Join U SPORTS Conversations on February 27 at 7 p.m. ET as we examine the intersection between race and sports within the Black community. Karelle Edwards-Perry, 5x Team Canada hurdler, licensed mental health counsellor, and mental performance consultant, will host the conversation. Tune in live @USPORTSca on YouTube.
With her first steps onto the court as a freshman, Aja Sy suffered a big blow nobody could have scripted. The Victoria native tore her ACL, MCL and PCL in her first practice with the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat. The third-year anthropology student has yet to see game action because of her injuries, having undergone another surgery just last month.
The constant rehabbing has taken a toll on Sy, but she knows that getting back to doing what she loves will be far from easy. “I am staying ready academically and physically with my rehab and physio, so when it is my time to be out there on the court, I am ready to go,” said Sy.
Academics is a big deal to Sy since her parents are both teachers. In November 2022, Sy was awarded the inaugural Athletes on Track bursary as one of eight U SPORTS student-athlete recipients. Launched in July 2022, the Athletes on Track Program is a bursary and mentorship program led in conjunction with BlackNorth Initiative (BNI) and designed to financially support University level student-athletes and supply them with the tools necessary to enter and thrive in the job market once they graduate.
“Currently, my major is anthropology, but my end goal is to go to law school. It is definitely going to be a grind to get there, but I have the utmost confidence in myself. That is what I want to do. My whole life, I have been passionate about politics,” said Sy, who is a strong speaker with quick learning abilities. Maybe the first Black female Prime Minister is in her sights? Regardless, wherever Sy goes, her presence is felt, and her colourful personality, mixed with some sass, compliments her drive to be the best.
In September 2022, Sy spoke at her school about Truth and Reconciliation Day, which falls on September 30 each year. She highlighted the oppression and struggles faced by Indigenous people and spoke about the changes still needed to create safer environments for Indigenous people. Sy faces plenty of challenges, but she is proud of who she is; her mother is Indigenous, and her father is Black, so she understands what comes with the territory of being racialized in Canada.
“Having this position as an athlete and having this platform has allowed me to amplify my voice. My close connection with the athletic department has enabled opportunities to come my way because I am an athlete. I want to keep using this position to help address these matters because it’s something that is so important to me along with this generation,” explained Sy.
Despite her injuries, Sy stays engaged with volleyball by motivating her team during practices and games and officiating in her spare time. She still appreciates that her coach was the first to congratulate her on her BNI Athletes on Track bursary.
As the only Black women’s volleyball player for UBCO Heat, Sy is optimistic that more Black players will join the team. She strives to build a culture that invites a diverse set of future players to find a welcomed home at UBCO.
“Every year, we get new kids coming in for all sports, and every year it gets more important for me to be speaking and educating so they won’t have to go through what I did,” Sy said.
Sy exemplifies Black excellence, finding success in academics and athletics despite adversity. Choosing to use her voice to amplify, uplift and educate, Sy’s journey is only just beginning.
Hear more from Aja Sy on Monday, February 27, at 7 p.m. ET. Join Sy and other student-athletes, alums and administrators for U SPORTS Conversations as we examine the intersection between race and sports within the Black community. Karelle Edwards-Perry, 5x Team Canada hurdler, licensed mental health counsellor, and mental performance consultant, will host the conversation.Tune in live @USPORTSca on YouTube.
Jordan Stoddart is a Centennial College sports journalism student. A former NCAA division 1 soccer player who has embarked on a journey in sports media. He has written articles on gocolts.ca and broadcasted games for various varsity athletic teams for Centennial. Stoddart is also a youth basketball and soccer coach for the city of Mississauga.