A few years ago, a series of injuries forced Brandon Watson to take a step out of the pitch and put his gloves back in the closet. Having gone from nearly saying goodbye to university athletics to being the co-captain of one of the most promising teams in NCAA Division II, Watson tells us his journey.
Watson’s passion for soccer started at a young age. “My parents put me in soccer when I was five and I started playing goalie when I was 11. Growing up, one of my favourites was Iker Casillas,” he said.
But what is so attractive about being a goalkeeper? “Goalkeeper is more of a position where intelligence is key. You see the whole field, you are constantly communicating with your team, and something about that drove me to do it. [. . .] I enjoy the pressure of being a goalkeeper. When you make a big save, I think it’s all worth it.”
Starting his student athlete career at NCAA Division I Coastal Carolina, Watson went a long way before returning to his home province. But he never wavered in his choice to join the Clan. “I always had a goal of being in the NCAA. I think it gets a little bit more exposure to MLS [Major League Soccer] drafts.”
SFU provided Watson the opportunity to pursue his dream of playing his favourite childhood sport, despite the injuries that kept him off for nearly two seasons.
“I came off with injuries where other schools did not really know me anymore. The assistant coach [at the time] contacted me and asked me if I wanted to play. In terms of academics, I have also heard of the kinesiology program before, so academics was definitely a big part of my choice.”
While his history with injuries restrained Watson in his athletic career for a while, he claimed that they pushed him to understand the science of the body.
“I’ve always been interested in how the human body works; it is kind of a marvel. I also suffered a couple big injuries early on in my career, and that motivated me to go into physiotherapy.”
This time off gave Watson the maturity to establish a certain balance between academics and athletics. “I came in as a bit of an older freshman. I was 21 when I started at SFU, so it was a bit of a smoother transition compared to coming straight from high school, but it has been an awesome experience for me.
“The only thing that’s missing is the national championship. That is what we are going for this year.”
Being the captain of SFU’s men’s soccer team can add a great level of pressure. How does Watson deal with it? “I have been the captain of the team since I was a sophomore, so I am used to the role of being a leader of the team, being more accountable, and leading an example for the younger guys. I believe there is a little more pressure because it is my last chance to win the championship — but I’m a goalkeeper, so I am used to the pressure.”
“I am used to the role of being a leader of the team, being more accountable, and leading an example for the younger guys”
Intelligence alone is not enough to excel in a classroom, and commitment and hard work go beyond the soccer field for Watson. One of his most notable distinctions as a student athlete is achieving an average GPA of 4.11 in kinesiology. “I keep a schedule of what is due and when it is due,” he said. “It is a matter of balance and work ethic. When you’re tired and trained for two hours, it takes a lot to sit down and focus on a book. It’s all about putting in the effort. I just put the time in required to do well in the course. ”
As Watson’s journey as a student athlete comes to an end, he’s reflecting on his future career paths and a potential chase after a professional career. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play professionally. Obviously I have backup plans. Hopefully I can put together the best season I’ve ever had and maybe turn some heads. Playing the sport I’ve loved my whole life and getting paid to do it would be a dream come true.”
The expectations for the men’s soccer team are set to be high this season. Watson shared his perspective as a senior who witnessed the Clan’s successful switch to the NCAA over the past three years.
“It is probably the best start to a season we have had in my four years here which is very encouraging. We all know collectively as a team it is just the beginning [. . .] and playing at home is a motivational factor.
“If you start with not conceding, you’re going to win more games and so far this season, we haven’t conceded.”