During the final eight weeks of the spring semester, CisternYard Sports will be releasing a feature story each week on a student athlete at the College of Charleston that our sports staff thinks you should know. This week, we highlight junior defenseman Daan Brinkman from the men’s soccer team.
Attending college a long ways from home is an adjustment for many students. For College of Charleston men’s soccer player, Daan Brinkman, his home is just a bit further away than most of his fellow teammates’.
Hailing from Amsterdam, Netherlands, Brinkman has developed into one of the best defenders in recent history at Charleston.
After foregoing school to play soccer in the Netherlands, Brinkman always thought about going to college in the U.S., but was nervous to take that big step. Luckily, he had a connection to Charleston soccer through former goalkeeper, Kees Heemskerk, who encouraged him to attend the College.
“I have always been interested in studying in the U.S., but I never had the guts to make that step. I had quit college in Holland and just played soccer, but after one year I figured that I still wanted to develop in other ways than just soccer. I contacted one of my old teammates, Kees Heemskerk, that had left Holland to come play [for Charleston] the year before. When he said they would offer me a scholarship, I was sold,” Brinkman said.
On the soccer field, Brinkman immediately saw major differences between the style of play in the U.S. and the Netherlands. He noted that in the Netherlands, colleges do not offer athletics like they do in the U.S.
“In Holland, I played for club teams. Sports and college are not combined like this in Holland. The game is played different here, since we are big on tactics in Holland and try to control the game in every way. I had to adjust to the American approach to soccer. College soccer [in the U.S.] is more hectic and based on hard work,” he said.
Although he is a great defender on the field, his play could not eliminate the major learning curve he had to face off the field.
“Well, first off, the language was a big adjustment. My English was alright, but speaking it all day and taking classes in English took a lot of energy. We had a great freshman class on the soccer team. We all lived together in one dorm and we were close off the field, so they certainly made the transition to a new culture way easier,” he said.
As he settled into his new home, his impact on the field for the Cougars was immediately recognized, to which he credited his school back in the Netherlands.
“The Ajax Academy prepared me for everything. I’ve learned to be very self-disciplined and I knew I wasn’t going to go all the way across the world to sit on the bench, and I mean that in the least arrogant way. I’ve always been a player that liked to play nice soccer, rather than kicking it up the pitch and just seeing what happens and I guess that is appreciated by the coaches,” he said.
Brinkman’s impact to the defensive line has been immeasurable. Since joining Charleston in the fall of 2011, he has started every game he has been eligible to play in. He has consistently averaged over 90 minutes per game and in 2012, missed just 30 minutes of playing time for the whole season.
As the anchor of Charleston’s defense, Brinkman preaches cohesiveness between him and his teammates in order to keep the ball out of their zone.
“Two major things are communication and for the four of us back [on defense] to stay connected all the time. To not allow teams to score, we have to move as a unit, which makes it very hard for teams to make penetrating passes,” he said.
Brinkman was named to the All-Southern Conference second team in 2012, but with the move to the CAA this past season, the difference between the competition of the two conferences was clearly evident.
“The CAA is definitely a harder conference for us. The teams play faster and individually always have a couple great players on their team. The teams in the CAA are also tactically stronger then the teams in the SoCon were,” he said.
Charleston struggled in their first season in the new conference, but Brinkman is confident that they will be much improved come next fall and has high expectations for his senior season.
“We struggled last year partly because we relied too much on incoming freshmen and we did not have a goal scorer. The freshmen have matured now and a striker, Nico Rittmeyer, has joined our team from the University of North Carolina this spring, which could be really good for us in the fall. I really hope to achieve something in my final year and I do think we have a team that can make the national tournament,” he said.
Brinkman, who hopes to go into the sports psychology field after graduation, has loved going to school in Charleston, a place he refers to as “magical.”
“My favorite part is the city itself. There is something indescribably magical about the city. Overall, the people seem positive and you can’t beat the weather, the beach, and the feel of the city,” he said.
Brinkman is a coach’s dream: a hard worker, who plays with intense passion and has incredible knowledge of the sport. With one year left with the Cougars, Brinkman will certainly be a player to watch and appreciate throughout the 2014 season.
Check back next Friday for the fifth edition in our “Eight for Eight” series on women’s tennis standout, Kelly Kambourelis.