Sarah Parker’s ACL tear put an abrupt pause to her soccer career, but the debilitating injury also opened the door to sports media opportunities on a grand scale.
Since she damaged her knee, the fifth-year University of the Fraser Valley Bachelor of Media Arts student has worked with both Canada Soccer and the Abbotsford Canucks and her future appears to be bright – no matter if she continues behind the lens or returns to the pitch.
But being this active off the field wasn’t supposed to happen.
Parker scored three goals in her first two seasons with the UFV Cascades women’s soccer team and after the pandemic put Canada West soccer in doubt, she headed south and joined the semi-professional MSC Peoria of United Women’s Soccer in 2021.
She suited up in all 10 regular season games and potted three goals in Peoria before the injury stalled her progress. She was forced to miss the playoffs and had to return to Canada to heal her knee.
But at the same time she was training and playing for Peoria, she received a call from Canada Soccer. Women’s National Team analyst Jasmine Mander called her out of the blue, asked about her degree and training and then asked if she would be interested in working with the team ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Parker quickly said yes.
“My mind was just thinking – is this actually happening,” she said. “I said yes – a hundred times yes and I was working remotely in Illinois, which was also an interesting experience because I’m surrounded by Americans and a few girls from Brazil and was just bantering back and forth that Canada was going to win the Olympics.”
Parker created individual inspirational videos for each Canadian player and also helped with creating highlight videos after each game. She would also create highlight videos for Canada’s opponents to help them prepare for their upcoming matches. Her skills in the media world and also on the pitch made her the ideal candidate for the role and Parker likes to think she played a small part in Canada’s Olympic gold medal win.
“It was a super cool experience because they seriously made history and I had so much faith in them,” she said. “They were such an underdog and they definitely deserved to win because of how much work they put in over the years leading up.”
The only unfortunate aspect of the Canada Soccer experience for Parker was that she was unable to use that experience as her practicum – but it opened up the door to another valuable experience with the Abbotsford Canucks. She had an interview with them and couldn’t say no to the opportunity to experience life behind the scenes in the American Hockey League.
“I told them I wanted to be able to do everything,” she said of the initial interview. “I wanted more of an understanding about everything just because I love photography, video and social media. My biggest thing is always trying to make the player look good and the team look good.”
Parker said she was heavily involved in the Abbotsford Canucks media day earlier this season and she’s also worked a lot with team photographer Darren Francis on ideas to highlight the club. She said it’s been a whirlwind but that she loves the energy of game days and trying to share the excitement with fans.
Moose hunting 🦌 pic.twitter.com/vKGHwWTWa3— Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) December 11, 2022
“I love it, it has been so much fun,” she said. “Especially with my injury and missing the feeling of action going like 100 miles per hour in a game. I love going to the office and it’s a team atmosphere which was another part of soccer that I really miss.”
She said she goes to the office at least twice a week and is there every day for home games. She gets a shot list prior to every game but also loves the freedom of capturing a random moment. She said her favourite picture she’s shot so far this season is a Tristen Nielsen shootout attempt. Parker said her experience as an athlete has helped her know when and where to take a picture and has also given her a great anticipation of important moments.
“I know the types of pictures athletes want – I know the angles and I know from my experience about the type of pictures I would want as an athlete,” she said.
She said being a fast learner also helped her fit in quickly with the Canucks. Canucks officials have been extremely impressed with her work.
Raj Mutti, the vice-president of business operations for the Abbotsford Canucks, noted that Parker is the first UFV practicum student to work with the Canucks on the media side and that he hopes they are all as talented as Parker.
“She’s bright, energetic, a true go-getter and has an infectious attitude,” he said. “She fit in very well immediately with the team. We would welcome any other practicum students that bring her energy, enthusiasm and work ethic.”
Mutti said the Canucks hope to continue growing a practicum relationship with UFV in the coming years.
Parker said working so close to the athletes has generated an even deeper respect for their sacrifice, while also making her miss the thrill of competition.
“A lot of people might think that the players are just lucky,” she said. “But it is so much dedication and commitment. There are a lot of long days and long nights that got them to where they are.”
In that vein, Parker still can’t shake her professional soccer dream. She graduates in the spring and wants to continue to chase her pro goals. Her family is originally from England so playing there has always been on her list of dreams. The proposed Canadian women’s professional soccer league, expected to begin play in 2025, is also something she is very interested in.
THE TIME HAS COME 😍😍 https://t.co/B6hIbhOXRT— Sarah Parker (@sarahparker_51) December 6, 2022
“Playing professionally is still my number one priority,” she said. “I’m not turning away all of these other interests I have in sports media and where that could lead me, but I want to try and make my pro dreams happen.”
For more of Parker’s work, visit abbotsford.canucks.com.