Elliot Olshansky, NCAA.com
After a few minutes in conversation with Connecticut College senior Brigid O’Gorman, one might be tempted to ask how she manages to balance the rigorous academic demands of pre-medical studies with the responsibility of captaining a Camels team that has already tied the program record for wins in a season with four games remaining in the regular season.
The answer is simple: she doesn’t know any other way.
“I have to have hockey in my schedule, to tell the truth,” O’Gorman said. “When I don’t have hockey, or I don’t have academics, things just get messed up. Both of them together help me schedule my life a lot better than without either. It’s kind of weird, but it’s a nice balance to spend a day in classes, then have two and a half hours off to go play hockey and get right back to studying.”
Clearly, it works. O’Gorman is fourth on the Camels (9-9-2) in points with eight (four goals, four assists), and is one point shy of tying her career best. With a 5-6-1 NESCAC record, the Camels sit fifth in the conference standings, and are responsible for one of only four conference losses for a Bowdoin team that received votes in the most recent USCHO.com Division III women’s poll.
“The season is our best season since I’ve been here,” O’Gorman said, “which is really exciting for me as a senior. It’s been going really well and it’s pretty exciting.”
The 2010-11 campaign marks her second season as captain (she shared the honor with three other players a year ago), but a meeting in her sophomore year set her on the path to leading in a much more important arena.
“I was at a pre-health meeting,” O’Gorman said, “and I heard about this opportunity from a student who was doing it, and went to an additional meeting afterwards, called my parents and told them I was going to Uganda.
“They were a little startled, but they realized it was something I wanted to do and came aboard.”
O’Gorman’s teammates helped her collect clothing to bring to the east African nation, and that spring, the Eden, New York native helped deliver that clothing – as well as medical and school supplies, money and medical care – to the Asayo’s Wish Orphanage in Kaberamaido, Uganda.
“I was really expecting the worst,” O’Gorman said. “The biggest surprise is more of a positive thing. There’s just about 200 kids in this orphanage, and I don’t know what I was expecting, but I found that these kids are extremely happy, and they were having a great time, and they were thrilled to see us there. That was the biggest surprise: to see what they’ve been through, and yet have them so happy and delighted to see you, that’s really a cool thing.”
For her part, O’Gorman certainly took an active role in putting smiles on faces, even teaching some of the orphans to play hockey.
“It’s something I wanted to do from the beginning,” O’Gorman said. “I wanted to share with them something that I really love from home. I brought street hockey blades and put some sticks on the end of them, and made about 10 hockey sticks. They had balls [at the orphanage], and I just kind of taught them how to stickhandle. With their knowledge of soccer and stuff, they picked up the idea of passing and space a guarding each other faster than I expected, which was pretty cool.”
A finalist for the 2010 Hockey Humanitarian Award, O’Gorman returned to Uganda this past summer – with a $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace to implement an electronic recordkeeping system at the orphanage – and found that the orphans were ready for some competition.
“We had a big hockey tournament,” O’Gorman said. “I brought nets, and it was really intense. It was a lot of fun.”
That fateful meeting during her sophomore year also left O’Gorman with a way to help out closer to home. When she’s not on the ice or hitting the books, O’Gorman volunteers at the High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center in Old Lyme, Conn.
“I live on a farm at home,” O’Gorman said, “and I was kind of missing my animals. I heard about this therapeutic riding center, and thought it would be a lot of fun. I started out just side-walking – you stand next to the horse and support the child on top because a lot of them have balancing issues – and I’ve been doing it for three years now, so they’ve moved me from walking on the side to leading the horses, feeding them, cleaning them, and I’ve started long-leading. It’s something that’s been really cool, to see the different things that they do there.”
With her senior season as a Camel winding down and graduation on the horizon – she’s also been nominated for this year’s Hockey Humanitarian Award – O’Gorman is looking forward to attending medical school next year. Not surprisingly, she’s also eyeing a return to Africa.
“There’s just so much to be done in Uganda alone,” O’Gorman said. “Getting through medical school is going to be a long haul, but I can’t wait to get started.
“I would love to work with Doctors Without Borders. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, just travel around and help a lot of people, and maybe after that, settle down and have a practice.”
One might be tempted to ask how Brigid O’Gorman manages to do it all, but for her, the real question is how she couldn’t.
“I really enjoy doing what I do,” O’Gorman said, “and I don’t think I’d be the same person without any of it.”