Throughout the 2017-18 season, U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our new interview series “Getting to know…”
Name: Gurmaan Jhaj
School: University of the Fraser Valley
Sport: Men’s soccer
Year of eligibility: Third
Hometown: Aldergrove, B.C.
What attracted you to University of the Fraser Valley?
It was an up and coming program. They were competing for the playoffs, and I knew a couple of the players here so I had those friendships. And it was close to home as well, so it pretty much checked all the boxes. It was best suited for me.
What’s your favourite memory, and your greatest athletic achievement as a U SPORTS student-athlete?
Greatest achievement with UFV was winning Canada West bronze (in 2015). My favourite memory would probably have to be a tie between winning the bronze, and in my first year (2014), we were the only team to beat UBC. We kind of ruined their undefeated season. I remember Justin Sekhon scored a late, late winner. I’ll never forget that. It was a 2-1 game, and they had a really strong team that year. It’s definitely a good memory.
Where are you hoping your path will take you after university?
I’m in the business program now, and I work with my family’s business. So I’m hoping to become better equipped to continue on with that. We’re in real estate development – houses and townhouses. Also, I’ve always wanted to coach, but because of school and soccer and work, I haven’t gotten into that yet. But once I graduate, I’ll definitely start getting my coaching certificates. I’ve coached youth on the side, all volunteer work. I’ve worked with Abbotsford United and the Abbotsford Soccer Association, helping them with their academies.
Who’s had the greatest influence on your athletic career?
Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a lot of great coaches. I wouldn’t be able to single out one specific coach. In Abbotsford, I’ve had Ian Knight, Colin Miller, and Al Alderson. And obviously I’ve work with Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes for four years now. Those are the biggest influencers on me. They all have a little different personalities, so you learn a lot from each of them.
Who is someone in the sports world, past or present, with whom you’d love to have dinner with? Why?
Kobe Bryant, easily. Just because of his mindset and mentality to always keep striving for greatness. That “Mamba Mentality.” He’s my favourite athlete by far.
What is your pre-game ritual? Do you have any superstitions/idiosyncrasies around preparing yourself for a game?
I hydrate a lot. I’ll usually have two of the one-litre bottles of Gatorade before my games every day. I’ll split those – half water, half Gatorade. And when I’m getting ready, I’ll always put on my left shin pad, left sock, left cleat, and then the right side afterward. I don’t know why it really started, but I just remember always starting with the left side. And then, I tie my shoes pretty tight, and for some reason I like the feeling of my right one being more snug. Until recently, anyway, because I switched over to the laceless cleats. It’s still left to right, though.
What’s your go-to song to get pumped up for practice or a game?
I don’t have a specific song, but you can ask the boys – I prefer listening to Meek Mill before the games. His songs get me going. Not a specific song, just something from whatever his latest album is at the time.
What’s your favourite social media account to follow?
There’s a soccer page on Instagram called @433 where they post a lot of soccer memes. That’s probably my go-to page. They just have a lot of really funny pictures and videos, and the bloopers – guys are missing empty nets, stuff like that. It’s always good banter to tag some of the boys in the videos.
If you could play another sport, what would it be and why?
Definitely basketball. I played basketball every year in high school (at Aldergrove Community Secondary), and I was the MVP every year I played. It was kind of a decision for me, basketball or soccer, but I always loved soccer more so I went with that. I enjoy watching basketball, too – it’s my second-favourite sport for sure.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you as an athlete?
That’s a tough question. I don’t want to say it’s embarrassing, but probably coming in last place in the Pacific Division of Canada West this past season. It leaves a chip on your shoulder. We were still very competitive, and we had a chance to make the playoffs up until the last weekend of the season if certain games had gone our way. I just think it’ll give a lot of guys a chip on their shoulder. We have a lot of good players coming in, and we didn’t lose too many players, either. It’ll help us to move forward.