Darpan: Do you remember the Friends episode, in which Ross is invited to play rugby with Emily’s friends Liam and Devon from London? Emily laughs at Ross at the mere thought of him playing rugby, offended Ross asks, “What’s – ah, what’s so funny about that?” Emily replies, “Well I mean, you’re American to start […]
Darpan: Do you remember the Friends episode, in which Ross is invited to play rugby with Emily’s friends Liam and Devon from London? Emily laughs at Ross at the mere thought of him playing rugby, offended Ross asks, “What’s – ah, what’s so funny about that?” Emily replies, “Well I mean, you’re American to start with. You don’t even have rugby here.” Ross yells, “Well, we didn’t have freedom here until 1776 either!” Well, freedom and hockey we have but rugby was always a popular sport within the United Kingdom. But hey, norms are meant to be challenged! Rugby has always been a strong tradition in Spain and France, which rivals American football. Additionally, the sport gained popularity in South Africa, then Australia and New Zealand. Rugby also has a strong hold in Polynesia, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Hockey is Canada’s predominant sport, but not anymore! Rugby has been creeping up the popularity ladder over the years. Canada Rugby League’s national team, the Wolverines, represents Canada in international test matches and tournaments – and Gurvinder Singh Kalar is the first Sikh to play for Team Canada Wolverines and to represent Canada internationally in this sport.
Kalar began his rugby career at the age of 13 when he was forced to play rugby by his Grade 8 teacher, as he “one of the bigger kids in school. I played for the first year and I was hooked.” Born in Abbotsford and raised in Surrey, Kalar stands tall at 6’2” and 220 pounds of muscle – he was naturally born to play rugby. Kalar eats, breathes and dreams rugby. He trains all year round, “team training consists of Tuesday and Thursday nights with games on Saturdays. We are expected to be training in the gym and on the track an extra three days a week during the season.” That’s what he calls “light training!” Offseason is when things get tougher, “the real gains in the gym are made offseason where we are in the gym and on the track at least five days a week.”
Kalar also travelled to Australia to play for a year so he could train with the best and be the best. “I learned what professionalism really is. The way the players take the game seriously in training, nutrition and their mental approach. It showed me the dedication required to play at the highest level possible.” With the skill set he was born with and the one that he learnt from his experiences, Kalar knew that playing for Team Canada Wolverines “was always in the back of my mind. I play with and against national team players week in and week out. I knew that there was no reason I couldn’t be right there with them.”
Dedication of this caliber requires inspiration and motivation and for Kalar, his motivation is to simply be the best. Before he made the Canadian national rugby team, he made it his goal “to play at the highest level I am capable of playing and I feel that I haven’t achieved that yet so that’s what motivates me to keep playing.” Now his inspiration, on the other hand, comes from a whole different place. Being the only Sikh playing at the level where Kalar is, there is no such thing as blending in and he proudly states, “It allows me to show what our people can accomplish in anything we pursue.”
Kalar not only represents the Sikh community when he’s on the field but is grateful to his parents Arvinder and Joti and his Balraj Veerji, who “have instilled the strength of the Sikh people in not only me but our entire family and I am lucky enough to be able to show that on the rugby field.” Kalar is honoured to be able to represent Canada and the Sikh community at an international level. Being a role model to adolescents, Kalar aspires others to believe that with effort, time and daring to dream – anything is possible.
Besides playing rugby, Kalar enjoys playing other sports, mostly pick-up games and he has played field hockey for the United Brothers Field Hockey Club. Since fitness is an integral part of his life, Kalar with the help of his family has opened up his own business – Anytime Fitness in Surrey.
Kalar has been humbled by the endless support and genuine blessings he has received. He says, “Our community has shown nothing but support for me and it’s a great feeling to know that Sikhs are making huge strides in playing at the highest levels in all sports.” With great dreams, come great sacrifices and Kalar’s advice to those looking to follow in his footsteps is “just keep at it. There are going to be tough times but the most important thing is for you push past them. It’s always better to be prepared and not get an opportunity than to get an opportunity and not be prepared.”
This year the rugby season has already come to an end, however next year; it is a whole new game! Even though Canada did not qualify for the Rugby League World Cup next year – with Kalar in the running, it’s only a matter of time!
~ Source: www.darpanmagazine.com