am forever indebted to the Sea-Hawks program, as without it, I would not be the athlete, student, coach or person I am today.
By: Taedy O'Rourke (Soccer alumnus, Men's soccer assistant coach)