Former Priestley College student Tom Corcoran is now one of the top ranked college ‘soccer’ players in America.The 19-year-old former Great Sankey High School pupil will be in America for four years playing football and studying at St Scholastica College in Minnesota.
Here he talks about how his time at Priestley College – where he studied Computer Studies, PE, Finance and Community Sports Leadership – helped him to achieve his goal and about how he has settled into life in America.
Where will people know you from in Warrington?
I have lived in Westbrook, Warrington, all my life. I attended St. Philips Primary School and Great Sankey High School before attending Priestley College.
I played football locally for Great Sankey High School, Priestley College, Cromwell Athletic, Rylands and Warrington Town.
I was also part of the Warrington and Cheshire County representative schools football teams.
I was heavily involved in cricket, rugby and swam at competitive levels for many years; basically I just had a love of all sports.
What are you doing in America and was this always a path you wanted to take?
It was Review Evening at Priestley College and I was not sure which direction to go in respect of my studies and future plans. I wanted to do something really different though.
I was aware of my Sports Teacher’s (Rich Donnelly) experiences in the USA and he always said he believed I was good enough to go and play football (soccer as they know it) over there and couple it with academic studies.
By chance that evening Mr Donnelly was sat in his office and was good enough to take some time out to talk me through what to expect if I made such a move.
Rich was always someone I would listen to and take on board what he said.
I have always had a passion for sport, particularly football and was looking for a way to carry on enjoying it whilst pursuing academic studies
I was also looking for something which would provide me life experiences I would not otherwise achieve.
He advised me how to go about taking the first steps to get to the US and provided me with the contact I needed to get the ball rolling.
The contact was a company called Pass4Soccer who have years of experiences assisting those wishing to go to the US to study and play sport.
They helped me greatly through the process.
I subsequently had to take part in some football trial matches attended by US college coaches.
As a result I was lucky enough to be recruited for one of their colleges St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota and was offered an academic scholarship.
However, I also had to take entrance exams to prove my academic worth to go with my football ability.
I have been at St. Scholastica for the past year and a half and will be there for four years.
Up to now I have been studying a range of general subjects i.e. maths literature, history etc but I am following a degree in management.
I am happy with the way my studies and results have gone so far but the college is really strict on standards being maintained, as such you have to keep on the ball with your work.
Where are you living? What can you tell us about your day-to-day life in America?
I live on the college campus in a large apartment with three other members of the football team.
The college is set in its own forest and presents a brilliant setting.
I have a part time job in the computer section, which helps me pay for my living costs.
St. Scholastica is absolutely top class in terms of what is available academically, the standard of tuition and sport both in terms of facilities and coaching standards.
As you are aware I play football (soccer) for the college.
We have won our regional league for the last two seasons and hopefully if all goes to plan will enter the National competition later in November, which can mean lots of travelling to different States.
We train every day, many hours a week both inside and out and play a minimum of two matches per week.
The whole sporting set up is very professional with great medical facilities should you require treatment.
I have made many friends from all nationalities during my time at St. Scholastica and while we all have to concentrate on our studies and individual sports, we socialise well together and visit different areas of the States.
Playing football for the college gives me the opportunity to visit different cities, towns and States in the US when playing away games.
I attend class everyday, which is usually followed by a couple of hours study and research.
I have most of my meals on campus where there are several options for places to eat and the standard is good.
I had about six different offers of universities and colleges to go to in the States but chose St. Scholastica.
The decision is what I would call a ‘success’. It is a great college with real identity and I am very happy and lucky to be here.
On a personal and sporting note, I am currently ranked third in the US for goals scored (26 in 20 games) and fourth for points accumulated (goals scored, assists etc).
The US is heavy into stats as you can probably guess.
I have been selected as defensive player of the week for the region twice in recent weeks.
However, I was a bit unlucky in my first season with injuries as I broke my nose and dislocated my shoulder twice but with the excellent medical facilities/rehab on campus I hardly missed a match.
I have managed to maintain a regular place in the starting 11 for the past two seasons in a very good team, which I also see as somewhat of a triumph.
Whilst it is good to obtain sport awards, I would say my main success so far is actually achieving what I set out to do and that is find an excellent college, attain a good standard of education, couple it with my passion for sport, meet lots of new friends and gain a whole load of new life experiences.
Did you find it easy to settle into college life in America?
You have to bear in mind I was literally just by a few days, 18 years of age when I boarded the plane for America and it could have been daunting but for the genuine support I received when I arrived.
I was met at the US airport by my football coach who then took me to my college and showed me round.
He then introduced me to members of the football (soccer) team with whom I was going to play. This really helped.
The following day the coach assisted me set up my campus living accommodation by showing me the local stores to buy what I needed, took me to open bank accounts and set up a mobile phone contract.
On the third day we were all into pre-season training. So really my feet didn’t touch the ground for the first week or so and this really assisted me settle in quickly.
During pre-season training my college course began and within that early period there were many events of ‘get to know you’ types.
Again this made all the difference in quickly becoming familiar with my new surroundings and other students.
The football squad is full of players who have been at the college for a couple of years and they all made great efforts to involve me in whatever was going on.
All in all and to answer the question, yes it was very easy to settle into to college life at St. Scholastica and the US in general, despite it all being a massive, massive new experience but one I would never advise anyone to shy away from – it really is do-able.
What are the best aspects of what you are doing?
Playing football for a good, successful team, meeting new international friends, learning a different culture and enjoying a whole new experience at such a young age.
I consider myself to be very lucky but I also have to thank my parents, Rich Donnelly and Priestley College for putting me in this position.
How do you think Priestley helped you to achieve your goals?
Priestley College assisted me to achieve my goals by providing me with excellent academic tuition, developed my sporting ability both in terms of general fitness and football and had a sports coach in Rich Donnelly who took an interest in his students, which in my case turned out to be a vital element in doing what I am doing.
The Sports Department put me in a position where I was able to achieve county honours in football, which helped convince the US soccer coaches I was worth having a look at.
At Priestley I was also taught many of the social skills I am using in my new environment.
What do you hope to have achieved at the end of your time in America and what are you goals for the future?
Obviously I wish to gain an excellent degree as my education is really the priority.
However, I want to continue being part of a successful football team and hopefully go far each year in not only regional competitions but nationally as well with sport being a big part of US life.
Clearly after my US experience, I would want to return to the UK and pursue a successful career, although as yet I have not yet made a decision as to what path that may follow.
What I can say is I will have something very worthwhile to add to my CV.