Michelle O'Driscoll on sporting life in a US college during the Covid pandemic

Shandon Street native is now based at University of Texas, El Paso
Michelle O'Driscoll on sporting life in a US college during the Covid pandemic

Cork soccer player Michelle O'Driscoll is now based in El Pason in Texas.

FROM beach life to the desert.

Cork’s Michelle O’Driscoll is still living the dream and although covid brought many changes to her life this year, moving to Texas from Florida has proven to be a worthwhile move.

O’Driscoll spent two years playing at Daytona College in Florida but she had no choice but to move to a four-year university. In early August, the University of Texas, El Paso was her destination.

“Moving from Daytona Beach Florida to Texas was always going to be an adjustment but I’ve really enjoyed the challenge to date.

“Due to Covid, I knew it was going to be challenging but we were lucky to still have been able to train every day although our season was postponed until next spring. It was certainly different to change to online classes, but like the rest of my team-mates we managed to find our way. 

"I was lucky enough to avail of my tutors and professors and be successful academically this semester in the classroom and satisfy my responsibility as a student-athlete.

“I was a little apprehensive to move to a new state not knowing anybody, but since my move, I have been so welcomed by the UTEP family and everyone in El Paso. Comparing the beach to the desert is certainly a contrast but variety is the spice of life so I was up to the change. My new roommates are from Canada and New York so it has been a great opportunity for me to learn about new cultures and also new places in the US.” 

Michelle O'Driscoll, Cork City WFC, battles Eimear Lafferty, UCD Waves, in 2018. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Michelle O'Driscoll, Cork City WFC, battles Eimear Lafferty, UCD Waves, in 2018. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Major changes to O’Driscoll’s life happened so quickly but yet again the 20-year-old from Shandon Street took them all in her stride.

“I am currently living in an apartment with other girls on the soccer team close to campus which is convenient. We quickly had to adapt to changes in our life.

"It was new to all of us to get Covid tested once a week but it became the new protocol quickly since my arrival in El Paso. Unfortunately, I tested positive about seven weeks into the Fall semester but the protocols were in place to protect myself and the team from the virus. It was sad to be isolated alone for two weeks but necessary for everyone’s safety. 

"Due to being asymptomatic, I was able to continue to do workouts in my own apartment as my strength and conditioning coach made a personalised program for me as my circumstances had changed. 

"It was difficult being away from the team but it was also a good personal growth moment.

“After tests in the hospital two weeks later, I was cleared to return to play and I had never been happier to be back both fit and healthy. I integrated straight back into the squad as I was kept up with what was happening in training through film and Zoom talks with the team and coaches. Our team continued to conduct daily Covid screening to ensure our safety and I was very reassured through our physios and doctors.

“Online lectures is definitely a change to normality, but I believe UTEP met all advertising very well. The majority of my courses were taught through Zoom, similar to all other Universities’ around the world. My lectures did a fantastic job of making the online teaching environment very engaging and still enjoyable to students and I’m very grateful to be a part of the University at Texas, El Paso during these challenging times.

“We are predicted to play our season after Christmas and all going well this will go ahead. Having about three months of training behind us, I am very confident in our teams’ ability to achieve great success this spring. Being a new player in this program I am aiming to make a positive impact on the team both on and off the pitch and I believe we will reach new levels this season.

“Just like everyone else, my Christmas plans changed drastically as I was planning on coming home to Cork but unfortunately this changed. As Covid became worse in the Staes in November it became apparent that going home would not be the best idea as I would have to quarantine for two weeks before even seeing my family." 

A young Michelle O'Driscoll, Douglas Hall, battling Marieka Weihrauch, Riverstown, at Turner's Cross in 2016. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
A young Michelle O'Driscoll, Douglas Hall, battling Marieka Weihrauch, Riverstown, at Turner's Cross in 2016. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Knowing she would have to quarantine for another two weeks after returning to the States, the former Cork City player decided it was best for her family to remain across the Atlantic.

“I have been so blessed to spend Christmas with a teammate I met in Denver, Colorado. The Gottschalks have been so great to me and I’m so grateful to them. I originally went to Denver in March when Covid first hit the worst and I ended up going back there for the Christmas break as I couldn’t go home.

“As always, I woke up early Irish time so I could spend Christmas morning with my mom, dad and brother. This was my first Christmas away from home, but the Gottschalks made my Christmas so special and great." 

It was a huge change to have a virtual Christmas, but worth it to spend some precious time with her family even though they were halfway across the world.

“I am hoping to see my mom and dad in the spring in El Paso if the virus calms down. This year has taught me to appreciate the little things and to enjoy every moment. I hope everyone has a healthy and happy 2021 and that better things are coming for us all.

“I am excited for what’s to come in the future although I do not know if I will end up in the States or Ireland. I am hoping to continue my football career at the professional level provided the opportunities arise. 

"I would like to explore opportunities in Europe with the hopes of playing at a high level. If not, I would like to pursue my major which is business, and hopefully work with a global company that allows me to travel and broaden my professional experience."

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