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Celebrating Womanhood: Sophia Walia, Field Hockey Player & U-18 National Team Coach Canada

Monica Sethi Darpan, 18 Mar, 2024
  • Celebrating Womanhood: Sophia Walia, Field Hockey Player & U-18 National Team Coach Canada

"I want to continue sharing my experience and opening the doors for girls in high-performance sports. I want to inspire girls in the community to aspire for more and play at a higher level."- Sofia Walia, Field Hockey Player & U-18 National Team Coach Canada

Sophia Walia's journey from a young girl playing field hockey with her uncles to becoming a renowned Canadian hockey figure is a testament to her resilience and dedication. Starting at 5, when there were no girls' teams, Walia embraced every sport until 14, when she earned a spot in the senior national field hockey team, representing Canada. This marked the beginning of a remarkable career.

At 17, Walia received multiple NCAA offers and secured a Full Ride scholarship at Rutgers University, playing Division 1 field hockey. Majoring in Public Health and minoring in Psychology and Education, she managed a full academic load while excelling in sports. This experience honed her time management skills and allowed her to compete at the highest level.

Returning to Vancouver, Walia joined UBC Nursing School's accelerated program, becoming a registered nurse and clinical educator with the Provincial Health Authority. Currently, she is training to become a medical professional. Simultaneously, she delved into coaching, contributing to the U-16 and U-18 national field hockey teams, ultimately becoming the lead for Junior programming.

Beyond her playing and coaching roles, Walia initiated the premier team, "The Tigers Field Hockey Club," representing Surrey in the Vancouver Women's League. Despite her demanding schedule, she wakes up at 5 a.m. for training, works as a clinical educator, attends schoolwork, and fits in a workout, showcasing her exceptional time management skills.

Walia's achievements include a Top 11 award at the national championship, selection for the Tournament 11 all-star team, and coaching for Team Canada. In 2013, she established a field hockey team that funds various charities. 

As the only Punjabi girl in the Big Ten conference and the first South Asian to play at Rutgers, Walia faced challenges. However, she used these opportunities to educate others. Her role models are her parents, Harbhajan and Atit Walia. Inspiration stems from her desire to give back to the community in the form of Seva and motivate young girls to pursue high-performance training.

Walia's aspirations include growing the game in her community, coaching for Team Canada, and continuing her athletic journey. She wants to inspire and open doors for girls in high-performance sports, emphasizing the importance of honest intent and respect.

In Walia's eyes, being a woman is powerful, and she advocates for unity and empowerment among women. Her secret to success lies in tackling challenges head-on and doing the hard things first, a philosophy that has propelled her to remarkable heights in both sports and healthcare. Walia's legacy extends beyond the field, impacting young girls and aspiring athletes in her community.

What would you advise those who feel inspired by your journey?

Don't get comfortable; become comfortable being uncomfortable and challenge yourself every day. And always be grateful for people who see something in you.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered on your journey?

I've been the only Punjabi girl in the Big Ten conference and the first brown girl to play at Rutgers, but the team was accepting of me, and I took it as a great opportunity to educate others about my culture and beliefs.

Also, the fact that I have a broad built and heavier bone structure, which drives people to make comments on my body, I feel not all women who play sports need to look the same. There is stereotyping of how an athletic person should look. 

What/ who inspires you to be better every day?

I felt burnt out after completing my degree in the US. So, what kept me going was my motivation to do something for and with the community. I need to know my why and raise the game for all girls in my community. 

What impact do you wish to have on those around you?

I want to continue sharing my experience and opening the doors for girls in high-performance sports. I want to inspire girls in the community to aspire for more and play at a higher level.

What is your mantra for success? 

I believe in doing the hard things first. Challenge your brain and thought process; for instance, if you don't want to run, then you must go for a run and train your mind to follow instructions.

Photo: Fahad Photo

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