For five years University of Victoria Vikes women's soccer standout Jaclyn Sawicki (2010-2015) dawned the number six jersey and now the four-time Canada West First Team All-Star is wearing the very same number with Chifure AS Elfen Saitama, a top-division club in Saitama, Japan. The 26-year-old midfielder from Coquitlam, B.C. relocated to Japan in early July and is joining the club midway through their season.
"Playing in Japan will allow me to experience being a professional player," said Sawicki, who since graduating has been balancing a work and soccer life. "I am excited to have the opportunity to focus solely on being an athlete versus when I am at home doing multiple things at once and trying to perform well on field at the same time."
The Chifure AS Elfen team competes in Japan's Nadeshiko Division 1 League, the top women's league in the country. The season started in late March and Sawicki has joined the team's training immediately, anticipating on joining competition in late August.
"The game in Japan is extremely quick, so playing here will definitely challenge me as a player," adds Sawicki, also a former Canadian Under 20 national team player. "Off the field, I will learn a lot about their culture and hopefully some of the language. It is a very disciplined and respectful environment."
Throughout her five seasons representing the Vikes Sawicki ticked almost every box she could setting the stage in her rookie season being named UVic's Female Rookie of the Year, while she also lead the Vikes to a CIS bronze medal on home field in 2012 and was named a tournament all-star.
"After UVic, I moved back home to Coquitlam and worked at a group personal training gym, as one of the fitness trainers," said Sawicki on her post-Vikes life. "I coached a little bit and also worked as a receptionist at an integrated health clinic towards the end of my time at home. I played for North Shore Renegades in the fall then over the summer played majority of the season with the only Canadian team in the WPSL, an American League. It was during that fall season when I fully committed to trying to play professionally overseas. All I did was work and train, attempting to be fit to play at this level."
In Japan, Sawicki and her team will play games once a week, traveling all over the country for games. Towards the end of the season all teams will compete in the Empress Cup, an elimination tournament and female counterpart to the well-known Emperor's Cup. Between those competitions training will be four to five times a week plus strength and conditioning sessions and commitments to the clubhouse for four or five hours per night.
"This definitely can be a stepping stone in my soccer career," explains the 2015 Education graduate. "I love training and have always made training a priority in my life so I am grateful to be able to do this for a living right now. I might try to earn another contract once the season ends, but I'm going to take it day-by-day."
The full-time athlete lifestyle is now fully in fruition for Sawicki despite having an unsure pathway before coming to UVic.
"Prior to committing to the Vikes, I was really hesitant about playing varsity soccer and was very close to not continuing to play at all," described Sawicki unimaginably. "Once I started playing for UVic, I started to enjoy playing again and wanted to continue playing at a competitive level after my varsity career. I have my teammates, coaches, and the University to thank for that."