‘I feel proud to be a woman in sport’: Yasmeen’s story

Oct 11, 2023
Yasmeen Al-Kas races an opposing player to reach a soccer ball.
Yasmeen Al-Kas (left) is a midfielder with the Varsity Blues soccer team.

For fourth-year University of Toronto student Yasmeen Al-Kas, studying kinesiology while playing varsity soccer strikes the perfect balance. Sport is her anchor through stressful classes, while kinesiology feeds her love for science and ambitions for a career in health care.

As the new school year kicks off, Yasmeen tells her story—and why this year’s ‘summer of women’s sports’ has meant so much.

Growing up, I played soccer ever since I was eight. I knew I wanted to play at university.

I just didn’t know which university! But I came to one of the recruiting camps held at U of T where you play games, the coaches watch, and they pick out players. And I got recruited. Then it was like all the other options were off the table and I chose U of T.

It was really eye-catching that U of T is a world-ranked university.

Everybody knows you have to work really hard for your grades here. Then there was that my sister did kinesiology at U of T and she spoke very highly of it. I knew I wanted to do science, so I did my research into kinesiology and I liked the courses that were involved.

My favourite course has been human physiology.

I just really like learning about the systems in our body and how they work to keep us alive. Now when I’m playing soccer, I notice I’m out of breath or certain things are happening to my body. Why is my heart rate increasing? What’s it doing? It’s interesting that I know the why of it. This is my final year and I’m planning on pursuing a career in health care following a master’s degree.

I’m a midfielder and this is my third year in the Varsity Blues team.

We play preseason in August, the regular season from September to November, and then exhibition games and friendlies the rest of the year. Last year we made it to playoffs and did really well in our offseason too.

Obviously I love it—just playing makes me happy and gets my mind off things.

And when I see myself getting better each practice, that’s nice to see—an accomplishment that’s different from academics. But really big thing is the people. If I have a rough day, going to soccer and seeing my best friends is just the best experience. The team aspect of the sport—having good teammates—is a big part of why I continue to play.

The Yat Family Student-Athlete Award definitely went toward my tuition.

A lot of university students know that they’re going to graduate with a lot of debt, which is obviously stressful. So I’m really grateful for that help. But also, there’s the internal feeling of knowing this scholarship is something I earned, knowing that I’ve accomplished at least one thing that is really, really big. I feel seen and heard, like people care to help and recognize me for being a hardworking student.

Growing up I always had male soccer players as role models…

…since women’s soccer did not receive the recognition it deserved. I think the support it’s getting now is vital for growth, and for the empowerment of female athletes. It’s nice to see that younger girls nowadays have female athletes to look up to and strive to be like. It makes me feel proud to be a woman in sport.

I also think seeing so many women of colour in the soccer world is heartwarming.

Their success and visibility demonstrate that talent and dedication can break down barriers and lead to success. One of the other reasons why I’m grateful for the Yat Scholarship is that I am really appreciative that there are scholarships for athletes of colour. That helps us make our voices heard. Overall women’s soccer has a bright future, but we should continue to fight to break down inequality.