By Kimiya Shokoohi
Practice, train, organize – these are fundamentals most coaches carry in their back pockets. But it’s not limited to that if you’re the coach of a varsity team.
When it comes to creating a successful varsity team, a lot of it is about the coach cheerleading for the school, said Ajit Braich, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s men’s soccer coach.
Braich isn’t planning on sporting a skirt and some some pom-poms. However, he is singing praise of Kwantlen athletics around the Lower Mainland.
“We have fantastic facilities, but we don’t shout about it enough,” Braich said.
Yes, team sports like soccer are essentially about the team. But who makes the team? Individuals. When comes to recruiting players, varsity coaches are looking for the best individuals, naturally. But those players will only tryout for KPU’s team if they plan on attending KPU, Braich said.
It’s not only about attracting solid players, but attracting solid players who are also solid students that want to attend Kwantlen.
Braich, a 25-year coaching veteran who’s trained everything from local soccer clubs, the American Y-League to the Vancouver Whitecaps, has now figured the secret to successful varsity coaching.
Recently, Braich was invited on a local South Asian radio show where he talked about the sports programs Kwantlen has to offer and the benefits to their student-athletes. But he’s not stoping there.
“I’ll even go to the high schools,” he said referring to the offer he made to the athletics department.
Braich’s determination to put Kwantlen on the map appears to be paying dividends. At the team’s last training camp, Braich saw many ideal players coming out for a slot on the team.
“We had some very nice surprises,” Braich said. “We got some of the better players we’ve been chasing, who’ve finally made their minds up to come to school here instead of going across the river to the Langaras or Douglases.”
And those better players will be vital to the new season. Last season the team finished with one point; one draw, 11 losses and no wins.
Braich is currently choosing between 39 players. Approximately 18 of them will make the final cut, nabbing a spot on the new roster. The announcement in expected to come in a couple weeks.
Now that Braich has spread the word and gotten his skilled players, he’s looking to reach his next big goal; qualifying for provincials.
“We want to make the provincials at all cost,” he said.
How does he plan to do that? Raise fitness. Raise team chemistry. Raise scholastic moral.
Despite last year’s air-gasping season, Briach is confident that things are going to turn around.
“We just lacked experience and fitness,” Braich said of last year’s team. “As a coach, I was in deep without a life jacket.”
Last season was Braich’s first year with KPU, and he said was still getting a hang of things.
“Now, I’m already two months ahead of where I was last season.”
Two months ahead, life-jacket secured and seasoned players on board – could the men’s soccer team be over their growing pains? Braich is out there singing for KPU, raising expectations and potentially raising the bar.
“I’m very proud,” he said, “to be a part of the growing phase.”