Universal Athletics Club coach Jessie Dosanjh and club members practice at Surrey’s Bear Creek Park April 3. (Photos: Trevor Beggs/Now-Leader contributor)

VIDEO: Surrey stacked with track talent from local club

Universal Athletics Club coach discusses passion for teaching some of Surrey’s finest, despite challenging track change

Trevor Beggs, Now-Leader contributor

SURREY — You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who loves coaching more than Jessie Dosanjh.

Dosanjh says he’s rarely taken a day off since he and his brothers Pavitar and Kulwant first formed the Universal Athletics Club (UAC) back in 2000.

“This is my passion,” he told the Now-Leader during an April 3 practice at Bear Creek Park. “I absolutely love doing this. Everyone here from the coaches to the kids are all amazing people. Everyday I still love coming to the track, this is my life.”

What started as a three-person club now trains nearly 140 of the brightest young track stars on the West Coast. With an ever-growing club at his disposal, the UAC is now stacked with many talented athletes.

Jasneet Nijjar, 16, of Queen Elizabeth Secondary won gold at the B.C. Summer Games. What was most impressive about her performance? She beat girls that were five years older than her.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the 100-metre, the 400-metre or hurdles, she can do it all,” said Dosanjh. “No matter what event she decides to focus on, she has a bright future ahead.”

Fraser Heights Secondary student Katarina Vlahovic recently smashed a 36-year-old provincial record. Vlahovic broke that record at the B.C. High School Championships in 100-metre hurdles.

Dosanjh also has high hopes for sprinter Amar Sandhu.

“Just watch him, he’s a future champion,” he said, “Beautiful sprinter, big powerful guy, he’s gonna do great things.”

The 19-year-old recently ran a 10.81 during 100-metre training last week at UBC. He also finished fourth during the National Junior Championships last year in Ottawa after running a 21.76 in the 200-metre.

“He knows his stuff and he has a lot of experience,” Sandhu said. “His training is simple but effective and to the point. He’s a good guy, he’s honest, he takes his job seriously and he’s passionate about it.”

With his athletes, Dosanjh does his best to exemplify dedication and leadership to the sport.

A few years ago, Dosanjh had a stent put in his chest following a surgery. The full-time volunteer coach of the Universal Athletics track and field club was told to stay home and rest for three to six weeks.

After three days of sitting around at home recovering, Dosanjh was getting antsy. He convinced his wife to take him out to the track later that day.

“Once I was back at the track, I was back there every day again,” said Dosanjh with a smirk. “No more days off.”

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(Cedric Lyumva sprints around the track during 200-metre training at Bear Creek Park. Photo: Trevor Beggs)

UAC moves to crowded Bear Creek

Earlier in the year, Dosanjh was forced to leave the UAC’s training facility at North Surrey Secondary. The club had been there for years, but the worn-down track desperately needs repairs, according to Dosanjh.

“The track needs resurfacing,” he said. “It’s more like concrete. I don’t want to take a risk to stay there.”

They’ve now ended up at Bear Creek Park, which has presented some challenges.

“We have athletes out on the track and we put cones up, but people don’t listen to us,” Dosanjh said. “It’s a grave safety issue. When a sprinter comes out from a block, it’s not easy to stop up. If a kid comes overhead, they can get run over.”

The city also puts up signs that say the track is closed for training, but the rules aren’t enforced.

“We need a bylaw officer there to make sure people stay off the track,” he said.

Still, Dosanjh has remained flexible, and looks at the positives in his club’s new move.

“We host meets here, we host games here, we host championships here, so for that reason, why don’t we train here?”

Training is ramping up at their new stomping grounds despite the concerns. Some UAC athletes will compete in the Emilie Mondor Invitational at SFU this weekend. That will be followed by another meet in Eugene, Oregon later in April.

Dosanjh continues to coach almost every day of the week, citing a strong support system for his coaching longevity.

“This job, you cannot do it by yourself,” he said. “You need to have the right people around you. When you have good coaches and good kids around, good parents around to support them, it makes a team. You cannot produce a great athlete by yourself. It’s not just a coach’s job or a parent’s job. When you become a team, you can reach the next level.”

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(Four athletes, including 19-year-old sprinter Amar Sandhu — taking off second from the right — race during 100-metre training. Photo: Trevor Beggs)

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