Alex Braletic will return to the men’s soccer team next season. PHOTO: LiNDSAY BOECKL

Alex Braletic’s year off

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Sports Editor Gabriel Lee reports on the former soccer captain’s journey to get off academic probation and back onto the pitch

For the first time in his life, Alex Braletic was unable to play soccer at the highest level.

During a recent intramural soccer game at Ryerson’s Recreation and Athletic Center (RAC), the former captain of Ryerson’s men’s soccer team, and perennial Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-star effortlessly pirouetted around the opposition’s defense with the grace of a ballerina, while appropriately clad in a florescent pink tank top with a matching headband.

Barely two minutes into the game, he opened the scoring with a backheel without looking at the net. This is what Alex Braletic has been up to since being suspended from the varsity soccer team after he failed to maintain the 2.0 GPA required of student-athletes in at Ryerson.

He finished the 2011 spring semester with a 1.84 GPA while studying electrical engineering. Within a year Braletic had gone from captain of the Ryerson men’s soccer team to the captain of his intramural team.

Braletic admits he didn’t attend many classes last year as his main priority was soccer, not academics; but once he was warned he only had a semester to bring his grades back up to where they needed to be, he was already too far behind in his classes.

“In another world I wouldn’t think it was fair,” said the midfielder. “I wouldn’t really care about the grades, as long as I could play soccer.”

“But I now understand the whole fact that it’s grades before athletics. I mean what kind of degree would I have if we didn’t have good grades?”

Despite not being able to suit up for the Rams this past season, Braletic continued to be a part of the team as an assistant coach. He went to every practice and game that didn’t conflict with his class schedule.

After being a critical part of the Rams’ playoff run the year before, which saw them reach the OUA semi-finals, Braletic was heartbroken when he found out he wouldn’t have a chance to lead his team past the semi-final stage.

Thus, when Ryerson squared off against the University of Toronto Blues in the OUA quarter-finals last October, all Braletic could do was watch. Everything was going the Rams’ way heading into halftime: they were up 1-0 and the Blues were reduced to 10 men.

However, the Blues came storming back in the second half, eventually winning the match in penalty kicks. Effectively ending the Rams’ season.

“I felt extremely bad for the guys but more than anything else I was angry at myself for not being able to play in that game,” he said. “I thought the team played very well I definitely thought the loss was avoidable if I had played. I felt terrible. Absolutely terrible”

Driven by his team’s failure, Braletic worked harder than ever in school to ensure he would be eligible to play next year. Currently, his GPA sits at 3.0.

He now budgets his soccer workouts around academics, not the other way around.

“I’m not leaving anything up to chance this year,” he said. “To make sure I can come back better than ever, I’d say I’m working out five to six hours a day.”

Besides his dominance at Ryerson’s in-house intramural league, he also plays in three semi-competitive men’s leagues outside of school.

If Braletic can maintain his current GPA, his goals for the team upon his return to the pitch are simple: win OUA’s, make nationals, win nationals.

He has no doubt he can return as the player he once was and finally get the chance he was denied this season to lead the Rams farther than they’ve ever gotten.

“I’m not worried about coming back as a lesser player, actually I’m worried for the other teams because I’m going to be coming back a much better player,” he said. “Any of the accolades don’t mean anything to me. All I care about is bringing a winning culture to Ryerson”

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