The students and faculty at Norwood Elementary School got a treat on Monday morning, as they welcomed Providence College Men’s Basketball Coach Ed Cooley for a visit.
The coach initiated the visit said Norwood teacher Patti Shanley, whose late husband Paul was the twin brother of Father Brian Shanley, past president of Providence College. During her husband’s 8-month battle against a rare bone cancer, Patti said Coach Cooley frequently called to offer words of encouragement.
When Father Shanley relayed that Cooley wanted to visit the school and talk with the students, Patti suggested several dates and the visit was arranged.
Cooley, along with Brian Shanley, addressed the Norwood student body and stressed the importance of staying in school, dreaming big, and giving back to your community.
The two also played games with students, handed out souvenirs, and gave kids the chance to ask questions of their own to their celebrity guests.
“Outside of your family, your teachers are the most important people in your life. Your teachers are going to help you learn. The most important thing outside your families is learning. Listening and learning are the most important things for you. You will go to college,” said Shanley.
Cooley would go on to tell students about his upbringing as a child of a low-income family in South Providence, and how his unlikely basketball career would provide him the opportunity to pursue a college degree and eventually end up coaching at one of the premier college basketball programs in the country.
Cooley attended Central High School in Providence and would later go on to play college basketball for Stonehill. After graduating, he went on to be a high school history teacher in Massachusetts and eventually worked his way up the coaching ranks until he took over the Friars program in 2011. Since then, he has led them to five NCAA tournament appearances as well as a Big East Championship in 2014.
“I came through the Providence public school system and I never thought that I’d have the opportunity to go to college. I didn’t even know what college was. Now, I am living a dream and I don’t want to wake up. Anything is possible,” said Cooley.
That drive and mentality has remained constant in Cooley’s life and he has always tried to spread that same passion to his players.
“I always want to be the underdog, I always want to be that person or that team that people doubt. You’re going to be in that situation at some point in your life, where some people won’t believe in you. It’s going to be about what you do from here on out. Appreciate your opportunity,” said Cooley.
Believing in yourself and focusing on the positive aspects of your life are the biggest keys to success, according to Cooley.
“Every single mind in here, every single man and woman, there is something great in you, and our teachers are bringing that out of you every single day. Whether if you’re 5, 10, 11 (years old), have an open mind, be courageous. Say, ‘I can,’ and ‘I will,’ and you’ll become that. Don’t worry about your failures, because your successes will come. Keep believing,” said Cooley.
More than anything, Cooley told the audience to always remember where you came from and to make sure to appreciate the gifts that life grants you.
“When you’re in a leadership position, you have to share, you have to go out and be a member of that community,” said Cooley. “One of you will be here at some point very soon addressing this school and the next person, so give back. Give back to your community, give back to yourself.”