International Soccer Academy Gets Trial For Gap Year Player
A silver lining story of the Coronavirus Pandemic: Creighton Braun joined the International Soccer Academy which was conceived to provide a safe place for high-level players to train if their soccer season was cut short or canceled due to the pandemic. The coaches at the Academy recognized Braun’s talent and set up trials .. the rest was up to the player. Braun just signed his first professional soccer contract earlier this week.
Creighton Braun joined the International Soccer Academy‘s inaugural fall session and left the USA for Mallorca, Spain to train with UEFA A and PRO licensed coaches. As a collegiate DI player taking a gap year because of the Coronavirus, Braun just wanted to play soccer — and in Southern California that was not really possible due to COVID-19 restrictions. A former West Coast FC youth soccer player, Braun’s dream was always to play professionally in Europe.
Knowing that a player with ambitions of becoming a pro cannot languish on the sidelines waiting for the pandemic to end, Braun was excited to wear the RCD Mallorca jersey and continue his development with his new International Soccer Academy teammates.
Then Braun impressed International Soccer Academy founder Eddie Loewen and his coaches Holger Gehrke, Mike Hilbig, and Chris Ketels. A professional soccer trial was arranged for Braun. In fact, two trials. Then came an offer.
“From the first day, I saw that Creighton Braun has something special with great potential,” said Coach Holger Gehrke. “I knew if he would come into the right hands, he would develop to a professional player in Europe. For his age, he has a great character and personality. It was a pleasure to help him to get this opportunity. Now it is in his hands to make something from it.”
Now, Braun has signed his first professional soccer contract. FC DAC 1904, a first-tier powerhouse club an hour and a half east of Vienna, Austria has turned this collegiate player into a professional. Vying for the top rank in the Slovak Super Liga, FC DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda (the full name of the club) hopes to play in the Champions League soon and is pleased to have Braun join their squad.
Braun is living the dream and preparing to make an impact on the pro circuit.
“This player virtually went from under the radar and relatively unknown to being on the USMNT radar overnight,” said Paul Caligiuri, USMNT veteran whose goal in 1989 got the USA back in the FIFA World Cup and sparked a quarter-century of growth in American soccer. “This would not have happened without the International Soccer Academy which provides players the opportunity to train and play at the highest level all the while being exposed to the global game.”
“Creighton is a versatile player who will make his way in the professional game and has the benefit of working under the guidance of DAC’s head coach Bernd Storck who is known for developing young players into seasoned professionals,” said Eddie Loewen, CoFounder of International Soccer Academy. “I am sure we will see Creighton with one of the bigger clubs in the future.”
Congratulations are pouring in from all across the country. “We are all really excited for Creighton to have reached this amazing moment,” said Mike Higgins, General Manager, West Coast Futbol Club. “Our goal at WCFC is to prepare our players to be ready for opportunities and help them develop to their full potential. This is a wonderful example of both of those things coming true.”
Erik Kirsch from JSerra High School started training Braun when he was just 12-years-old and said, “This player has worked very hard for this opportunity and Braun is an amazing person with great integrity.”
“I always told people, if Creighton goes to Europe, he won’t come back,” said Neil Armour, Technical Director, West Coast Futbol Club. “I have coached Creighton for 5 years and I remember telling other coaches they had to come to look at him. He is a dedicated and focused player who is willing to take constructive criticism and use it to motivate himself to become better. He would go out for hours and practice,and can master skills quickly.”
SoccerToday’s Interview with Creighton Braun
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you like best about playing soccer?
Creighton Braun: Playing soccer is a passion I love. I have grown up with it. I love the camaraderie among the teammates and just being outside and kicking the ball is amazing.
Soccer runs in my blood, I have always seen soccer as a way to find peace.
It is a stress reliever for me — it helps get my mind off things. Soccer is obviously called the beautiful game for a reason.
People think that kicking the soccer ball is easy but as you progress in the sport, it is the hardest sport to perfect.
Diane Scavuzzo: How long have you tried to get a trial with a professional soccer club in Europe?
Creighton Braun: For years … ever since my sophomore year in high school, I have been asking my coaches how can I play soccer in Europe.
Diane Scavuzzo: You joined International Soccer Academy’s fall session in Mallorca, Spain in October. How did you feel when they set up a trial for you?
Creighton Braun: I was amazed … I had emailed, texted, and reached out to try to get a trial more time than I can count. I was three weeks into our Academy in Mallorca and I was offered a trial at FC DAC 1904. It was very gratifying.
I thought, now is my chance.
Diane Scavuzzo: The second trial International Soccer Academy arranged was at Schalke? What was that like?
Creighton Braun: When International Soccer Academy arranged a second trial for me, I was speechless. Being offered a trial at a big Bundesliga club in Germany like Schalke 04 is very awesome — well, I was shocked.
Diane Scavuzzo: Were you impressed the clubs covered the costs and hosted you for the trial?
Creighton Braun: Yes, it was very impressive, it made me feel that it was very real ….
Diane Scavuzzo: What was the trial at FC DAC 1904 like?
Creighton Braun: At DAC, everyone was very welcoming. I thought DAC’s facilities were beautiful — they have brand new fields and a great weight room. The coach shook my hand every morning.
I really feel that the coach believes in me, which makes me feel really good, and I feel I will continue to develop at DAC.
To get a coach who believes in you is very different from a coach who is interested in you — interest is only on the surface. The DAC coach believes he can develop me into a greater player and I can’t wait to work with him.
Diane Scavuzzo: What has inspired you?
Creighton Braun: There is a quote I really like.
“What you do in the dark puts you in the light.”Under Armour
After this quote sunk in, I started consistently working every single day to reach my goal.
Diane Scavuzzo: What did you think when you first heard FC DAC 1904 wanted to offer you a contract? That you could become a pro soccer player?
Creighton Braun: When I first heard DAC wanted to offer me a contract, I was at breakfast — My heart skipped a beat.
Diane Scavuzzo: How did you feel signing the contract?
Creighton Braun: All I could think of is ‘It is here’ — my heart was racing and my palms were sweating. It is just me with a pen and a piece of paper. I did mess up my signature as I was nervous. It is a dream come true. Now the hard work actually starts.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think of the International Soccer Academy program in Spain?
Creighton Braun: The International Soccer Academy program is awesome. Some kids in the US may not have heard of Mallorca — but I had. Mallorca is an island off the coast of Barcelona, Spain. Being at the International Soccer Academy was like going to Hawaii and playing soccer for three months.
Training every day is an awesome way to improve your skills.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was your first impression of Holger Gehrke, the associate and goalkeeper coach at International Soccer Academy? Gehrke was the goalkeeper at Schalke 04 for many years and then the goalkeeper coach at Schalke 04 as well as the Hungarian National Team goalkeeper coach …
Creighton Braun: You will laugh. My first impression was, ‘Man, this guy is tall.’
Diane Scavuzzo: At 6’5″, Coach Holger is tall. Did he give you any advice before you went on trial?
Creighton Braun: Holger was always encouraging me and he told me to take deep breaths and be just myself. Holger said the coaches at DAC and Schalke just want to see who I am. I am so happy I got the chance to work with Coach Holger. I wouldn’t want anyone else in my corner.
Diane Scavuzzo: International Soccer Academy had a session on Mental Strength with Dan Abrahams right before you went off on your first trial. Was the information useful?
Creighton Braun: Yes. I used Dan’s Game Face technique and it really helped.
The first day I was very nervous. I had been working 12 years tirelessly to get this opportunity. Just before going out on the field, I felt it all catching up with me. The Game Face concept, along with remembering the three words that I had selected to describe my three best attributes — well, it all helped me substantially.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you feel different now that you are a professional athlete?
Creighton Braun: I feel it will hit me when I get home and am surrounded by my childhood friends. Right now it is still like … WOW. My dream is here. I will be playing professional soccer.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was training like with Eddie Loewen?
Creighton Braun: Eddie is a ball of energy — he is the life of the show. Eddie works tirelessly for the people around him and he is always willing to sacrifice himself for others. On the outside, he seems really tough but on the inside, he is a teddy bear.
Diane Scavuzzo: Did your youth soccer club in Southern California help you prepare to become a professional player?
Creighton Braun: West Coast FC helped me get to where I am today. Southern California is possibly the most competitive area of the USA and I learned a lot at West Coast FC.
Diane Scavuzzo: Were you always a star on your team?
Creighton Braun: No. I am only 19 years old but I’ve experienced tough times playing soccer. When teams had to be formed by birth year, I changed teams and wasn’t the go to player I had been on the other team. I became a late minute sub and sat a lot on the bench — but I am a hard worker and worked through it.
Diane Scavuzzo: What advice can you share with youth soccer players who want to become professional players and get offered a pro contract?
Creighton Braun: Stay mentally strong — and, have fun. Soccer is very competitive but having fun is very important. At the end of the day, if you can see past the little bumps in the road, and you can keep working towards your goal — and if, at the peak of your fitness, you get a shot to make your dreams a reality, you have to take it.
Diane Scavuzzo: Was there a coach at West Coast who really made an impression on you?
Creighton Braun: Yes, Neil Armour. He is a very tough coach — Neil delivers his lovely words in a different form than most Americans are used to. He would always say, “I’m not your best friend. I am here to help you move on to the next part of your life.” He just wants to see the players succeed at the end of the day. He was very happy when I called him to tell him.
Diane Scavuzzo: Who do you look up to?
Creighton Braun: My parents
Diane Scavuzzo: Who is your favorite player?
Creighton Braun: Tony Kroos — the central midfielder who plays for La Liga’s Real Madrid and the Germany National team.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you like best about your position?
Creighton Braun: I like the freedom and the complexity of the position.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your dream now?
Creighton Braun: My dream is ultimately to win the World Cup but for now, it is to win the Champions League.
International Soccer Academy coach Chris Ketels said, “After one week of meeting and training with Creighton, I knew that he had what it takes to go to the next level and become a professional player. His talent in combination with his disciple and work ethics are exceptional and I am very confident that Creighton will have great success in the world of professional fútbol.”
Want to see more? Tons of great images on International Soccer Academy Instagram
And, to follow Creighton Braun going forward, please check out DAC 1904 Instagram.