The young Vancouver Whitecaps REX soccer player was recently picked by the prestigious Yale University to play for its soccer team while pursuing academics
By Surbhi Gogia
While there are still few days before Saje Brar turns 18 years old, she has achievements that are ahead of her age. Be it playing in teams above her age group, or setting goals for what she wants to be in her life, this young South Surrey resident can undoubtedly be called a trendsetter in her community.
A feather was recently added into her cap. The Centre forward player in Vancouver WhiteCaps REX program team, Saje will probably be one of the very first South Asian women to play in the prestigious soccer team of the Yale University. Yale belongs to the elite group of 8 Ivy League universities in the United States, considered to be most outstanding in terms of their academic as well as sports teams. In fact, the term Ivy League came at a time when these universities elitism was due to their prestige in the realm of sports.
Getting an acceptance in Yale is nothing less than a dream come true for many brilliant students across the world. Approximately only 6% of the total applicants get into the university. And when Saje and her family got the confirmation letter from Yale this April, they knew the door for endless opportunities had just been opened. Saje along with representing its soccer team will be pursuing political science at the Connecticut based college. Her decision to opt for political science comes from her inner drive to become the Prime Minister of Canada one day and also to play in the national team of Canada. “It might feel a bit of a stretch — but that’s my ultimate goal,” she says.
You might wonder how can someone at such a young age have a choice of two different ambitious careers that have no connection to each other. But this is how Saje has been grown up by her parents. The Brar family has always taken a holistic approach towards life. The family believes in exploring different options that challenge mind and body, learning the skills from every option and applying those skills in other areas.
How they decided to put Saje in soccer is one such example. Saje was just 5 years old, when Ron Brar, Saje’s father used to take her to the Ballerina classes. Although being a member of various soccer groups himself, the obvious choice for Ron would have been to put his daughter into soccer from day one. “Since she liked Belle, we thought she would aspire to be a ballerina. But one day we were at a soccer camp, she started dribbling the ball through older kids, we were stunned to see such skills at that young age. We realized that Saje had the gift of more than just being a ballerina. AS soon as we put her into soccer she grabbed on to the sport right away. As she excelled, the coaches started moving her up the levels,” Ron said.
But soccer was never a stepping stone. She tried various sports like softball, volleyball and basketball before excelling in soccer. “My parents never locked off one sport for me. They instructed me in many different sports that allowed me to test waters for everything. They never said I had to play soccer. I got options to see what I was good at and soccer happened to be my passion.”
The skills acquired in other sports helped Saje master soccer. She knew that speed was really important in soccer so got into track and field club Oceans Athletics and learned how to better use her technique in running. Soccer does not train you on jumping, so she got into volleyball team to be trained in jumping. She was also in her high school’s rugby team that projected her ability to be more aggressive.
Brar joined the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX Program in Partnership with BC Soccer in January 2015 after previously playing with Coastal FC in the EA SPORTS BC Soccer Premier League. The ball started rolling for Yale when during her training at the REX program. “I always knew that I wanted to go to an IVY league university whether with the help of soccer or without it. They saw me at a showcase and I was in grade 10 when I committed to Yale,” she said.
Though Saje had offers from various other institutions like Michigan, Pepperdine, Northwestern, among them, Yale was her first choice. Her confidence in the coaches at the Yale was the top most reason for her decision to opt for this institute. “I could have settled for other institution, but when I visited Yale, I struck a bond with the coaches. They told me I was one of their best picks,” she added.
Saje is proud of the fact that she will be the first South Asian female athlete on Yale’s soccer team. She wants to inspire her community as a role model. According to her South Asian community has best of the best women athletes but somehow they are not getting the opportunity. “If they can take a cue from the pathway I have taken, I think my effort is worth. I will be happy to be a mentor for them,” Saje asserted.
But one would need a lifelong commitment, dedication and time management to be on the path that Saje and her family have taken. It is not easy to be part of Whitecaps REX program that demands higher standards of training and to be on top of school grades too. A typical day in Saje’s life starts at 4 o’clock in the morning. “We leave our home in South Surrey at 5.30 in the morning to be in Burnaby by 6. I am there till 8. Then I go to Burnaby Central school. I start my training again after school till 4.30. I go home, grab something to eat, unwind for an hour and then I hit the books till late night,” she says.
She still remembers her last year summer, when she had to prepare for her SAT exam and prepare for the Canada summer games at the same time. “While I was preparing to train for the big event, I was also studying for SAT 6 hours a day. It was hard. It literally meant no summer for me. I missed on special family events, birthdays, weddings, going out with friends. But at the end I got the score needed to clear SAT,” she said.
But it was worth the effort once she got the acceptance letter from Yale. She feels life has opened endless opportunities for her. And this is the message she wants to send out to the community. “Just try everything. Don’t say no and give up even before trying. The moment you say no a door will be closed. You don’t know what you are capable of.”