In Conversation with Ciara McDonnell
School was a bit different for me because when I was in school I was playing international cricket and I was trying to juggle school work and sport and then I played hockey too. It was really busy but I have fantastic memories of it all. I went to St Gerard’s School in Bray, Co Wicklow.
"It’s a mixed school and I loved that aspect — some of my closest friends were boys throughout education. I would probably send my children to a mixed school, if that’s an indication of my experience. I think being an athlete and being taught to work really hard and balancing my time probably helped the academic side, ultimately. I worked so hard in school, I was a keen student.
"In my Leaving Cert year I travelled a lot to play and that was a bit difficult. It did have an upside though. I learned to be extremely efficient with the time that I did have. I try to be very focused. When I was at school I was one of those kids who tried so hard at everything.
"I was very loud, I don’t think I would ever once have been described as quiet. I think I was quite a big character and a bit of a pain in the ass at times for my teachers. I was a pretty happy student, I got on with my business very happily. I was very fortunate in terms of making a good group of friends from the beginning; I am still extremely close with the group of girls from school.
"Being part of a sports team really teaches you quickly get on with people and find common interests and go from there. Sport can be a wonderful thing for kids at school, I know that for me being part of a team was a massive part of my life and the friends that I made through sport are all better and much closer friends as a result of it.
"It was a very strict school and we were taught manners from the very beginning. That carries through to my life now so often. It gives me the confidence to know how to conduct myself in all types of situations — it’s something so important and maybe a little bit under-rated.
"There are a number of teachers who stand out to me as incredible over the years, but I had one teacher called Cathy McKeen who was an ex Irish international hockey player.
"She also went to St Gerard’s. She was a hard woman, she took no messing, but she always used language with me like ‘you can’ and ‘you will’ and ‘you can do this’. I think because she was a tough operator too, I had so much respect for her.
"She was so motivational and she helped me to develop both as a player and as a person and a leader as a result of how she mentored me. Don’t be afraid of working hard and being the person who is really disciplined.
"Never dampen down the fact that you know where you are going and what you want to do with your life for others. I think that sometimes we can be a little bit afraid to give something our all because we don’t like failing, but my advice is find what you are into and go for it.
Elena Tice is an ambassador for the 10th Annual Team Hope Shoebox Appeal, which is on the cusp of delivering it’s 2 millionth shoebox. The Shoebox Appeal asks people to donate gift-filled shoeboxes to children affected by poverty in Eastern Europe and Africa.
The deadline for shoeboxes is November 8, so it’s not too late! For guidelines to get involved and a list of drop-off points, please visit www.teamhope.ie or phone 01-2940222.