Under pressure


O'Brien holding the Jilek cup trophy. The Jilek cup is a tournament of the four high school hockey teams in AnnArbor.

Coming down to the waning seconds of the game, Skyline Eagles hockey player Shea O’Brien gained possession of the puck. A cluster of engaged and eager fans banged on the glass. O’Brien’s team only needed one goal, and they were counting on him to drop the curtain. The pressure rose and got heavier as seconds ticked off the clock. Unfazed by the raging crowd, O’Brien launched a shot. The puck made its way through traffic, coasted under the goalie’s glove, and grazed the back of the net. It was a goal. His teammates all raced over to him to celebrate, noisy Eagles fans cheered in the bleachers and players sticks clapped on the boards with excitement. O’Brien delivered when he was needed most.

After the game, some teammates went to celebrate the win, but O’Brien had already made other plans that night with books, upcoming tests, and studying for the ACT and SAT.

O’Brien, a junior, as begun a difficult, busy and stressful college process that takes a lot of free time out of his day. As an athlete of the Skyline hockey and baseball teams, a member of the Depression Awareness Club, and a member of the Forum Council Committee his days are already pretty hectic. Adding the college process on top of all that makes his days even more tiring.

“In a word, it was brutal,” O’Brien said. “I mean trying to get into college, you have your classes, sports teams and clubs because you’re told your application is a reflection of who you are and how you spend your time, and that SAT work just falls on top of it. So after a day at school, in the gym, on the ice and after clubs and what not, I have to sit down and do SAT work.”

Applications, resumes, standardized tests, college essays and transcripts are just some of the work required in this process. And on top of that, finding the right place to spend the next few years of your life. Small school? Big school? Close or far from home? where your family wants you to go? The whole thing is a lot of pressure to put on high schoolers such as O’Brien. It’s easy to get caught up in the future and lose focus. So how does O’Brien handle all the pressure and stay focused? What is his motivation?

“I’m pushing myself, I’m chasing my own role models,” O’Brien said. “My uncle who I look up to more than anything got into Annapolis, he served in Iraq, came back and got into MIT business school. It’s those kinds of things that motivate me. I constantly am putting myself against them, not in a negative way, but I’m chasing them, and striving to be the best.”

However, nobody can do everything perfect including O’Brien, so the stress builds up on him very often, and that’s where sports factor in, especially hockey.

“If things aren’t going my way whether it’s in school or socially, being able to put on pads and fly around the ice is something not many kids get to experience, and I’m glad I get the opportunity to do so. It takes off a lot of stress off me from whatever problems or obstacles I faced that day.”

Despite the cons of the process, there are perks. For O’Brien, It may just be birding or rollerblading down to a U of M class or something small, but those 15 minutes of freedom is something he really enjoys. Aside from all the freedom he gets and is looking forward to next year, there’s so many places to end up, so many different types of schools. To some kids that can be a little disheartening but O’Brien loves the idea of how he could end up at so many different places.

“I personally love when the whole family goes on a road trip somewhere to go see the colleges there,” O’Brien said. “There’s so many options, so many places I could end up not just by schools but as a person. I love playing out all those scenarios in my head of what would happen, what kind of person would I be if I went here or there. I think that’s very cool.”

O’Brien is determined journey to fight the pressure. “It’s a climb;” O’Brien said. “When I get to the top of that mountain, where ever that might be, I’ll let you know. But honestly it’s funny when I sit and look because I don’t really know where that climb ends. Is it graduating undergrad, is it after a business degree? Right now I’m still climbing to get where I want to be.”