By Sarah Kinzner
At 22 years old, I have spent most of my life playing the sport I love, soccer.
Growing up, I played soccer on various club teams in Calgary as well as for Team Alberta. While playing with the provincial team, I was scouted in a tournament and got invited to my first Team Canada training camp. This was so exciting because I was only 14 years old and was going to a camp in Toronto.
Words cannot express how nervous I felt, but the coaches at the elite level were so amazing and made me feel welcomed within the environment. They taught me a lot about the game tactically which improved my awareness of the game. Throughout the camp, my nerves began to fade and I was encouraged to show my skills and just play the game that I love so much.
From there, I continued to get invited to national camps and made the Under 17 team at 16 years old. To qualify for the FIFA World Cup, we had to first go to the U-17 CONCACAF in Jamaica to secure a spot. This is where I truly got a taste of what it was like to represent my country. Before every game, the national anthem would play and I was filled with pride realizing how lucky I am to be Canadian. It is such a privilege to play for your country and I was so excited to be one of those few girls who got this opportunity to represent everyone back home.
The tournament was going great and in the semi-final game, I scored my first goal for Team Canada. I vividly remember receiving a pass from Jessie Fleming, turning and sliding in the box as I shot the ball past the Jamaican goalkeeper in front of a crowd of 8,000 fans.
It was the best feeling ever!!
Growing up I worked so hard, putting in endless hours training at the field with my dad but I just never expected that I would score a goal for my country. It was so nice to finally see all my hard work pay off and it was such an honour to score for the people back home who had supported me and helped me along my journey to get to this level.
We ended up placing second in the U-17 CONCACAF which secured our spot in the U-17 FIFA World Cup in Costa Rica. In the tournament, we drew a tough group with games against Germany, North Korea, and Ghana. It was a tough battle but we managed to make it out of the group stage to face Venezuela in the quarter-finals.
It was a thrill to play in such an electric stadium. I scored a goal in a 3-2 loss but even though we didn’t win, I’ll never forget battling next to my teammates for our country. After the tournament, I was nominated as U-17 player of the year which was such an honour.
After the FIFA World Cup, I continued to be called to various youth national camps and played in the U-20 FIFA World Cup (Canada), U-23 Pan Am Games (Canada), and the U-20 CONCACAF (Honduras). As I think about all the places I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to, I am just in awe of it all. Traveling around the world and playing the game I love with incredible teammates was the greatest experience I could have asked for.
I know many young girls out there are hoping to play soccer at the club, provincial or even national team level and I applaud them all. I want players to be aware that there are also many options besides playing with your provincial or national team such as playing at school or even professionally.
I went to school at the University of Colorado, Boulder and played in the PAC-12 conference. This was the best decision I have ever made as I made lifelong friends, played the sport I love, and graduated with a degree in business.
Now, I am trying to pursue another dream; playing professional soccer in Europe. I have had a couple tryouts over there and have learned so much from this experience. Every country has a different style of play and it was so interesting to see what my options might be. I know that wherever I end up, I will be happy as I plan to keep playing soccer.
Some advice for the up and coming athletes that I can share is this:
- Be confident in yourself and know that you are a good player! Whether you are trying out for a club, provincial, professional or national team, know that you are there for a reason, so be who you are.
- Practice, practice, practice! Growing up, I spent countless hours at the field training hard when no one was watching and that is when it matters most.
- And most importantly, have fun!!
Hard work and passion will bring success. I hope you explore all your options within your sport and I know you will do amazing things.
See you on the pitch,