(Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment in a new series that takes a look at how recent graduates’ (class of 2020) lives were turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Choosing a path in life that is not well mapped out can be scary.
There is a risk of not knowing what’s ahead, and one can only plan so far into the future.
Recent Gunnison High School graduate Shaughn Rourke will be embarking on an unfamiliar path as he attempts to pursue his dream of playing college hockey.
“I was hoping it would be done quickly and we’d be back to sports, school and senior year fun stuff that I was hoping not to miss out on,” said Rourke about the COVID-19 pandemic. “It definitely was unfortunate not having my final season to do something (play lacrosse for Montrose High School) that I have been doing for awhile with my friends, but it helped me focus on different things and allowed me to zero in on hockey being what I want to do.”
While hockey is Rourke’s end game, his path to getting to his goal of playing at the college level will be slightly different — meaning he will have to go the junior hockey league route.
“I had a few schools picked out academically that I wouldn’t mind going to, but once I found out that my route to playing college hockey would be going to juniors first instead of going to college, I started to focus more on juniors,” said Rourke. “Looking for the right team, contacting coaches and emailing them stuff that will hopefully get me a shot on their team.”
After contacting around seven to 10 junior teams, Rourke narrowed it down to the Twin City Thunder — who he will be playing with on Friday, July 17, in Boston, at a league showcase in hopes of making the team.
“I'm ecstatic about the opportunity. All my money, work, time and effort has been going into focusing on making the team and putting my best foot forward,” said Rourke. “I’m definitely betting on myself since I'm not taking a traditional route, and there is always failure, but I've been focusing on working, workout and preparing myself in the best way possible for this opportunity.”
Rourke’s final chance to make the team will come on Thursday, Aug. 27, as he will head to Maine — where the Twin City Thunder is located — to compete at a tryout camp. If Rourke were to make the
If Rourke were to make the team he will spend six months in Maine playing hockey, showcasing his skills to colleges and other teams, and then will look to return the following year hoping to find a college that works best for him to achieve his athletic and academic goals.
While Rourke has a positive mindset, he is prepared just in case things don't go as planned.
“If it doesn’t work out, I'm going to continue to work at my goal,” said Rourke. “Might take a couple classes at Western, try to get as much schooling done as possible and maybe take a run at it again the following year.”
Western Colorado University offers classes in his field of interest — sports science.
Once Rourke finds a college, he’d like to pursue athletic training or something that will keep him involved in the sporting world, and has even considered coaching.
To be prepared for the opportunity he has coming up, Rourke has been working hard on his cardio — running almost everyday — core workouts, getting in the gym three times a week, along with other types of workouts in order to get his body in peak hockey shape.
Rourke is on the clock and potential delays due to COVID-19 weigh on him. He will have until he turns 20 to make juniors, after that he will have to find a college hockey team to walk on to or look for a college to pursue his academic career.
“That’s definitely always been something on my mind,” said Rourke on walking on. “Sometimes you don't always get the right opportunities, and sometimes you have to go out and make them. If things don’t work out exactly how I want them, maybe I'll put that extra elbow grease in and make it the old fashioned way.”
(Brandon Warr can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)