Athletes learn life lessons by playing overseas

Both Tyler Clark and Paityn Wirth will benefit greatly from their trip to Ireland.

Not all of the benefits will come from their respective fields, courts or tracks.

Clark will see the impact immediately from his experience in Ireland as he will be heading to Juniata College in the fall to play football and continue his education.

Most freshmen go into college unaware or ill-prepared for social and lifestyle change and don’t understand the difficulties of being on their own or being tasked with meeting and getting along with new people.

Clark will be able to draw from his experiences with USA Football in Ireland.

“I was a good experience meeting new people and making new friends,” Clark said. “Most of the trip was educationally focused, so there was a lot of things that I learned about traveling and meeting new people.”

His basketball coach also saw the benefit of Clark getting out and experiencing something new a few months before starting college in the fall.

“I think the experience that he had over there was not only sports related, but also a cultural find for him to go to Ireland, to explore Ireland and see some historical sights and be pretty much on his own,” Juniata High School basketball coach Al Ream said. “I think it definitely prepares him for college.”

For the sophomore Wirth, her experience can help both on the field and off it.

She will likely be the best player on any field she steps on her final two years at Greenwood, but playing with the some of the most elite players in the country can only help her.

“I’m sure we will (see a better player),” Greenwood field hockey coach Kent Houser said. “From the time she is putting in, getting the exposure, and playing with other players of the same ability level — that can only help her.”

Seeing several different styles of play in Ireland will also help.

“Every country that we’ve played is different in its own way,” Wirth said. “In America as a whole, we play our own style. We have different speed work and stick skills, but (other countries) were very tactical teams. They cover up their skill level with their speed and passing. Every international team played differently. It was cool to see the difference.”

While it’s not as immediate, Wirth also will benefit from the opportunity to travel abroad and be on her own.

“Whenever we are overseas, we are with our coaches and with our team, but we are individuals,” Wirth said. “Off the field, we are basically there as a team and we hang out together and have to be with someone at all times, but it’s very individual. Everything there is your choice, so it’s so cool to be able to explore and see the world over there.”

Both her coaches also saw how her trip could help her down the road when she makes a college choice.

“I think the travel definitely expands your horizons,” Greenwood track coach Barb Sheaffer said. “I believe she met the president of Ireland — how cool is that? I think these kinds of opportunities can make you a well-rounded person. Playing that elite level field hockey is an amazing opportunity that she really worked hard for. It works out nicely that she’s still able to participate in track, knowing that she is playing at that elite level with the hockey team.”

“I think it’s probably is more important for her personally to have these experiences at her age and getting to travel to new places and foreign places,” Houser said. “This is her second trip; she was in Austria earlier this year. For a kid that age to have those experiences is just tremendous.”

With their talent, maturity and work ethic, the two will undoubtedly have more achievements, like getting to represent the U.S. recently.

For Clark, it was a final chapter to add to his high school legacy that includes numerous buzzer-beaters and thousands of passing yards.

“He set a lot of records at Juniata (High School) in football and basketball,” Ream said. “I would say that being able to travel overseas and go with another group of athletes and participate and get to Europe and see the things in Ireland that are there; I would say that’s a crowning achievement for him.”