By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
OXFORD, Miss. – Much of Kelly McCormick’s life consists of being a guardian.
As the starting goalkeeper at Ole Miss, McCormick guards her team’s goal against opposing attacks, and she has performed that task with great proficiency this season. She ranks among the Southeastern Conference’s top-10 in both goals against average (1.11) and total saves (45), helping the Rebels to a 10-3-1 record on the year.
Away from the pitch, McCormick, an aspiring veterinarian, spends most of her time taking care of animals at the Animal Clinic of Oxford, where she volunteers extensively and has gotten terrific hands-on experience.
When most college students look back on the careers they desired as a young child, many times they couldn’t have been farther from the path they are currently pursuing.
For McCormick, her dreams haven’t changed.
“From a really young age, I’ve always been drawn to animals and animals have been drawn to me,” she said. “From the age of four, I told my parents I wanted to be a veterinarian. It hasn’t changed since. I’ve been pursuing my dreams and goals ever since.
“Animals are simple creatures that just need to be cared for,” McCormick continued. “I want to be their guardians and take care of them. They can be a companion to you and a friend, as well.”
The demands of pursuing her career aspirations, coupled with the commitment required to be a top-notch student-athlete mean McCormick – a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll – is often left with very little free time and has to be a master of organization.
“It’s extremely hard to get into vet school, but I’m very dedicated to it,” McCormick said. “To fulfill my prerequisites, I have to have over 500 volunteer hours. Obviously, being a student is a job and being a soccer player is a job, and planning out my future takes a lot of work, as well. Sometimes I have to sacrifice my social life and hanging out with friends. It has been worth it for the hands-on experience. It’s not a burden on me because I enjoy being there and learning.”
McCormick has been heavily involved in her work with the Animal Clinic of Oxford, performing tasks such as spaying and neutering cats, assisting with surgeries, going on horse calls with veterinarians, helping vaccinate horses and witnessing Caesarian sections on dogs.
“The veterinarians at the Animal Clinic of Oxford have been supportive of my aspirations and have allowed me to take a step closer to my dreams by all of the hands-on experience I have gotten with them,” she said.
McCormick has also been involved with the local Humane Society, assisting with weekend spaying of cats.
While she has always been committed to the goal of becoming a veterinarian from a very young age, the experience McCormick has gained during her time at Ole Miss has validated that she chose the correct path.
“I admire these doctors and what they do; they are so selfless in putting their time and effort into saving one little creature,” McCormick said. “I’m witnessing cats and dogs struggling, whether they have cancer or something wrong with their stomachs. I’ve been witnessing these doctors putting their time and effort into saving them. I’ve just been taking after them.”
McCormick finds many transferrable skills between what she does on the soccer field and her work with animals that serve her well in both avenues.
“Being a goalkeeper, I have to properly communicate with the defenders and the rest of the team,” she said. “I can kind of assimilate it to the vet clinic. I’ll be working with other doctors and have to be able to communicate with them. A lot of people think that being a vet, you don’t really have to deal with people, but the reality is that you have to deal with the animal and the owner and communicate effectively with both of them.
“Both involve a collaborative team-work approach to achieve a goal to win or to save an animal,” McCormick continued. “It involves supporting each other when someone needs encouragement on the field or when I encourage and am there for animal lovers when their pet is ill.”
McCormick, a Laguna Niguel, Calif., native who followed a family lineage by attending Ole Miss, is a biology major who looks to make the most of her final two years at the school. In addition to positioning herself for vet school, she also is committed to doing whatever it takes to help the Rebels on the soccer field.
“I am very serious when it comes to soccer,” McCormick said. “I want to perform to the best of my abilities. I don’t really joke around as much as other people do. I want to go in there, get the job done correctly and leave. I am really dedicated and hard working.”
As for what Ole Miss can achieve on the soccer field, McCormick believes the sky is the limit.
“We have a great team this year – the IQ, the skills and the abilities - to get very far,” she said. “This is our year to make a difference, make a name for ourselves and get into the NCAA Tournament. I hope that I can push the girls from behind and be a leader on the field. I am the last defense for them. I hope, in that aspect, that we can fulfill those dreams that we have as a team.”
One thing is for sure, whenever McCormick has a dream, whether it is related to soccer or her career, she’s going to pursue it relentlessly.
“Whatever I do, whether it’s playing soccer or becoming a vet, I want to be the best I can be.”