Women's Basketball Alumnae Reflect on Victory Scholar Experiences

Hyslip and Walsh spent a postgrad year in Ireland through Victory Scholar Program

EASTON, Mass. (January 30, 2020) - Stonehill College women's basketball 2018 graduates Samantha Hyslip and Courtney Walsh, captains on the Skyhawks 2018 Elite Eight team, reflect on their experiences in Ireland through the Sport Changes Life Victory Scholar Program.

The Stonehill duo were among 34 student-athletes, including 32 from the United States, selected to the Victory Scholar Program through Sport Changes Life where they had the opportunity to continue their basketball careers, coach young players in the community and gain their Master's Degree in the beautiful country of Ireland. Sport Changes Life is a nonprofit organization located in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with the main goal of impacting young lives through the implement of sport. These scholars also continue playing or developing sport at all levels, work in the wider community with young people and gain valuable work experience through internships and mentoring with local businesses. Victory Scholars will be America's future leaders, developing a global view of the world as they develop strong leadership skills, character and business acumen through this valuable and multi-faceted 10 months on the island of Ireland. The Victory Scholar Program creates numerous ambassadors for the island of Ireland throughout the United States. Living in Ireland they will become actively involved within the local communities, growing participation in sport and acting as mentors to help raise the aspirations the young people they work with.

Goals for Scholars:

  • Grow future leaders
  • Create ambassadors for Ireland throughout the United States
  • Developing a more globalized perspective

Goals for those they influence:

  • Educate children to live a more active and healthier lifestyle
  • Grow confidence and raise aspirations
  • Develop young leaders within the Ireland community teaching integration and togetherness
  • Build community involvement to ensure long-term sustainability

Click here for more information on Sport Changes Life and the Victory Scholar Program

Photo Gallery of images provided by Samantha and Courtney is at the bottom of the page.

Samantha and Courtney offer their reflections on their year in the Victory Scholar Program:

Hyslip and Walsh following a game between their teams.

Samantha Hyslip

Samantha attended Dublin City University (DCU) and earned her Business Master's in Human Resources, while playing for club DCU Mercy.

Check out Samantha's Online Blog

"Ireland was truly a remarkable experience. I was first attracted to the program when I found out I could continue playing the sport I loved. Little did I know how extensive this program really was and all of the wonderful opportunities that came with it. Sport Changes Life gives basketball players the chance to carry over the guidance, mentorship, and knowledge that we have gained through our own careers and shed some of this experience on younger players in Ireland. The goal is to help develop the tools to use basketball or any sport as an outlet and a safe environment for growth. Whilst both playing and coaching basketball, I was also given the chance to further my education with a Master's Degree. I attended the Dublin City University Business School and lived on campus. 

To put it simply, I learned more in these 10 months than I had ever thought possible. Yes, I learned in school and on the basketball court, but what I really took away was how much I learned about myself and the people around me. Ten months in a different country with the ability to learn a new culture, travel, go to school, and play and coach basketball sounds glamorous when you put it like that. However, there is a lot that people don't take into account: the five hour time difference from your friends and family, living alone in a building with people you don't know, an unfamiliar city, and a lot of time to figure out ways to keep busy. These are the truths to moving to another country. Yet the biggest truth is that without these factors, I would not have learned how to schedule my time efficiently and become a planner, or learned how to live and work together with people completely different from me, or fell in love with a new city, or learned to take time to myself to reflect and rejoice. I also met some of the most amazing people and made friendships to last a lifetime.

I could go on and on about each new encounter, trial, and tribulation; I could explain so many favorites. Instead, I will highlight a few of my top experiences.

The Belfast Classic- a basketball tournament that Sport Changes Life put on in Belfast. 

When family and friends visited, I was able to show off with such pride the wonderful city of Dublin.


Playing in a championship tournament with my school basketball team. 

Traveling to England with my club basketball team to play a preseason tournament.

Planning get-together's and parties with my fellow Victory Scholars.

Having tea parties (never thought I would ever like tea!) with the friends I made in Dublin.

Cooking and baking with my fellow Victory Scholar at DCU, Adaysha.

Going out for pints with my classmates after a hard presentation or paper.

Excursions throughout the countryside with friends and family.

The lovely color of green you see everywhere you go.

The moment I felt like I had created another home for myself.

Playing in a 3 on 3 tournament right on the water.

Going to pubs and singing along to the live music, feeling like a true local. 

Forming bonds with the young girls I coached- seeing their hard work and commitment pay off.

My last week in Dublin- spent every minute with my friends, whether we were going to the gym, cooking, having a few pints, exchanging clothes to remember each other by, having tea, or just laughing about memories made. 

Getting to share this overwhelming and unbelievable experience with my best friend, Courtney Walsh.

All in all, each of these activities and memories were made with the people around me. It is for this reason that when people ask me what my favorite part of the whole year was, I say "without a doubt, the people." I am beyond grateful to everyone who had a hand in helping me feel welcomed and at home, from the Sport Changes Life community to my teammates to best friends to the taxi drivers! (Honestly, the taxi drivers were the most entertaining people, and great tour guides!)"

Hyslip and Walsh welcomed Stonehill teammates Stacy Madelmayer '18 and Elizabeth Grip '18 to Ireland for some sightseeing during their stay.

Courtney Walsh

Courtney attended Institute of Technology Carlow, earning a Master's Degree in Strength and Conditioning, during her year in Ireland and played for club IT Carlow.

Check out Courtney's Online Blog

"Moving to Ireland for nearly a year was initially very daunting, yet it turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. As difficult as it is to sum up all that I can take away from my time there, I attribute my positive experience to the people I met along the way. Having former Stonehill teammate and best friend Samantha Hyslip just over an hour bus ride up to Dublin settled any feelings of homesickness that I faced. They way in which Irish peoplr are willing to open their home is admirable, as Irish hospitality is no understatement. Thus, those feelings of homesickness were far and few between. I made international friendships that will last a lifetime and learned to embrace the similarities and differences of another culture. As an American basketball player, I also had the privilege of being a role model and leader within a foreign community. I traveled to six other European nations, allowing for further exposure to new people and lifestyles. In the end, however, this also allowed for me to better recognize and appreciate my own lifestyle and culture.

I cannot thank Sport Changes Life enough for granting me this unique opportunity as well as everyone in Carlow for welcoming me with open arms. Although my time there went by faster than I could have ever imagined, I would not have traded it for anything. For me, it was the perfect transition from a college athlete to a more cultured, well-rounded and independent woman. Basketball has given way to many of my greatest opportunities in life: friendships, self-growth and attending Stonehill. It has also now provided me with greater knowledge, love and awareness for life away from home, which is something I will forever be grateful for."

Stonehill (13-5, 9-3 NE10) is on the road on Saturday, when it closes out the cross-divisional portion of its NE10 schedule at The College of Saint Rose at 1:30 p.m. The Skyhawks return to Merkert Gym next Wednesday, February 5, to host nationally-ranked rival Bentley University for a key NE10 clash at 5:30 p.m. 

With 23 intercollegiate sports after the announcement of the addition of women's swimming (starting in the fall of 2020) and women's ice hockey (starting in 2021-22), Stonehill boasts one of the top athletic and academic programs in the country. Stonehill has won the Northeast-10 Conference Presidents' Cup five times, all coming within the last 14 years. The Skyhawks have received the NCAA Division II Presidents' Award for Academic Achievement each of the first nine years of the program's existence of honoring institutions with an Academic Success Rate (ASR) of 90-percent or better. Stonehill has earned a 95% Academic Success Ranking (ASR) by the NCAA, which considers the academic success rate of the institution based on the graduation rate of student-athletes, good for tenth among all NCAA Division II institutions, with nine Skyhawk teams receiving a perfect rating of 100%. Stonehill won five NE10 Championships during the 2018-19 academic year, with nine programs earning NCAA Division II Championship bids and the equestrian program capturing its tenth Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Zone 1, Region 4 championship.

For the latest on Stonehill Athletics, follow the Skyhawks via social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Fans can also download the Stonehill Skyhawks "Front Row" mobile app, powered by PrestoSports, on iTunes and the Android Market. 

Samantha Hyslip & Courtney Walsh Victory Scholar Program Photo Gallery