Alumni Reflections: Paige Onouye

Heather Gaunt
Wednesday 5 May 2021

Paige Onouye  

Bsc, Neuroscience (Honours); Class of 2017  

Saints Basketball 

Instagram account: @paigemarii 

 

Hailing from Los Angeles, Paige Onouye went from never having left the US to volunteering in Zambia for Saints Sport and travelling across the UK for reigning Basketball titles. Paige believes that her time at St Andrews, especially on the Basketball team, catalysed her post-university life and her personal growth. That’s what we call the #SaintsSportFactor 
Read about Paige’s time here!  

 

“Why did you decide to go to university… in Scotland?” 

Born and raised in Los Angeles, I’ve become accustomed to this question inevitably following any mention of my decision to trade in sandals and eternal sunshine for wellies and inclement Scottish weather. To this day, it remains the best decision of my life.   

Witnessing the development of the Women’s Basketball team was one of the most rewarding experiences of my Saints Sport career. Throughout the years, we secured back-to-back championships accompanied by league promotions, cup titles and the ever-so-coveted Athletic Union (AU) Team of the Year award. In my penultimate year, we secured our position to compete at the highest level of amateur basketball in the UK with our promotion to the Premier League. Our recognition as one of the AU’s elite Performance Sport teams provided us with the funding necessary for the continued development of our programme, including the ability to recruit our coach and current Director of Basketball, Callum Knox. With an unwavering commitment from players throughout the years, bolstered by support from Saints Sport, we grew to become one of the top women’s basketball teams in Scotland – an accolade I proudly share with a group of resilient women I am fortunate to call lifelong friends.   

Five thousand miles away from LA, I found a family with Saints Basketball. From the early morning grinds to cross-country road trips (which inevitably turned into on-the-road karaoke nights), we supported one another through it all. Our team culture centered on building a sense of community, both on and off the court. As a student athlete, you develop the capacity to adapt to an ever-evolving and demanding schedule. Pre-performance routines become interlaced with courtside revision sessions. The determined work ethic I shared with my teammates not only drove our performance on the court, but also served as a motivating factor in our varied academic and university commitments as well. Beyond the bond of basketball and a dedication to representing our university, we shared in memories that I will cherish fondly, always.  

My first day of university doubled as the first time I ever travelled outside of the United States. Fast-forward to graduation five years later and it would be impossible to reflect on my St. Andrews experience with anything other than a global perspective. In addition to a culturally diverse community of students (where everyone seemingly knew one another through some varied degree of association), my involvement in the Basketball Club afforded me an opportunity to travel internationally, both for competition and volunteering initiatives. 

Alongside traveling to matches throughout the UK (submitting my dissertation proposal on an 8-hour journey to Loughborough was a fun time for all involved), I competed in Ireland twice to represent the Scottish Student Sport (SSS) National Women’s squad. The opportunity to spend a summer volunteering in Zambia as an ambassador for the International Development Through Excellence and Leadership in Sport (IDEALS) Project was an undeniable highlight of my Saints Sport career. Now known as Volunteer Zambia, this initiative focuses on advancing effective and sustainable sports development programmes to empower communities through sport, leadership, and education. This experience inevitably catalyzed the decision to reorient my future career aspirations away from the more traditional path associated with my Neuroscience degree towards a profession focused on supporting youth in my community. 

There is a distinctly comforting feeling shared amongst athletes of the Saints Sport community. The opportunity to engage in various leadership roles, both within the Basketball Club and Athletic Union, helped to cultivate a protean skill set that enabled me to succeed in my endeavors beyond university. From social secretary to outreach officer, team captain to marketing coordinator, these roles fostered a holistic education outwith the prototypical classroom setting.  

Similarly to many grads, my career path following St Andrews was characteristically non-linear. I gained experience working in community-centered roles for the LA Clippers and UCLA before returning to Scotland and pursuing a Master’s degree in Performance Psychology. My programme explored the influence of psychobehavioral constructs underpinning high-level performance in domains ranging from sport and academia to business and the performing arts – essentially, I studied the psychology of success. I was motivated by an intellectual curiosity and drive to operationalize this knowledge to help both myself and others achieve their performance goals. While writing up my thesis on grit as a predictive measure of success in sport, I was offered a position at Character Lab, a nonprofit whose founder, Angela Duckworth, literally wrote the book on grit itself. Today, I help to facilitate research on social, emotional, academic, and physical well-being working for an organization whose core mission is to advance scientific insights that help all kids thrive.  

Joining the Basketball Club in St Andrews gifted me with a family. Actively getting involved in opportunities Saints Sport had to offer helped steer me towards a fulfilling career that inspires me to grow, both personally and professionally, every day. I am eternally grateful for the remarkable experiences I have shared, lifelong friends I have acquired, and lessons I have learned from my time in St Andrews. I found a community and my first genuine sense of belonging in this charming, seaside Scottish town we call The Bubble. 

 

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