Third-year student, Priyanka Mehla, will be the first ever UTM female athlete to play two varsity sports. She has played basketball since her first year at UTM and joined the varsity soccer team this year.

Mehla was born in India and moved to Dubai before taking up permanent residence in Canada at the age of four. She began playing basketball in high school and played throughout her four years. “I played competitively for two years in grade nine and ten,” says Mehla. In the summer of grade 11, Mehla was part of a program that allowed her to travel to the U.S. and play against American teams.

“You need a sport to live,” Mehla says. “You need something. You need the adrenaline rush. You need the constant push to be active. To have something else in life besides just school.”

Although Mehla plays basketball in university, she actually started soccer before basketball. She began playing in elementary school before joining a rep team for one year. When asked what drove her decision to join the soccer team this year she says, “I miss playing it. It was a sport I played for longer than basketball.” She continues, “I missed kicking a ball. It’s a different feeling when you kick a ball [or] you score a goal than shooting a basketball into the net. They’re completely two different adrenaline rushes.”

Being a member of a varsity team is a big commitment and doesn’t come without its own personal stresses when trying to balance between school and sport. However, Mehla doesn’t seem to be too concerned with workload. “I think I’m more worried about overlapping games and practice times,” Mehla admits. In terms of school she claims, “If I manage my time well I should be fine.”

Mehla credits a few people in her life for being the main reasons as to why she began playing both soccer and basketball. One of her best friends, Kiana Steinauer, and her father, Orlondo Steinauer, “basically started [her] athletic career.” “[Orlondo] pushed me to go play rep [basketball],” says Mehla. “If he wasn’t there for me and he didn’t push me to do that I would not be in university playing basketball.” Kiana pushed her to play soccer and even took her out to an Erin Mills practice when she was younger.

Mehla also praises her other best friend, Lexy Rhooms, and her father, Delroy Rhooms, for being important role models that shaped her athletic career. Delroy owns a gym called “Sports Specific Training” (SST) in Oakville and trained Mehla all throughout high school. Without these four people guiding her, she may never have began playing basketball or soccer—especially not at the varsity level she plays now. Despite her parents wanting her to focus on academics, Mehla says they always supported her athletic decisions and trusted she could handle it.

Being a member of the UTM athletic community has definitely left Mehla with strong skills in time management. “I’m someone who procrastinates on everything,” Mehla admits. “I know how to prioritize my time [now]. If I have a game on a Friday and an assignment due while I’m playing a game then I’ll have that assignment done Thursday night instead of having it done a minute or an hour before I have to hand it in on Turnitin on the Friday.” She says for any new athlete coming to UTM they have to understand that “varsity sports take up a lot of time […] learn how to time manage, don’t procrastinate, and get your stuff done.” Aside from learning how to manage time more efficiently, being a part of UTM athletics has left her with a bigger group of friends (as most of her friends she met through athletics) and a more tolerable workload. “I go through the whole day of class knowing that […] I have some sort of stress release after,” Mehla says.

Mehla does believe that even if sports aren’t for everyone, students should “join clubs. Do something [and] try to build up your resume.” Being a member of sports teams aren’t the only way to improve your time management skills, meet new people, and make your university years more memorable. Get involved in anything that is of interest to you.

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