The relationship you or someone else might have with a sibling is a unique bond. At times, it can seem as if you want to rip each other’s heads off because the other is being annoying. Other times, however, one shows the sincere care and concern for wanting to the best out for their sibling and to be their best selves.
Gonzaga University soccer siblings Sophie and Nico Braun have, indeed, seen their fair share of both during their time in Spokane.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world last March, Sophie was a sophomore at GU and Nico was in his junior year of high school. When GU sent its students home, Sophie went back home and trained with her brother during quarantine, and both said they wanted to rip each other’s heads off at times due to their high level of competitiveness. There would be times where Nico would leave their training session because they were going at it with each other.
Sophie had her frustrations, too. Being the older sister, Sophie was used to beating her brother in any form of competition. But as her little brother became not so little anymore, Sophie soon realized that she wasn’t guaranteed to win all the time anymore.
“I think high school was the peak of that competition,” Sophie said. “There was definitely a point where we were like, ‘we cannot train the other anymore because we will rip each other's heads off.’ As the older sister, when we were younger, I could always beat him. And then when he started growing a little, he started beating me every time. I was like, ‘Nope, I can't do that. I will not take it.’”
But those times of friction came with a sense of understanding that they wanted the best for each other and wanted to see each other succeed.
As the younger sibling, Nico said he understood that his older sister’s feedback was given with good intentions, and both knew that those moments of tension wouldn’t break their bond as siblings.
“It definitely made me better, too,” Nico said. “It's always going to be competitive when we're on the field and going against each other, but it never really affects anything outside of soccer.”
Not only do Sophie and Nico represent the same school, but their journeys to GU were very similar as well. Sophie was able to relate to Nico during his recruiting process, as both were seen as undersized when being recruited. Nico was late in the recruiting process when he committed to GU, only receiving offers from GU and Beloit College, a Division III school in Wisconsin.
When making his decision on where to attend for college, Nico looked at how his sister enjoyed her time in Spokane so far and decided to follow in her footsteps. Being a big influence in her brother’s decision, Sophie was excited to see her brother come to GU. Happening last minute, Nico was thinking about coming to GU just for school before knowing that playing for the men’s team would work out. But when she found out Nico would be playing, Sophie was glad it was able to work out.
As someone who has been in Nico’s shoes before, Sophie was able to connect with Nico about her time being an underclassman. As she has grown and matured, Sophie has been able to become a leader for a rising athletics program on campus, and hopes for the same things for her younger brother.
“It can be scary coming in as a freshman,” Sophie said. “I obviously think of my brother a lot, and I know that coming into a team is a lot. It's a huge step up from high school and anything that you've experienced before. It's weird thinking that the freshmen on our team are like the same age as my brother."
Nico feels that sense of leadership Sophie presents through his own team. Upperclassmen like Demitrius Kigeya, Theo O’Malley and Frankie Ljucovic have helped Nico in his transition to G as he was nervous coming into a whole new environment. Since a lot of his teammates had great things to say about Sophie, Nico said it was helpful getting some extra brownie points before becoming a member of the team.
As Nico begins his journey and Sophie’s comes to an end, both are part of teams that have seen a lot of success thus far. The men’s team holds a 5-3 record after beating the University of Denver 1-0 Monday night, and the women’s team is off to a flying start of it own, starting the season with a 9-1 record.
Through all the successes and obstacles, it feels comforting knowing you have your siblings by your side to guide you through it all. And in the current state of GU soccer, the Brauns have set up the program well for current and future success.
“It's not easy being an athlete and there's definitely going to be highs and lows,” Sophie said. "It's just such an amazing experience, being a part of a team, being a part of something special like building a program, which I think is kind of the case for both our programs right now.”