For Bridget Shanahan, passion and faith come naturally. This senior Communications major has a vibrant presence; and that’s just one of the many things that make her so inspiring. The UW volleyball season, while unfortunately has come to a close, was the best in Cowgirl history. And for Bridget, the end of her athletic career will be “an interesting transition,” but her journey is one she is “beyond blessed” to have had.
Bridget comes from Gasport, New York, a very small town. “I graduated with, I think, 120 people,” she says, and in high school she not only participated in volleyball, but track and basketball as well. When it came down to it, she says, she easily had the most passion for volleyball, and decided to pursue it at the collegiate level. Deciding on a school at which to do so, however, was a little trickier. “I had a pros and cons list,” with Wyoming and another school, and she felt “Wyoming made me feel at home. I knew I would be taken care of here.” Laramie as a community, Bridget says, is similar to that of her hometown, so the adjustment there hardly existed. The biggest adjustment was the “fast pace of the game,” and the intensity of the training at a Division 1 level. “I redshirted my freshman year,” she says, and despite her initial frustration at not getting playing time for her first year, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that year. I’m really thankful for that.” Her gratitude lies not only in her growth as an athlete, but her growth in her faith as well. She attributes this growth to her family, with whom she is very close. She describes tearfully calling her mom with doubts or fear, and in response her mom would always remind her of her purpose—she was doing what she loved, pursuing a dream. This dream has lasted nearly twenty years, “I think I have volleyball t-shirts from, like 1999 or 2000,” and she just celebrated her career coming to an end at her senior recognition match. Needless to say, emotions were running high as she heard her name announced on the loudspeaker, as her parents and brother watched her play for one of the last times. “People were asking me what I’d do differently for senior night,” Bridget says, “and it was hard to not let the emotions get the best of me. I had to just look at it as a regular game,” and in typical Cowgirl fashion, they left everything on the court.
The team, Bridget says, is unanimous on almost everything; and leaving it all on the court is simply one example. Giving, she says, is huge on their team, “any of us would give the shirt off our backs for another person no matter what; all the girls just give to each other, like a family. We don’t have the same cliquey stuff going on like bigger teams do.” Faith is also a big motivator, the conviction that everything they do is for a greater purpose is one that many of the girls share, and that has made a huge difference for Bridget. Every member of the team, Bridget says, tries turning their intrinsic energy and faith into extrinsic energy to motivate each other.
This concentrated energy extends far beyond the court and translates into everything the team does, and even as a recruit Bridget could sense that each individual, regardless of background or personality, had completely bought into the program and committed to a common goal—that commitment to excellence has only grown in Bridget’s five years at UW, and she says confidently that “everyone has the same purpose. We are all going the same direction.” That direction, she says, manifests in the team’s motto for the season, “Great for Eight.” Wyoming, as a big rodeo state, recognizes this phrase as the amount of seconds a typical bullrider can stay on a bull; and it just so happens that this is typically how long a rally in their sport lasts. During a practice or a game, if those three words are said, “everyone knows what it means.” That transparency of communication has led to the unwavering trust and cohesiveness the team exudes. That unity is very visible as a spectator—clearly, these girls love and respect one another not only as athletes, but as people, and they give everything to each other and their sport to make the next rally greater than the last. That not only is a testament to the strength of the team, but a motivator for younger fans (particularly little girls) to pursue the opportunities that sports can provide. Bridget says volleyball has opened many doors for her and allowed her to take chances and grow in ways she would never have been able to without it. “It’s important for women to express themselves,” Bridget says, and to know “we can do everything men can, we can do this.”
Bridget inspires many, myself included, and when asked who inspires her, she had to think for a while. “Honestly every person on my team inspires me,” she says, “But Emily Hines is one name that comes to mind. I ask her advice or thoughts on something, as a senior, and she’s just a freshman.” Emily’s wisdom beyond her years, combined with her strong faith, Bridget says, has helped her find her role as a leader, “and it’s really inspiring to watch.”
With the holidays quickly approaching, of course I had to know what Bridget’s favorite Christmas carol was. And this was by far the hardest question I asked, because she loves them all but most recently “jammed to Trans Siberian Orchestra on the bus to Air Force with Laura Beach,” like all of us inevitably will at least once this holiday season.
Bridget Shanahan shines from the inside out—her soul is vibrant and bright, and her smile is effervescent. She approaches life with a sense of optimism and confidence, and we at Her Campus University of Wyoming know she will succeed at whatever she sets her mind to, now and in the future. So, Pokes, give this incredible collegiette some love before she walks across that graduation stage in a few weeks! Who knows, maybe one day you will see her on ESPN just doing what she does best—chasing dreams (and kicking butt). Congratulations on an amazing career, we love you, Bridget!