Clare O’Connell: Rookie of the Year

Clare O'Connell, 13-14, DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis, MN

Clare O’Connell, 13-14, DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis, MN

The only student on the boy’s basketball team that I really know is a freshman that I work with almost every day. He is 6 feet 5 inches tall and is probably the most promising athlete in the freshman class. In September, I heard much buzz about what an incredible athlete this boy was and how he excelled at basketball. Months later, as I stood at his game, and had gotten to know him quite well, I was excited to see what the buzz was all about.

I was sitting court-side and was watching how our team cut down the other team. Only the upperclassmen were in the game at this time; it fascinated me how perfectly they worked together.  They each knew all of their teammates’ strategies and idiosyncrasies and could easily predict each other’s next movements. Perhaps it shouldn’t have amazed me, because after all, they were the older kids who had been playing together for the past four years.

When my student finally got a chance on the court, my expectations did not match reality.  While I was expecting my mind to be blown away, as it had been with the upperclassmen previously on the court, I was instead disillusioned. It was evident that he had the gifts and the talents of an incredible athlete, yet at the same time, it was clear that he was not yet used to playing with this team. He passed the ball when he thought he should pass, was open when he thought necessary, but his movements were uncertain and hasty.

I couldn’t help but relate what I was seeing to my experience as a first year Lasallian Volunteer.

I came into an environment that adores Lasallian Volunteers. The faculty and staff at DeLaSalle High School could not make me feel any more welcome and capable of making a difference.  It is such a gift to have this kind of support and affirmation on a daily basis, yet sometimes I can’t quite believe it all myself.

Despite having been told that I’m making some sort of difference, the results of my work are not always apparent right away. Sometimes I find myself questioning whether what I am doing will actually change anything, or whether should have been called to a given task. I occasionally will find myself silently admitting, “I have no idea what I am doing right now.” I sometimes look around at people who have been working at the school for years—they just look like they know they’re great at what they do—and I feel less competent, and frankly, very much out of place.

What I have to remind myself is that I am young and a new addition to this “team.” I haven’t been here for long, and I don’t have the experience to fit in as well as I would like to right now. I remind myself to keep faith in the fact that one day, I might look like these older “teammates.” I just need to have patience. I have to remind myself that like my student who isn’t quite in sync with the rest of his team, I do have the gifts and talents to make a difference. It will just take some time before we’re both naturals.

Clare O’Connell is a 1st year LV serving at DeLaSalle in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a 2013 graduate of Manhattan College.

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