Defying social norms in the USA and excelling internationally
In the United States, hockey, or as they call it, field hockey, is predominantly considered a sport for girls and women. It is rare for high schools and colleges in the U.S. to have a men’s hockey team. This can be surprising, as hockey is such a popular sport for both men and women across the globe. Even with these restrictions on opportunities for men, Brandon Karess, an American field hockey player from the state of Pennsylvania, could not be stopped on his mission to continue improving his hockey career. Read on and learn about his hockey journey in the U.S. and how he’s played a season in London, England.
Brandon Karess started his hockey career on a high school women’s team his sophomore, or second, year. He says,
To many males born and raised in America, field hockey is a women’s sport. After some convincing, and learning there was another guy on the team who had played on the US team, I decided to give it a shot. After a few trainings, it felt too natural to stop.
Luckily, his then coach Karen Nilson was very supportive in this process. He notes that,
Coach Nelson ran a tight ship, and her results showed. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her giving me a chance.
An interesting journey to making the US Men’s National Team
In the summer of 2010, Brandon’s high school teammate Lucas Long encouraged him to attend a US National Team tryout in Southern California. (not sure how he made the jump to play in the tournament. Do you know if once he had a successful tryout, he was on the team and played in the tournament? I can’t tell from the script). After a successful tryout, Brandon had the opportunity to play in a tournament representing the West Coast, in which his team won gold and he as an individual was awarded Goalkeeper of the Tournament!
Shorty thereafter, he was selected to be on the US team that was set to attend the Youth Pan Am Games in Hermosillo, Mexico. Brandon relays that the American team was heavily overlooked, but Coach Ben Maruquin had the squad prepared to prove everyone wrong. He says,
Shocking everyone, we were seconds away from a gold medal against Pan Am powerhouse Argentina.
Since then, he has played for the Los Angeles Tigers, as well as for the U.S. National Team. Brandon describes the opportunity to represent his nation as an absolute honoring, going on to say,
To play for your country in any sport is a blessing. It’s something that only a select few get to do, and for me to be one of those guys is a dream come true.
Brandon’s field hockey story is truly interesting. After discovering his hockey skills through playing with the girls in his gym class, to trying out for the National Team just months later, to traveling the world while representing the U.S., it is obvious he has come a long way.
Karess’s overseas adventure through field hockey
In the summer of 2016, Brandon took his first international LEAP to London, where he is playing for West Hampstead Hockey Club. West Hampstead competes in the national level, and Brandon and his teammates are competing for a playoff spot. When asked why he decided to pursue a hockey opportunity outside of the U.S., he tells us that,
It’s something that has always been a dream of mine…When I first started playing, I learned that field hockey even at its highest level in the United States is mainly promoted for women to continue their playing careers, so for guys we must travel abroad to truly reach our full potential.
And he goes on to affirm that he has been positively challenged! Brandon relays what many other international players have told us; that playing against opponents and with teammates that have different playing styles from your own truly brings out the best in an athlete.
The LEAP team asked Brandon what his average day in England is like. We’ll let him paint the picture:
The typical day for me starts with a giant bowl of yogurt and granola. After that’s finished, the gym is next on my list. I’ll usually spend close to 2 hours in there completing our team workout regimen from Sports Academy. Shortly following that is a nice relaxing run back to the flat. Then once I’ve made it back, some salmon and veggies await with some much-needed down time. Netflix is usually a must prior to training. I’m currently watching Sons of Anarchy, which takes me to training at 7pm. On Tuesdays and Thursday’s I train with Hampstead and Westminster. Wednesday’s I train with West Hampstead. For a nightcap, Haribo is my new favorite post training snack.
Growing in far more than just field hockey
Brandon tells us that he has truly enjoyed his time in London. The big city feel reminds him of his hometown in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He says he never gets bored, as,
There’s always an urge to try something new, from foods to lifestyles, it’s a very remarkable place.
He also notes he’s very thankful for his teammate Harry Slater, who put him up in his flat which is south of the river in London. It is obvious Brandon doesn’t take anything about his abroad experience for granted, as he notes his appreciation for the support from his family, friends, and coaches back in the States, his teammates, and his West Hampstead hockey family! He states that, “The best memory so far from overseas has definitely been all the new friends I’ve made. Looking back at it, I wouldn’t have been successful without the support of the club and its members.”
Brandon feels that he has grown in both his hockey skills and as a person since playing abroad. He says,
On the hockey front, I don’t think I’ve had the luxury to play in a more competitive league to date. When you play against guys with international experience you’re not used to playing with, getting better tends to be easy.
In terms of personal growth, he says,
The biggest part about being away from home is seeing how far I’ve come. Leaving the states with 2 bags, and seeing the world in a completely different view is shocking. You start to see that not many people have this opportunity so making the most of it is the only way to go…You can’t grow if you never leave home. There’s so much out there, you just have to go and find it.
That’s the amazing thing about taking the LEAP; though countless unknown adventures await, you can be sure that you will learn so much about both your hockey potential, and your potential as an individual trying to succeed in an entirely new culture.
Olympic qualifiers on there near horizon for Team USA
So, what’s next for Brandon? In two weeks, he will be traveling to Trinidad and Tobago with the U.S. National Team to compete in World League 2, one of the World Cup and Olympic qualifiers throughout the world. From what Brandon tells us, the stakes are high:
It is going to be very challenging, but I have the utmost faith and confidence in our team and staff to get the job done. If we are top 2 of the 8 teams competing we’ll play in World League 3. A win in the crossover stage could send us to the Hockey World Cup. If we are unsuccessful there, then we have win the Pan Am Cup, which will take place nearby my hometown of Allentown, PA to qualify.
Keep up to date with the U.S. National Team, because as Brandon says, they have a big summer coming up!
Apart from the National Team, Brandon is avidly seeking out his next playing opportunity for the upcoming season. He says,
I’m very open to playing anywhere really. Hopefully I can find a club shortly, so I don’t miss out on a season.
Avidly seeking his next playing opportunity through Uru Sports
He has completed his Uru Sports profile to aid him in scoring his next experience. He’s looking for hockey that is at the top level, and as close to what he’ll be seeing when playing an international match. Anything that isn’t close to that level isn’t an option. He first heard about Uru Sports in West Hampstead because some of his teammates were talking about the platform. He tells us that,
I slept on it, and immediately thought this could be something extremely beneficial for hockey players exploring club opportunities.
Like countless other players, Brandon encourages athletes to use Uru Sports to play overseas. We asked him what advice he would give to someone deciding whether or not they should pursue a hockey opportunity abroad, and he says this,
Do it. Someone once asked me, ‘How many people would give everything to do what you have an opportunity to do?’ It’s also always good to put yourself in situations you’re unfamiliar with. You learn how to manage various things such as budget, nutrition, and cope with a completely different environment.
Clearly, Brandon doesn’t regret his choice to play overseas, and he reckons you won’t, either.
Become part of in the global field hockey community
Uru Sports is here to connect players and coaches who are thousands of miles of sea and land apart because we want to continue to foster the amazing experiences that players like Brandon and countless others have had. We are passionate in our pursuit of the perfect abroad experience for each player, and we can’t wait help you find your next playing position overseas.
A big thank you to Brandon Krasser for sharing his story, and we will be rooting for him as he competes in World League 2 this month!
Sign up with Uru Sports today to you can follow his journey and if you know of a team looking for a skilled keeper, don’t hesitate to reach out. Also join today to find yourself a great playing position overseas!
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