Sports Person of the Week
Aiken’s a True Leader On and Off the Field
Mairead Aiken made a big impact with North Branford softball team and was also a positive influence around the school through her involvement in a wide variety of extracurricular activities. (Photo courtesy Mairead Aiken )
In the 2020 North Branford High School yearbook, Mairead Aiken’s senior quote reads, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The quote is from poet Maya Angelou and was first told to Mairead in 7th grade by her mother Aimee. Throughout her four years at North Branford, that quote played a major role in helping Mairead become who she is today and expresses a sentiment she always kept in mind as both a pitcher on the Thunderbirds’ softball team and an active member of multiple organizations at her school.
“I feel that in a world with such diversity and a lot of things happening at the time, it’s important to make sure that everybody feels like a somebody, that they can value who they are and what they can do,” says Mairead. “I wanted to make sure that I had a quote that had such an impact and can be so relatable to the world we are living in today.”
In addition to playing four years of varsity softball for North Branford, Mairead was a flutist in the school’s band, the vice president of her Student Council, and a member of the Dream Team, which works with the town’s elementary schools. She was also a part of Unified Sports and Best Buddies, two programs that help students with developmental disabilities enjoy the experience of athletics.
As she became more involved with these clubs, Mairead began to realize how much she enjoyed helping others. Mairead says that her involvement with each organization inspired her to make a difference in people’s lives.
“I was always told by my parents to get involved and help others. When I went to high school, I was more of a shy person. I wasn’t really willing to come out of my shell. I figured I might as well take the advice I was given,” Mairead says. “These clubs are really awesome, and they have good people with good intentions and good hearts. I really wanted to get involved and make more friends. It helped me blossom and become who I am today. I wanted to get involved and help anybody that I could.”
Mairead first stepped on the softball field when she was six years old, beginning in North Branford’s Little League. Her father Brent encouraged her to play softball. Mairead’s dad is a big sports fan with coaching experience, and she always enjoyed listening to his stories about what took place at the field. Brent bought Mairead a glove, and the two of them would practice in the backyard. Right away, Mairead fell in love with softball and knew that she wanted to continue with the sport.
Mairead started playing for the Shoreline Sting and eventually transitioned into a pitcher when she was 10. After her first season with the Sting, Mairead’s father became her head coach. Mairead’s passion for softball grew as she learned the fundamentals from her father, and she appreciated the opportunity to be coached by him.
“My dad has definitely played a huge part in my love for the sport. He put so much more time into the team and I,” says Mairead. “His big focus was our mentality of the game. Every week, we would have homework, and he would give us seven scenarios. We would have to come up with a solution. He was very personable. Any of the girls or I could always turn to him. He taught us to never give up. Being my dad, we had a very close connection that we formed through it.”
When she was a freshman at North Branford, Mairead saw posters around her school about joining the softball program and made sure to attend each one of the team’s meetings. Mairead immediately formed a bond with her future teammates in that very first meeting and would frequently communicate with them.
Mairead says the way that her fellow Thunderbirds treated her as a freshman gave her confidence and showed her the right way to treat other people on the team as she progressed through the program.
Mairead contributed to plenty of highlights during her tenure with the North Branford softball squad, helping the T-Birds win three-straight Shoreline Conference championships. Mairead says that running out on the field and hugging her teammates while they held the conference trophy are moments that she will always cherish.
In her senior year, Mairead was named one of North Branford’s captains alongside Kayla Despres and Katy Pederson. Head Coach Nick DeLizio says that Mairead displayed great leadership skills with the way that she embraced her teammates.
“Mairead is an amazing human being. Her work ethic on and off the field is impeccable. What she does for the community is very impressive. Her leadership in the school is second to none,” DeLizio says. “You look at the quality of person she is, everybody loved her. Everybody embraces her. She embraces everybody. She has a team-first mentality. She’s a really special person.”
As a member of the Student Council, Mairead enjoyed being on the Homecoming Committee and donating to blood drives or fundraisers in order to help her community. With Best Buddies, Mairead says that she loved making people smile and helping them understand “what they could do, rather than what they couldn’t.”
Mairead is planning to continue participating in Best Buddies when she attends Sacred Heart University, where she is going to major in speech and language in the health profession program. Mairead also has plans of joining the Sacred Heart club softball team and playing in the school’s band.
Mairead’s experience as a student-athlete in North Branford started her along a path of becoming the person she wanted to be. By playing softball and participating in various activities, Mairead came to understand the importance of helping people in need and found that she loved doing so. While she may have been a shy freshman when she started at North Branford, Mairead leaves the high school knowing that the people around her aren’t going to forget the way she made them feel.
“It has impacted me for the better. The amount of connections that I now have and the confidence that I was given, whether it was through softball or Student Council, really motivated me and encouraged me to keep going,” says Mairead. “Everything I did helped make an impact on me and helped shape how I want to change the world. It was such an important part of my life. It’s helped make me into the person I am and the person I want to be.”