Oct. 24, 2011
Senior golfer Kyle McCartan has had many coaches over the years, but the one who stands out most in his mind isn’t who you’d expect. It’s a sixth-grade boy named Linh, whom McCartan met over the summer at the Coach for College Program in Vietnam.
In many respects, their friendship could be described as improbable. There was the language barrier to overcome and Linh wasn’t even McCartan’s student. But Linh, who McCartan describes as a “ball of energy,” still managed to touch his life through his actions and innocent enthusiasm.
Over the course of the three-and-a-half-week program in which McCartan taught classes in morality, basketball, financial literacy and higher education, Linh helped out in any way he could. He carried McCartan’s backpack to class, even though “when he walked up the stairs the backpack looked like it simply had shoes on and was scurrying away.” He enjoyed cleaning up the classroom and would always fill McCartan’s water bottle without being asked.
“I found out a week later as we were sitting in my morality class together that my water bottle had become Linh’s water bottle after he naturally grabbed it and took a huge swig,” McCartan wrote in an essay about his experience. “I wasn’t even mad that he was, in a sense, compromising my health. He saw me as family and family members share everything they have in Vietnam.”
Experiences like the ones he had in Vietnam have shaped McCartan, giving him a perspective on life that has helped him even during difficult rounds on the golf course.
“Going to a developing country really opened my eyes,” he explained. “It really made me value the family and the structure that I grew up with in America, especially my university experience. A lot people in the world don’t get an experience like that and it really grounded me when I went over there and saw how a lot of Vietnamese youth are really living.”
The captain of the golf team and the president of BC’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), McCartan has been heavily involved in community service since he joined SAAC the second semester of his freshman year. He’s watched the organization grow in influence over the years, culminated by its recognition by the university and the NCAA last year.
“We took big strides by winning the award. Getting recognized by the NCAA is big enough in any regard,” McCartan said of the winning the DI SAAC Award of Excellence last fall. “In a sense we were a national championship SAAC.
“Personally it means a lot. It’s a huge honor to keep alive. We have a lot of good people working to propel it forward and improve on it on a day to day basis. I firmly believe that we will keep being a national championship, award-winning SAAC team whether we get another trophy or not.”
Through SAAC, McCartan has volunteered at the Campus School, traveled to New Orleans to work with Liz McCartney, a BC grad and co-founder of the St. Bernard Project, and even did a ribbon dancing sketch at the Student-Athlete Talent Show last year with his team. Part of what sets BC’s SAAC apart, according to McCartan, is its emphasis on community service and outreach, and that’s what he appreciates about it the most.
His involvement in SAAC has also helped him endure a relatively difficult senior season. After being a key contributor the past three seasons, McCartan only competed in the final two invitationals of the fall season. While he admits to being disappointed with his performance, he says that he’s learned to focus on other aspects of his life and strive to be the best in other ways.
“A lot has to do with taking care of myself as a person as a whole and really trying to foster my development here at BC aside from golf,” he explained. “I really made a conscious effort to not make a very emotional sport like golf be my primary focus on a day to day basis. Especially with my involvement in SAAC, it gives me something in the athletics department that other people know me by and are able to help me develop myself. It really tests and challenges me in another regard.”
And, regardless of what happens on the golf course, moments like the one McCartan shared with Linh will always inspire him. Helping people has shaped him as a person, and he visibly lights up whenever he talks about his experiences.
As McCartan will attest, you can be inspired by the most unexpected coaches. But what matters most, he’ll tell you, is that you act.
Written by Jen Dobias