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Ball in a Day’s Work: Meet the Trinity Athletes Balancing Business with Basketball

This International Women’s Day has the potential to be a particularly special one for two Trinity Business School postgraduate students. Carolyn Binder and Lauren Grigsby will this afternoon represent Trinity in a women’s basketball match of huge consequence; as Trinity Meteors take on St. Mary’s in the Women’s Division One League final. The winners will be crowned champions and earn promotion to the Women’s Super League, the top flight of club basketball in Ireland. Win or lose today, Carolyn and Lauren can take pride in the fact that their dedication and commitment to their sport and studies is truly inspirational. We caught up with the pair last week to chat about their experience at Trinity Business School and the challenges that come with balancing studying with sporting success.

Carolyn, 25, and Lauren, 22, each moved to Ireland from the United States in September 2019 to pursue a Masters degree in Marketing. Carolyn hails from New York, where she studied sociology and women’s studies at Columbia University before working at Google in San Francisco for two years. Her decision to come to Trinity came from wanting “a more fundamental marketing education… from a world-renowned University with a top tier Business school and Marketing programme”. Los Angeles-born Lauren moved to Dublin from Houston, Texas after four years as a D1 athlete on the women’s basketball team for Rice University, where she also studied sport management and business. She was drawn to Trinity by the prestige of the school and having the opportunity to fulfil her dream of playing basketball overseas. “Fulfilling that dream while also getting a top tier education in a field that I want to pursue a career in, made it an easy decision for me.”

The pair signed to play for Trinity Meteors in September, where they brought a wealth of talent and experience to the team. Both have played basketball since around the age of five, with a love of the game coming from watching their families play. Lauren joined Trinity Meteors off the back of some incredible achievements with her Rice University team – including being voted 6th player of the year, a feat that no Rice player had ever achieved before. However, she credits the sport with providing her with much more than medals and glory: “Growing up I was able to travel a lot because of basketball and make lifelong relationships, learning life lessons in the process. Playing basketball has taught me a lot about hard work and dedication and how to work well with others. The journey hasn’t always been easy - being a D1 athlete requires an unbelievable amount of hard work and toughness, great time management, teamwork, and the ability to make decisions under pressure but it’s all made me stronger. The game has now brought me international and is offering me a masters at the same time which I’m extremely grateful for and looking forward to see where this game will take me next.”

So, what does a typical week look like for these Trinity athletes? “Class a few times a week, some meetings with class members for group projects, individual work, practice in the evenings along with gym sessions and training as well as playing most weekends – we’ve only had a few weekends off since the season started in October,” says Carolyn. “We’ve travelled all over the country for matches from Belfast, Donegal, Cork and Castleisland to Limerick! I also got a job doing marketing from Trinity Sport this semester so my schedule is jammed packed! Time management and strong communication skills are the key to getting everything done.”

Lauren adds: “Time management and self-discipline are definitely the key to balancing basketball and studies because sometimes you only have a few free hours in the day and you might be tired and just want to relax and watch Netflix but you have to be disciplined enough to use that time you’re given to get your work done for class.”

The hard work seems to be paying off on the court as Trinity Meteors have had a solid season so far, making it to the Hula Hoop Women’s Division One National Cup final and finishing first in the Northern Conference. Carolyn notes that coming from a sporting background can also be an advantage in the classroom. “We had a block week where we learned about Brand Management. The group project for that class is writing a business plan where we have to pitch a brand that is not currently in Ireland. As most of the modules required a group project in some capacity this semester, it’s a great way to get some practical experience in an academic setting and I definitely felt prepared given my background in sport!”

Speaking on the importance of female representation in sport, the students highlighted initiatives like 20x20, an all-inclusive movement to shift Ireland’s cultural perception of women’s sport through a 20% increase in participation, media coverage and attendance in women’s sport by the end of 2020. “Initiatives like 20x20 are extremely important. Women’s equality [in and outside of sport] is a global problem, so it’s been fulfilling to be part of an initiative on a national level in Ireland. The numbers go much beyond participation; there should also be equality in support, funding, press coverage, etc. I studied women’s studies in undergrad, specifically concentrating on women’s equality in the workplace, so this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart,” Carolyn admits.

Lauren says “I think female representation is important because it brings awareness to all the hard work and dedication that women put into excelling at their sports. There has always been a negative stigma toward women in sports - that they aren’t as talented and strong as men, but when people actually go and see for themselves they see that firstly, females are also very talented in sports and secondly, they work and train just as hard as any male. Women deserve just as much recognition and I think these initiatives can help put a spotlight on the great talent possessed by women.”

Both players are looking forward to representing Trinity on International Women’s Day with Carolyn noting that they have already done the Trinity name proud. “Women’s representation in sport is something I am really passionate about so it’s been great to be in a community with likeminded people that that also value that as well.” Lauren agrees that it’s a great way to showcase their talent and dedication, “I think it makes a statement because obviously we play basketball but we also care about our education or else we wouldn’t be here. We are more than athletes. Being women playing basketball shows that we don’t have to fit into gender constructed boxes. Growing up, boys would never let me play basketball with them because they assumed I wasn’t good enough to keep up so I made sure whenever I got the chance to step on the court I proved them wrong. Females are hardworking and talented; we really should stop being underestimated.”

Carolyn and Lauren were keen to stress the importance of support from teammates, classmates and faculty when it comes to juggling sport with college work. “So far my group members have been super supportive of my time constraints as far as when I can meet and how for long and sometimes not on the weekends as I may be out of town for a game so that’s really nice,” says Lauren. Carolyn praises the great support provided by MSc in Marketing Director Sarah Browne, who has championed their sporting achievements and commitment to the course. “I’m a huge fan of Sarah. She’s been a great support and instrumental in creating the best experience possible throughout the MSc programme. It’s great to see a strong and smart woman lead in a prominently male industry [academia] and she is a great example to women in the Business School. It’s great to know that we always have someone in our corner!”

Before they rush off for their next class, we asked the pair if they would recommend taking part in sports or extracurricular activities when studying for an intensive masters degree? “Absolutely!” declares Carolyn. “It is not only a great way to meet people, but also a great way to get ingrained in a culture, while also teaching you valuable life skills. It reinforces the importance of time management, hard work, dedication, team work, and commitment – skills that take you way beyond school and sport!” Lauren agrees, “I would definitely recommend it just because I believe playing sports gives you the experiences and tools for success that can only really be learned through sport in my opinion. I know for sure in the States that companies are looking for employees with a sports background because of what playing a sport teaches you such as how to work well with others, pushing through adversity, and manage your time.”

With great futures ahead of them, whether in marketing, professional basketball or something else; it’s fantastic to see such inspiring female role models at Trinity Business School, who have proven that dedication and hard work go a long way. Go Meteors!