Jack McMurray has achieved a first for Southern Regional College (SRC). Determined from an early age to obtain a US scholarship playing volleyball, Jack has achieved that goal. While SRC has had volleyball students achieve scholarships in the past, this is the first time a student has been successful in obtaining a volleyball scholarship in the US, a sport which is as popular as American football in the States.
Jack currently studies the Sport and Exercise Science Level 3 Extended Diploma in SRC’s Armagh campus, which is equivalent to 3 A-levels. Sports has always been Jack’s passion, having played multiple sports when and where possible. The course was a natural choice for Jack as he has always aspired to the sporting profession. It also helps that Jack’s brother is a previous sporting student at the College who has went on to complete his masters in sport.
Jack set his sights on the US collegiate academic and athletic system several years ago while keenly watching college volleyball on TV, his main sport of interest. This led Jack to dream of the exciting prospect of playing college volleyball while progressing with a science exercise course.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing as Jack originally commenced investigating US college options during the summer of 2021 thinking he was ahead of the game. This was not to be the case, as he was soon to realise this was several years behind his fellow US students. This realisation did not put Jack off, instead it increased his determination to be seen by US coaches.
Tough work followed as Jack put together and edited videos showing him playing in all six volleyball positions and body movement across the court. After compiling a list of college coaches, the videos were sent to upwards of 70 coaches. Jack’s skills spiked the interest of at least a dozen coaches who got in touch to interview him. Picking the right college, then became the issue, as the colleges needed to suit Jack both academically and athletically.
Jack reached out to ex GB Olympian Mark Plotyczer who runs Tiebreak agency to guide Jack through the collegiate process. After many online zoom calls Jack made the decision to commit to Lourdes university commencing in August 2023. Jack continues to work with Mark who is guiding him through the scholarship process and associated paperwork. Jack is delighted to have received a scholarship with Lourdes university, a top 10 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school, having received the news from Lourdes volleyball coach Greg Reitz.
Jack is a talented player, playing for both SRC and Craigavon Aztecs volleyball clubs, both clubs winning multiple trophies and championships. SRC has both a volleyball team and academy under the watchful eye of coach Paul Mcllwaine, who also coaches at Craigavon Aztecs. The volleyball academy is open to all students at SRC, with the only condition attached being an interest in the sport.
As to the future, Jack is keen to turn professional and play volleyball in Europe after returning from the US. His sights are also set on helping other young talented athletes get the same opportunities, or better.
Paul McIIwaine, volleyball coach at Southern Regional College commented:
“I am both delighted and excited for Jack. Jack is a well deserving recipient of the US scholarship because of the effort and work he has put into achieving it. Jack has been training with SRC and Craigavon Aztecs volleyball clubs for four to five years now. He set his goals early on to go to the USA and achieve a scholarship, which is exactly what he has done”.
“It has been a dream of sorts for years to make it to the USA to play at [collegiate] level as I’ve constantly been watching college volleyball on TV.
To any aspiring future student, I would say to work as hard as they possibly can now as I tell myself I wouldn’t want to be sitting later in life asking myself what if, or looking back and seeing the person I could’ve been.”Jack McMurray , Sport and Exercise Science Level 3 Extended Diploma, SRC