Living Leeside: Tennis ace Sam into swing of life in Cork

Roisin Burke speaks to Sam West, 19, who moved to Cork from Trinidad three years ago. He is studying industrial physics at MTU/UCC and working on his tennis game
Living Leeside: Tennis ace Sam into swing of life in Cork

Sam West, player and coach, Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club, Cork.

TENNIS ace Sam West, 19, moved to Cork with his family from Trinidad three years ago

Born in Scotland, Sam moved to Trinidad, in the Caribbean, when he was eight and, after another eight years, moved to Cork with his mother, two sisters, and brother.

When not playing tennis or volunteering at the Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club, he is studying industrial physics in a course run jointly by Munster Technology University and University College Cork. He hopes to work in sustainable energy.

“I have a long way to go,” Sam says. “I will need to do a two-year master’s on top of my degree and I am just finished first year. So, lots of years of study ahead.”

Sam is enjoying life in Cork, playing tennis, which he took up in Scotland as a child.

“I played a lot of sports when I was young and then, when we moved to Trinidad, I became more focused on tennis and when I came to Cork I was even more involved in the sport,” Sam says. “In 2017, I was the number-one U16 tennis player in Ireland.”

Sam West, player and coach, Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club, Cork.
Sam West, player and coach, Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club, Cork.

Unfortunately, both Sam and his brother, Michael, suffered from a kidney problem, called hydronephrosis. Sam had to undergo surgery and take some time out of his training. He is now coming back to full health and working on his tennis.

“There are no competitions at the moment,” Sam says. “They are supposed to be coming back at the end of June, so I am training hard for them. I will try to go as far as I can with them.”

Sam volunteers with the younger members of the club, giving lessons and tips.

“When I first came to Ireland, I was helped a lot in achieving my goals by my coach and by my club,” Sam says. “After I finished as a junior, I wanted to repay those that helped me get to where I got to, so I started helping, coaching juniors.

“Seeing players get through a problem, with my help, that they thought was impossible gives me a lot of satisfaction,” Sam says. 

“Also, seeing people happy or enjoying themselves makes me happy.”

Sam likes living in Cork.

Sam West, player and coach, Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club, Cork.
Sam West, player and coach, Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club, Cork.

“I was quite young leaving Scotland, so I don’t really miss much about it, but I do miss things from Trinidad: My friends, the beach,” Sam says. “You could spend hours on the beach in Trinidad, it was so sunny and the water was so warm.”

Despite this, he said there are many things about Cork that he appreciates.

“In Cork, I walk everywhere. That is a luxury that is very much taken for granted here,” Sam says.

“It is very safe in Cork and it seems like everyone knows everyone — well, most people know each other — and most people are friendly and kind.”

What Sam dislikes in Ireland is the unpredictable weather.

“The weather changes so much; it could be sunny one hour and then raining the next,” Sam says. 

“It is very unpredictable, but on a good day, I think there is nowhere better to be than Cork.”

Another thing Sam liked about Trinidad was the “relaxed vibes”.

“In Trinidad, it’s almost like holiday vibes all the time. When it is that sunny, I suppose it is hard to be stressed out.”

Over the past three to four years Sam has spent in Cork, he said his happiest memories are from his secondary school days at Bishopstown Community School.

“I loved it. I have so many fond memories. I know some people don’t like school, but I didn’t mind it and we had such good fun. I miss those days.”

Sam said he moved from a large boys-only school in Trinidad, with 1,000 students, to a small, mixed school in Cork and he thought it was a much better form of education.

“It was integrated and I made great friends,” Sam says. “It was small enough that everyone knew everyone else and I think that helps.”

Looking ahead, Sam hopes to travel more when he is finished his studies.

“I want to try other countries and see how other people live,” Sam says. “I really like the idea of living in one of the Scandinavian countries.

“They are cold, but they are always getting high ratings in happiness surveys. I want to see what it is like to live there; to be cold, but happy.”

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