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Driven soccer coach strives to grow sport in Brantford

Community ProfileDriven soccer coach strives to grow sport in Brantford

Brendon Ulysse’s love of soccer runs so deep that he decided to share his passion and knowledge by founding ‘Ulysse Soccer Training’ academy 16 years ago.

Ulysse, who has played at various levels, was introduced to soccer by his father.

“I’ve always had a passion for soccer. It started at a very young age inspired by my dad [and] I started playing rep soccer when I was 12, under his guidance. Obviously, I learned things such as leadership, teamwork, dedication, and perseverance. I didn’t start as the best player by any means. But over time I became better because of my dedication to my craft which helped a lot,” explained Ulysse. “The more that I played and learned from those around me, it showed me so many things, even beyond the game of soccer. Again, my dad was a great example of that, because he was a role model in the community. Many people to this day tell me they started playing soccer because of him. I’m carrying on that legacy of good coaching, and good leadership in the community through soccer.”

In 2023, the U9 boys academy squad had a chance to tour BMO field in Toronto as well as having a chance to cheer for the TFC team. Photo courtesy Ulysse Soccer Training.

Ulysse’s dedication to the game, even at an early age, got him noticed. He also made efforts to represent Brantford not only as a hockey town.

“I had an amazing experience when I was in high school [and] that’s when a soccer academy from Hamilton reached out. They first came to Brantford and did a couple of clinics [and they] saw me as a young leader, and they hired me to coach. It was such an unreal experience because the talent pool in the Hamilton/ Stoney Creek was far beyond what Brantford was currently at,” Ulysse continued. “I was 17 as a coach, and I would do some tricks and do some skills with the kids out in that Academy. And they would say, ‘Wow, where are you from? You’re a good player!’ And when I said I was from Brantford, they didn’t believe me. I have made it my mission from that experience that I was going do something for Brantford [and] upgrade our profile and being proud to say ‘Yes, I am from Brantford.’”

Ulysse then developed his skills in Waterloo and then he decided to go to university.  

“I wanted to play for Brantford as long as I could. At the age of 18, I decided to play competitively in the elite division for Waterloo. After that, I went to play for Laurier Brantford locally. It’s really interesting because Brantford only has Laurier Brantford as an option. And we didn’t compete against other universities until my final year at Laurier,” said Ulysse. “They finally developed an intramural program with other schools. It’s always been this narrative for Brantford, that opportunities are kind of restricted. Unless you make the transition to a bigger city, or a university that’s competing, or the CLS (Canadian Soccer League), those opportunities aren’t normally here.”

When Ulysse developed the 12-month soccer program in 2023, he hadn’t anticipated the overwhelming response from parents wanting a variety of these types of programs. Photo courtesy Ulysse Soccer Training.

After graduating university, Ulysse had a unique opportunity to teach in England, which he relished.

“I jumped at the chance and taught for two years at Brookfield Primary School in North London. That was a fantastic experience because I was exposed to the culture of the game. I saw just how the culture of soccer gives kids that identity, something to latch on to,” explained Ulysse. “[When] I came back home and I thought about my time as a teenager, thinking about the lack of opportunity for kids in Brantford [and] I knew it was time to do something of my own… [That’s when I| decided it was time to push the soccer training to the next level here.”

After his journey overseas, Ulysse made plans to create his soccer academy and while others were trying to emulate established programs, ‘Ulysse Soccer Training’ was different.

“My entire approach was connecting with the kids…I didn’t want to be focused on just tactics or just techniques for the kids in terms of being world-class. My main focus has been: ‘What do the kids need?’…I made my own style over time based on what the kids in the community needed,” described Ulysse. “I worked a lot with the local clubs [and] before making my own academy, I had my business set up for soccer services [such as] running programs for Brantford Galaxy soccer club. Now I’m in my 16th year as a business, and our philosophy of training has just developed from years of experience.”

Although Ulysse is known for his success as both a coach and teacher, he has also had a solid playing career competing at various levels. More recently, he has played for the Victory FC of the Brantford Men’s Soccer League. Photo courtesy Brantford Men’s Soccer League.

Ulysse has also enjoyed success in the classroom as a teacher for the Erie District School Board for the past 12 years.  He has also blended his coaching experience to furnish a more dynamic learning experience for his students.

“We had our sports club happen the other day at school. Kids need something that they can be excited about [and] it gives them a reason to wake up in the morning. They know that they’re going to come to school and have a great day [and] connect with their friends because they have something like sports. It might not always be sports for everyone; it could be art or something else. But if we don’t have opportunities like this, it can be tricky,” Ulysse said. “In 2023, it was the first year that we launched a 12-month academy-style program. This was something we would commit to the parents, that their children would be receiving quality training three times a week, for the whole year. In this community, we’re pretty used to switching off to different sports in the offseason. But for some people, they want to dedicate themselves to their sport. They can do that in Hamilton, they can do that in Mississauga, and Toronto, but it’s kind of unheard of for Brantford to be able to have a high-quality program dedicated for a full year.”

However, Ulysse explained that the soccer potential in Brantford is limitless.

“It’s unbelievable how much the game has risen in our community. And it’s not only because of me but there are so many people now who are seeing the advantages of getting kids involved in sports…. And now that we’re so far away from the COVID pandemic, and we’re able to do things again [and] lots of groups have come out to offer programs…. I see a massive amount of growth in the soccer community,” Ulysse explained. “I have a colleague that I played men’s soccer with here in town. His name is Patryk Misik. He went to the national level of Canadian soccer at the U20. And he has since come home and now he has opened up an academy as well. We literally had zero opportunities before and now we have two academies in Brantford. The growth has been exponential.”

Ulysse’s Academy provides programs for many age groups and is always looking to develop new ones. Photo courtesy Ulysse Soccer Training.

Although Ulysse has to manage some limiting factors like securing indoor facilities which are typically outside the Brantford area (he has to rent space in Paris and Woodstock), to make the training effective year-round, the response for more year-round programs has been overwhelming.

“I have more and more parents asking if I can replicate this model for their age group. It’s kind of a tricky thing. I chose the age group of 2014-born players and I wanted to focus on them and develop this team. But then other parents in the community are thinking, ‘This is such a great thing. Can you do this for my age group? Can do it for boys and girls?’” Ulysse described. “So the tricky thing for me is going to be able to scale it. And to be able to provide that high Academy program for multiple teams. I do enjoy doing the grassroots program which has taken up a majority of my time in the past. But last year, we piloted the program with the 2014-born boys to say we’re going to do a 12-month focus on high achievement, and just develop them with good habits from the start.”

However, for Ulysse, it’s all about building relationships and fostering an environment where children can develop life skills.

“What’s been amazing for me, and it’s a large part of why I chose to be a teacher, is I learned from a young age that relationships are very important [and] learned over time that it’s the connection that you have with those people that can help to inspire and make life better. Not only for them but for everyone. For me, a lot of it comes down to relationship building and inspiring confidence in one another,” concluded Ulysse.

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