“Never let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed.”
Hockey brought Charlie to UNH from Florida. The small town atmosphere, ability to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, and the helpful people has made his experience at UNH memorable. Dedication, hard work, determination, and time management have all been key elements in Charlie O’Connor’s success at UNH. Charlie often starts his day before sun-up, skating with the club hockey team. He travels most weekends with his hockey team and is frequently on the road as an official with the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program. In the midst of his hockey schedule, Charlie is applying to medical school, running a CFAR chemistry tutor group, and completing a demanding course load as a Chemistry major.
Charlie has played competitive ice hockey for most of his life. When he realized he wasn’t going to be offered a scholarship to play hockey, he started to look at other options. He considered playing for the UNH club team, but he didn’t know how serious the program would be. He learned over 100 players try out for 25 spots, and with a schedule that includes 35 plus games, it is very intense. The team has excellent coaches who give everything they have to consistently improve the players and program. Charlie has seen the club hockey program at UNH grow in his four years. Last year, the team qualified for their first American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) National Championship Appearance in San Jose, CA. The team took another step forward to compete in the Super East Collegiate Hockey League, one of the premier club leagues in the country.
Charlie not only plays the sport but spends much of his time on the ice officiating games. This is his 12th year officiating, and he finds it constantly pushes him to be better. He currently serves as an official in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League and the Metropolitan League, the premier hockey leagues for 15-25 year olds. These games take place up and down the eastern seaboard, requiring Charlie to drive 8 hours or more to away games, only to return to campus for homework, practice, and classes.
Being an official can be just as difficult as playing. The referees are under a lot of scrutiny from fans, players, and the league management. After each game, Charlie receives a document with feedback about his performance, translating into a grade. This grade ranks him against other officials and determines his chances of moving up in the ranks. This year he was honored by being appointed as an official for the All-Star game. Next year, while he waits to hear about medical school, he plans to take a year and officiate full time with the USA Hockey Tier 1 Jr. A League, the highest junior league in the country.
His quick instincts as a hockey goalie and official will serve him well as he pursues a career as a trauma doctor. When he was younger, he would shadow doctors, and soon after, he was hooked on the idea of pursuing the medical field. He views the challenges of the medical field similar to hockey officiating, as they are both physically challenging and constantly changing.
With all the traveling, Charlie says, “I often study for classes while on the bus.” As a Chemistry major, with a rigorous course load, studying can be difficult at times. While being on the ice is what he loves to do, his studies have always been important to him and his greatest priority. Charlie talks about the Chemistry Department and how much they have challenged him along the way, “[They] were always willing to help anyway they could. They made me a stronger person- more able to use skills, hard work, and knowledge I can use in the future.”
His dedication to his studies is evident as he was asked to be a Chemistry tutor at the Center for Academic Resources (CFAR). Tutoring is something he loves doing. Charlie says he really enjoys “helping people who need it the most.” Tutoring was an opportunity to give back and help people like his brother who struggle academically, often because of learning disabilities. This experience pushed him to overcome some of his shyness and helped him learn to speak in front of a group. Charlie explains, “There are things that can be scary, but you’ve got to get through it somehow.” He believes this will be good practice for medical school, where he will be in charge of running seminars.
Charlie advises students to take the opportunity to get involved on campus. “You never know till you get a taste for things what you will end up doing.” “My involvement in hockey and CFAR have improved me as a person and helped to put things in perspective. Being so busy, it gets really hard; you have to be really determined to make things work.”
When asked if he would forgo medical school given an opportunity to officiate at the next level, Charlie simply replied, “there are always weekends.” If anyone could figure out how to balance medical school and demands of an officiating schedule, it would be Charlie O’Connor.
2012 - 2013 CYOS Honorees: (left to right) Brittany Zorn, Laura Gardocki, Peter Callahan, Merhawi Wells-Bogue, Molly Hunt, Larry Rackliff, Lauren Banker, Ben Claxton, Alex Freid, Jihyon Im