This article is part of an ongoing series in which Tom O'Connor explores the role education plays in the lives of elite sportspeople and the options open to young people in sport. Read the full series here.
Amber Barrett may be the reigning Player of the Year in the Continental Women’s National League, as well as holder of the Golden Boot for her exceptional goalscoring performances as Peamount United finished as runners-up to Wexford Youths.
She's not willing to rest on her laurels as one of the top players in the league, however. Instead she’s making strides off the field too as she combines a Masters in Education with her footballing career.
The 22-year-old Milford native has been involved in national squads from under-15 level, through the various age groups before making her senior international debut last September as a replacement for former Puskas Award nominee Stephanie Roche in a crucial qualifying win in Northern Ireland.
She started up front two months later as Colin Bell’s side held European powerhouses the Netherlands to a scoreless draw in one of the national team’s most impressive results of recent times.
In fact, it was Bell's calling Barrett into the squad for the World University Games, which were held in Taipei last summer, that afforded the striker the opportunity to play for and captain her country at top international level for the first time and provided a springboard for her Belfast debut a few months later.
It was a busy summer for the talented forward as she finished up her three years of study at Maynooth University, where she combined her degree along with college soccer and playing for Peamount.
Speaking with extratime.ie about how she balances her studies with her developing career she explained how, when on away trips with the international under-19 squad – especially coming up to important Leaving Certificate exams – study groups would form during the down time and the players would help each other out with their revision.
When she achieved a soccer scholarship to attend Maynooth University, the focus on study remained. Barrett paid particular credit to the Director of the Soccer Scholarship, Barry Prenderville, whose attitude according to Barrett was one of: “what’s wrong, what do you need and how can I help?”
The thirst for study has continued for the former Donegal GAA player as she is now engaged in a master's degree with DCU and currently balancing teaching alongside her fledgling senior international career.
The many demands on her from college, school and country mean a lot of pressure on a 22-year-old’s shoulders and she credits both her school and the FAI’s Mark Scanlon with helping to facilitate her balancing the various pressures.
However, none of this could be achieved without a strong work ethic- something which underpins Barrett’s whole outlook. She spoke about how, when the Donegal players and management decided to add an extra training session to their schedule, they won the Ulster title that season.
Once more, at Maynooth University, when the squad doubled their training sessions they went on to achieve success – both in terms of silverware and increasing the number of Women’s National League players from three to ten in the space of three years.
Amber Barrett operates at an elite level in her soccer career, is actively engaged in her second phase of third level education and is an excellent role model for those who want to compete at a high level on the field yet continue with their studies.
Throughout our interview she never claimed once that it was easy but consistently spoke of the importance of putting in the groundwork and giving importance and respect to everything she does to give her the best chance of success.
It's an outlook that has served many successful people well throughout the years.