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Saaya Bhandari : A New Force in Lacrosse

Monica Sethi Darpan, 24 May, 2024 09:00 AM
  • Saaya Bhandari : A New Force in Lacrosse

"Lacrosse has taught me resilience and the power of representation. It's about showing that athletes of colour can excel and lead in any sport,"

At just 17 years old, Saaya Bhandari is already a prominent name in Canadian lacrosse, known for her skill, tenacity, and ability to inspire. As a player who has shattered barriers and fostered diversity within the sport, Saaya brings a fresh perspective to lacrosse, a field where female athletes of colour like herself were once scarce.

Saaya's lacrosse journey began at seven, influenced by her father's passion for sports. Her early exposure to the sport was not just about playing; it was about becoming part of a growing community and pushing the boundaries of what athletes of her background could achieve. Today, she not only plays for Team BC, which she joined in 2020, but also holds a pivotal role in promoting diversity through her involvement with Nations United—the US select diversity team sponsored by Nike.

Her accolades are impressive. In 2022, Saaya was recognized with a coach's award from British Columbia Lacrosse for her outstanding contributions to the team. Her prowess extends across different styles of lacrosse, having competed at the highest levels in both field and box lacrosse, and she has been an All-Star team member. Saaya's recent acceptance of a Division 1 lacrosse scholarship to Longwood University in the United States marks a significant milestone, enabling her to pursue pre-medicine while continuing her athletic career.

Coaches and mentors are quick to praise Saaya's attributes. "Saaya is not just an athlete; she's a natural leader whose hard work sets an example," says Megan Kinna, a Team Canada player and one of Saaya's coaches. Kevin Crowley, a professional player and owner of Fusion West, also notes her resilience and competitiveness, stating, "Saaya plays with an edge that makes her a true competitor and a leader on her team."

Facing challenges such as racism and discrimination, Saaya remains undeterred. She has used these experiences to fuel her commitment to excellence and advocacy for inclusivity. "Lacrosse has taught me resilience and the power of representation. It's about showing that athletes of colour can excel and lead in any sport," Saaya explains.

Saaya's ambitions stretch far beyond personal achievements. She aims to utilize her platform to inspire and empower young female athletes, especially those from the South Asian community, encouraging them to pursue their passions regardless of societal barriers.

With an eye on the future, Saaya looks forward to representing Canada internationally and making significant contributions on and off the field. As she balances her rigorous academic and training schedules, her goal remains clear: to leave a legacy of diversity, resilience, and excellence in lacrosse. 

Who is your favourite lacrosse player?

There are many, but Megan Kinna is my favourite lacrosse player. I feel honoured to be mentored by her. Dana Dobbie's wisdom, which I gained from a conversation during the inaugural women's world lacrosse tournament in Maryland in 2022, inspires me.

What is one achievement you're proud of so far?

While I am proud of all my achievements, earning a Division 1 scholarship to Longwood University is the most thrilling accomplishment.

What advice would you give to young athletes who aspire to play sports (especially lacrosse) professionally?

My advice is to stay dedicated, work hard, and start young. Embrace your natural talent and remain committed to your goals. Don't let others' opinions define your future; you can achieve great things with perseverance and discipline.

How many hours do you practice in a day?

On school days, I dedicate about 2 hours to practice daily; on weekends, it increases to around 4 hours.

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