When Shenandoah University and the Washington Spirit entered into a partnership in 2021, part of the deal included internship opportunities afforded to SU students with Washington, D.C.’s professional women’s soccer team. Jaskeerat Ahluwalia ’22, a student in Shenandoah’s athletic training program, was a recent beneficiary of that partnership.
Ahluwalia, who will receive a Master of Science in Athletic Training in May, spent four months on a clinical rotation with the Spirit during the latter half of the team’s 2021 season in the National Women’s Soccer League, and she credited SU Clinical Education Coordinator John Hunt, DPT, with working diligently behind the scenes to make the opportunity happen.
The experience, in Ahluwalia’s words, was “certainly a unique one.” The Washington Spirit’s 2021 season was no smooth ride – the team faced on- and off-field hurdles throughout – but it ended in the franchise’s first NWSL championship.
Ahluwalia (shown at right with members of Washington’s sports medicine team) joined the Spirit in August of 2021 (the NWSL regular season began in mid-May) and remained with the team as an intern with the sports medicine staff until the end of the season in November. In her role, Ahluwalia was responsible for player hydration, assisting with supply inventory and organization, and weight-training assistance. She also was on the “stretcher crew” that is deployed in the case of a significant on-field injury.
“Luckily, I never had to execute that responsibility,” she said.
The biggest takeaway Ahluwalia said she had from her experience with the Washington Spirit was learning how to stay resilient and flexible in the “face of unpredictable issues.” The team showcased that resiliency in winning the 2021 NWSL title despite all of the challenges it faced.
I learned how important it is to lean on others around you for support, and also how necessary it is to help out wherever needed. The team support staff, such as coordinators of player experience, operations managers, equipment managers, performance coaches and medical staff, all worked together to support the players.”
Jaskeerat Ahluwalia ’22, Shenandoah University MSAT student
Ahluwalia (pictured at left with Spirit forward Ashley Hatch) became “incredibly invested” in Washington’s on-field success, which she said meant supporting the team as much as possible off the field. She said she was grateful to have the chance to travel with the team for its road playoff games, and she got to ride on the team’s charter plane to the NWSL Championship match against the Chicago Red Stars in Louisville, Kentucky. The Spirit won that match 2-1.
Ahluwalia said that being part of the Spirit during their run to the team’s first NWSL championship was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It is extremely rewarding to work with athletes who are always looking for ways to improve, not only for themselves, but for the team as a whole,” Ahluwalia said. “All of the athletes were very kind, welcoming, respectful and great to work with. What I also appreciated was that despite being professional athletes, none of the players acted as they were above the staff. They were always polite.”
Ahluwalia plans to continue studying at Shenandoah after receiving her MSAT in May and will begin work on a Doctorate in Physical Therapy in August.