Every time I step onto that field, I think about the girls out there that look like me and never got an opportunity. I also think about the ones that look up to me — you know, those same ones with a soccer ball and a dream.
That’s who I do this for.
I want all of them to see me and realize they can do anything they want in this life if they work for it. I’m living proof of it right now at the University of Memphis. I’ve been cut from teams before and suffered heartbreaking setbacks.
No one said it would be easy!
But if I can do it, every other girl out there watching me can do the same.
We’re all just people at the end of the day, right? It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you look like.
Only your heart matters.
And no one can take that away from you.
A search for representation
I know it all too well because I’m Punjabi and Sikh.
My parents were both born in India, but they moved to Canada at different points in their life. Growing up, I’d watch the Canadian national team and never see anyone playing that looked like me.
Even to this day, despite there being a lot of talented players with the same heritage as me, you don’t see them on the national team.
Honestly, you don’t see many playing professional soccer, period.
It still didn’t stop my love for the game.
I remember my very first soccer practice. I showed up wearing pink capris and a red tank top because I obviously had no clue what I was doing.
That was the only thing that really mattered to me at the time. The sport was just fun, you know?!
But by the time I was 12 years old, things started to get a bit more serious. I got called into the U15 (Under 15) national camp and ended up making the team two years younger than average.
You know, that was a really special moment for me.
Just standing up there with the other girls and wearing the Canadian jersey with the maple leaf on it—that’s an experience I’ll never forget. It’s something you can never get back.
I just wish it ended differently.
The cut I never saw coming
After playing for the national team, I got scouted to play for the Whitecaps FC REX program. I started to think I could go on like everyone else and get a scholarship to play Division I soccer one day.
But then something happened that I never expected.
I got cut from the Whitecaps.
Of course, I felt like the world was over at that moment. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget because, for me, it was the lowest of lows.
Getting cut at that level does something to you. I started to question whether I was good enough to even be competing. I started to doubt my chances of ever going to a DI school.
And then I realized it was okay not to belong on that team.
Whether I played on a specific team or not didn’t define me as a player. I could be just as good as all of them playing somewhere else. All I needed was an opportunity. I just had to work that much harder to prove myself.
I went to a couple of universities in Canada and even played semi-professionally last summer in Edmonton. I used that experience of getting cut as motivation to propel me to be an even better player.
I worked so hard.
My hard work got the attention of Memphis, and I was eventually extended an offer to come and play Division I soccer.
I thought about my hopes of representation. I’d be the first Punjabi woman to ever play for the women’s soccer team at Memphis if I agreed to join.
It didn’t take me long to make that decision.
Two weeks later, I was on a plane ride to Tennessee.
From dream to reality
So many people had counted me out, and that moment just meant so much to me. Everything in my life was coming full circle. That 15-year-old little girl within me—you know, the one that got cut from the team had finally gotten her moment.
I was so, so proud of myself.
All of the adversity I went through and everything I had to endure just to make this dream a reality was more than I can put into words.
I’ve come a long way, but I still have a long ways to go.
More than anything, however, I feel so happy to be representing my community. Just being that outlier and accomplishing something you don’t see very often is a really big deal, you know?
I just want other young girls to look at me and say, “If she can do it, I can do it, too.”
You might have to take the path less traveled, but if you want it bad enough and put in the work, then anything is possible.