LVC freshman is goal orientedMay 4th, 2012 | By La Vie | Category: Sports
When he was in high school, Brandon Karess ’15 knew a thing or two about being the odd man out. That didn’t stop him, however, from pursuing his goals and succeeding in a sport that, as stereotyped by Americans, is strictly for women.
Finding his talent was actually an accident. As a freshman, Brandon had already established himself as an athlete at William Allen High School in Allentown, Pa. Things changed, however, when he agreed to play goalie for the day with a few female classmates who were playing indoor field hockey after school.
“It was a joke,” Brandon said, “but after playing for a little bit I realized it could turn into something a lot more serious.”
Despite the fact that William Allen’s only field hockey team was for girls, Brandon decided to attend try-outs anyway. Title IX, which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” allowed him to do so. During his first season, Brandon, who was a sophomore, didn’t get a lot of playing time. He was determined to show his coach that he deserved a chance though, so he got to work during the offseason.
“I basically taught myself and eventually started to figure things out. I needed more experience, so I started playing in tournaments,” he said.
He also had a little help from his friend Lucas, another male on William Allen’s team, who happened to be a member of the men’s USA Under-16 squad.
By the end of the summer of 2009, Brandon took a risk and attended a try-out for the USA men’s U-16 team. He was thrilled when he made the cut.
Brandon’s attention from the national coaches was noted by his high school coach. He had drastically improved and rightfully earned a starting spot for William Allen.
“The girls accepted me, and it wasn’t really awkward because they had played with Lucas before. I had a brother-sister relationship with most of the girls,” Brandon said.
But his presence wasn’t welcomed by everyone. Parents of opponents were particularly hard on Brandon and were often very vocal about their contempt for him.
“I actually got a few death threats, but you just have to block those kinds of things out,” he said.
The threats didn’t stop him. Instead, they motivated him to move on to bigger and better things.
Brandon’s involvement with USA field hockey increased in 2010. His first official game with the team took place at the February 2010 Pan-American games held in Mexico. Though it was predicted that USA would have the worst team in the tournament, Brandon lead his team to an underdog win against Chile.
In the second game of the tournament, USA played a 10-2 favorite Argentina and eventually lost 3-1. However, the team rebounded and won the remaining games of the tournament, sending them to the finals as an unlikely opponent and earning a rematch with Argentina.
“That championship was my most memorable game. There was just so much emotion in that atmosphere. It was unbelievable that I had made it that far,” Brandon said.
Keeping his team in the game with over 20 saves before halftime, USA held on until the end. A last-minute goal gave Argentina a 2-1 victory, but for Brandon, the silver medal was quite the accomplishment. He was also named goalie of the tournament, not bad for his first time playing with the team.
In the summer of 2010, Nick Conway, head coach of the USA men’s senior national team, invited Brandon to travel as a part of the top team in the U.S. Competition took place in England and Wales.
“Traveling made me see the world a lot differently,” Brandon said. “I am more grateful for what I have. On other countries, like Argentina, the standard of living is so much lower, especially with food, clothing, and living conditions. In America, we can pursue our dreams, but in other places, they just have to conform.”
Brandon says that field hockey has shaped the person he is today.
“When I first started playing, I might have been the most shy person that ever existed, but for those who know field hockey know that the goalie needs to be the most vocal person of the field, so that’s definitely changed me,” he said.
Karen Nilson, Brandon’s high school coach, is someone he credits for having helped him mature. “She taught me how to deal with people who don’t agree with what you do,” he said.
His involvement with the sport is shaping his future as well.
Field hockey is initially exposed Brandon to LVC. He and his club team participated in the annual spring 7v7 tournament sponsored by LVC’s women’s team. Though NCAA regulations prohibit him from participating in collegiate field hockey as a Dutchman, he decided to enroll as a student anyway. He is currently an open major, but is attempting to design his own in sports management. His aspirations are to become a Division I coach. To support himself financially, Brandon sees himself eventually moving overseas to play professionally.
In order to stay involved with the sport, Brandon is an assistant coach for LVC’s field hockey team and works with the goalies.
There is not a men’s high school or collegiate field hockey program in the U.S., so Brandon says that people sometimes laugh when he tells them that he plays.
“One of my biggest goals is to gain people’s respect. So many people think only women should play field hockey, but it actually started as a men’s sport. Behind soccer and cricket, field hockey has the largest fan-base in the world,” Brandon said.
He says that his current involvement with USA field hockey does not affect his school work, though he did leave a week early during the fall semester for training with his team. Right now, promises of future success is on his mind.
“Our coaches are telling us that our future is bright. Right now, we are ranked 32nd in the world, but we have the talent to be a top-ten team. The 2016 Olympics are a big possibility and would be a dream come true,” he said.
This May, Brandon will continue his journey toward success as he trains in California. He will then travel to New Zealand for another tournament. Through it all, he’ll have to remain goal-oriented.
Megan Harris ’14 (email@example.com)