Story by Jeff Gard/jgsportsmedia.com
Elijah Brahaney approaches his education and athletics the same way.
That’s not just because he’s the son of teachers, Kevin and Julie Brahaney, although they always ensured school was a priority as he was growing up.
“I always enjoyed it and I’m a competitive person so I can be competitive in sports, but also be competitive in school,” the 19-year-old Brahaney said. “I always try and push myself to do the best. I study a lot and I’m a really hard worker at school and I think that’s really paid off for me.”
For the Campbellford native, studying for school is like going to a sports practice and a teacher is like having a coach.
“The coach-player dynamic is similar to the teacher-student dynamic. You’ve got to work with them, listen to them, but you also provide your own opinions,” Brahaney said. “I love to discuss things with coaches and teachers. I find that’s the way I learn best. Not questioning their techniques, but questioning what they’re saying and making sure I’m understanding what they’re saying. Communication like that is one similarity that I definitely use in both.”
Brahaney, who is now in his second year studying at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, was announced Saturday as one of this year’s Ontario Amateur Softball Association (OASA) scholarship winners.
In applying for the scholarship, Brahaney had the required endorsement from Jamie McCann, his coach during the past five years with the Ivanhoe Storm. He also supplied his school grades, sports background and awards as well as volunteer activities.
The scholarship will aid Brahaney is his business administration studies at Laurier. He’s in the co-op program, which will enable him to gain some work experience during his years there as well.
In addition to fastball, Brahaney also continues to play hockey. That sport was his first love.
“I started skating on my pond that my dad makes for us out in the backyard when I was three-years-old. He played his whole life and my brother and sister both played,” he said.
His minor hockey journey began at home with the Campbellford Colts before moving on to play at the triple-A level with the Quinte Red Devils for five seasons and the Peterborough Petes for one.
At the junior C level, Brahaney had a big offensive season for the North Kawartha Knights during the 2018-2019 Provincial Junior Hockey League campaign, registering 22 goals and 35 assists for 57 points in 42 games. He was limited to just 10 regular season and seven playoff games last season with North Kawartha due to his school commitments in Waterloo.
Brahaney has also played three games for the junior A Trenton Golden Hawks.
Should there be a season this year, he’s hoping for a trade from North Kawartha to a junior team closer to Waterloo.
Brahaney noted his brother Jakob played for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League and his sister Kaya plays double-A girls hockey for the Belleville Bearcats
“We’re a big hockey family, but also a ball family, too,” he remarked.
Brahaney, though, only began playing fastball around the time he was in Grade 8, playing a season in Campbellford before moving on to play for the Ivanhoe Storm, winning a silver medal at the Eastern Canadian championship in Newfoundland in 2016 and gold at the OASA U19 provincial championship this year.
He was also selected twice to play for the Shallow Lake Sting from Owen Sound at the Canadian Fastpitch Championships, earning a silver medal the first time.
For many years, Brahaney played soccer in the summer before he made the switch to fastball, a sport he says his dad was a great player at growing up and into his adult years.
“I guess I just didn’t want to play when I was younger and then when I made the switch over in Grade 8 I fell in love with it instantly,” he said. “I kind of couldn’t believe I hadn’t been playing it my whole life.”
His first summer, Brahaney “played every single position on the field” but then his focus narrowed to catcher, first base, second base and shortstop.
Now you can expect to see him in the middle infield at either second base or shortstop, which he enjoys.
“Lots of action, basically, and I’m pretty quick,” Brahaney said. “You get an opportunity to make nice plays playing in the middle and I feel comfortable playing there now.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising, but Brahaney’s future goals likely will combine his love of education and athletics.
“I would love to work in a sports business environment. I’m going to be testing out some job opportunities with co-op,” he said. “With sports, I definitely want to coach as soon as I age out of playing. That’s always been a dream of mine. I always feel like I’m kind of an extra coach on some of my teams. I like to be vocal and help lead.”