Though few may guess it, Jaclyn Sawicki didn’t possess the stereotypical love of all things sports that many successful athletes appear to have as a child. Rather, her first encounter with soccer came through her mother.
For the past three years, Sawicki has been a staple on the Canadian soccer scene, guiding her various teams to success in Victoria and around the world. As another triumphant year draws to a close, Sawicki reflects on the path that ultimately brought her to UVic, and talks about the wide range of opportunities soccer has created in her life.
“To be honest, my mom just kind of threw me into a summer soccer camp when I was seven,” Sawicki says of her introduction to the game. “So to start it wasn’t so much of an interest, it was my mom making me be active as a child. I continued it just because it started to become routine.”
Soccer remained routine until Grade 7, when Sawicki’s skills were recognized at the provincial level. “My first year of making the provincial team, that kind of triggered me to keep going on,” she recalls. Sawicki continued her standout play throughout high school at Archbishop Carney in Coquitlam. Yet as graduation approached, her interest in the game had stagnated.
“Towards the end of Grade 12, I didn’t want to play at all anymore,” Sawicki explained. “It was just kind of the same old thing everyday.” As had happened 10 years earlier however, Sawicki’s mom was there to rekindle her interest in the game. “My mom gave a little bit of a push and I ended up at UVic.”
Despite her doubts about pursuing the game, Sawicki stayed active in the recruiting process in her senior high school years. “In Grade 11, I became a full-time Whitecaps player. So at that time our coach was pushing us to get recruited,” she says of the process. “I definitely wanted to go away and play, live on my own, and get that independence. But at the same time I wanted it to be close enough so I could come home when I needed to.”
These criteria put UVic firmly on the front burner for Sawicki. “UVic was the perfect option,” she concluded. “I heard so many great things about UVic. Tracy [head coach Tracy David] seemed to have a really big interest in me. It seemed like a good fit, and my mom really liked it.”
Soccer fans at UVic know about Sawicki for her collegiate achievements, a partial list of which includes being named 2010 Rookie of the Year, 2011 Canada West First Team All-Star, and 2012 CIS Second Team All-Canadian. Her talented play extends well beyond Centennial Stadium, however, and has earned her starting roles with some of Canada’s top national teams.
The first of these experiences came with Canada’s national team itself, when Sawicki was invited to training camp in 2011. “When I first got invited to training camp it was kind of out of the blue, because it was with the full-time team. I accepted and went in being like, ‘I’m going to try my best’. It was really awesome playing with the big dogs and seeing what they do.”
Sawicki’s determined attitude caught the eye of the national team coaches who selected her to join the Canadian U-20 team in the yearlong buildup to the 2012 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Japan. Sawicki proved she belonged in the mix, helping guide Canada to a second-place finish in qualification to earn a World Cup berth. She also scored a goal during a 6-0 semifinal rout of Panama, her first goal at the international level.
The heavy travel schedule brought with it challenges, as Sawicki was still enrolled in school at UVic. “I travelled pretty much every month. It was a lot because I was still doing school full time, so definitely a lot of time management in there,” she says. Sawicki had taken steps to prepare for the impending situation though, allowing her to ease some of the load. “I registered my classes in a way to anticipate making the team. So when I did, I was only in three classes which made it a little bit easier on me.”
Canada’s World Cup dreams ended sooner than the team would have liked, when they ran into a strong North Korea team in the group stage. Still, Sawicki continued to build recognition, scoring a key goal in Canada’s lone win against Argentina. She credits the journey as one of the most defining in her soccer career. “It was really good experience, always feels good to put on the Canadian jersey and play for your country. I learned a lot of things, and developed a lot of skills through it.”
Sawicki also took part in the soccer tournament at this year’s Summer Universiade in Russia. Despite Canada suffering a tough finish, placing 10th out of 12 nations, Sawicki continued to impress on the international stage, even adding another international goal to her name.
Back at home, Sawicki’s fondest Vikes memory to date is the 2012 Nationals tournament hosted here at UVic, even if it didn’t get off to the best of starts for her personally. “It was freezing. I was really sick too, actually, which sucked.”
Sawicki battled through, however, scoring the deciding goal in a penalty kick against Ottawa to secure the Bronze for UVic. Along with the medal, the fan support is what Sawicki remembers best about the experience. “I was shocked at how many fans came out, we had all the support in the world which was amazing. It was too bad we didn’t finish with the gold but we did finish our season winning.”
Sawicki and the Vikes find themselves on a tear in 2013, finishing the regular season 10-2 to place first in the Canada West conference. Sawicki has started all 12 games and is tied for the team-lead in assists with four. Arguably one of the best Vikes teams in years, this year is perhaps Sawicki’s best chance to achieve her last big remaining goal at UVic.
“This year I want a gold medal for sure. I want to get myself a ring,” Sawicki says. The CIS Championship takes place in Toronto in November, with UVic projected as a leading contender to capture the title.
While she is no doubt a major piece of the puzzle in the Vikes’ success, Sawicki makes it clear that she does not demand the spotlight in order for the team to do well. “Mainly I just want to be consistent and play well for my team and give solid performances. I don’t need to score goals, I just want to make sure that I’m doing good for the team.”
Sawicki’s final year of eligibility for UVic is 2014, after which she plans to shift focus to finishing her degree in Recreation and Health Education. Right now, Sawicki is undecided on the role soccer will play in her post-university life, choosing instead to just enjoy what has been an extraordinarily successful personal and professional ride. “It’s a huge aspect of my life for me to think about, so I think I’m just gonna take it day by day, and once I’m towards the end, figure it out,” she says.