As a young kid in Maple Ridge looking to play team sports, there is a strong chance you will get involved in either hockey or soccer. For Brayden Gant, it was the latter. He has taken his game from a young kid eating oranges at half time to being the captain of the Trinity Western Spartans Men's Soccer Club. Even as a youngster in grade eight, he was contending against some of the best runners in the province at the BC Provincial Cross Country Championships. These were kids 3-4 years older than him at the time he was running around. It's obvious Brayden could have excelled at many sports, but as a natural runner with a ball always at his feet, soccer was the sport for him.
"It's the team aspect of soccer that I really enjoy over other sports. Cross country was just a stepping stone."
Growing up, he would practice for multiple hours a day working on juggling, drills, fitness, and ball skills. The jump to university ball was definitely something he was prepared and ready for, but it takes a huge toll on the body. "We play every Friday and Saturday night, two 90 minute games back to back each week. It can be tough, so we do everything we can to make sure we recover properly."
I asked Brayden what the best feeling is when he gets on a soccer pitch and I wasn't surprised. "Scoring," he smiled. "It doesn't even have to be you, it could be seeing another player on your team put one in." One of his coolest soccer experiences was when we was younger representing Canada at the Nations Cup in Paris. In a mini World Cup style tournament, he played against 32 other countries, and in front of 30,000 fans. "It's hands down, one of my most exhilarating soccer memories," he said. Brayden has one more year at Trinity Western, and he's got his eyes on the ultimate trophy.
"When I came to Trinity Western, the goal has always been to win a national title. It will be my last year, so I'm going to leave it all on the field."
We managed to get Brayden and long time friend Paul Piche together for an old fashioned kickabout at Albion Sports Complex in Maple Ridge a few weeks back. Paul played soccer at a very high level throughout his entire time in high school. He was a member of the Mountain Whitecaps U-16 team, one of 2 teams representing Canada at a national tournament in Florida. The team was created as a youth development squad for the Vancouver Whitecaps MLS club, and Paul was instrumental in helping his team take home gold. Paul has battled through injuries his entire soccer career, but is still actively playing the game today with a local men's league in Maple Ridge.
When it comes to gear, both these guys use the cleats, shin guards and soccer balls that will allow for maximum performance. "Since there are so many different weather conditions we play in, I use specific cleats depending on the situation," Brayden explained. It was damp out at the field, so he had on the Adidas F50 Adizero Leather boots. He switches off between leather and synthetic cleats, but seeing that it rains so much here in BC, he prefers leather.
"I get a better touch on the ball, and better grip with the leather. They are incredibly light too."
He also wears the Adidas synthetic soft ground boots with medal studs to get traction in rainy weather. When it comes to shin guards he goes with the Adidas F50 shin pads, as they are super light. Brayden is running 10km a game playing center midfield, so light cleats and shin pads are a must.
Paul is a Nike guy at heart, so the Vapor cleats are his go-to. "I have narrow feet so the Vapors fit like a glove. They are built for speed," he explained. Speed is not something Paul is lacking either. I wouldn't have been surprised if he had played football as a wide receiver or punt returner at a high level college in the states. Having personally played soccer and football with Paul a few times, I can tell you the guy is simply lightning on any field he steps on.
Spending the afternoon at the sports complex reminded both guys of the young times growing up playing soccer as kids. Both Paul and Brayden plan on staying involved in the soccer community for years to come to inspire other young kids looking to fulfill their soccer dreams.
To get the full details on the cleats, guards and everything else Brayden and Paul use on the soccer pitch, check them out on Dooers. You'll be able to see pictures of them using their favorite gear, read their personal item reviews and see where they recommending finding the things they use. I asked Paul what soccer ball they like to play with. He laughed, "Champions League, always Champions League."
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