Like thousands of fathers, Rich Braun’s soccer career got its start as an assistant coach on a youth team his daughters played for in the Long Branch Youth Association.
Having been co-chairman of youth activities and a Little League baseball coach in the Long Branch Elks program for 12 years, Rich began his soccer head coaching career with a 10-year old girls team.
A coaching career that saw him in charge of two baseball and one soccer team at the same time, as well as Player Committee Chairman and LBYSA Treasurer while also coordinating a 135-team indoor tournament for four years, it’s no wonder Long Branch Youth Soccer Association saluted him as Man of the Year in 1984 with citiation from the N.J. Senate, Assembly and city of Long Branch.
Although he ended a 25-year baseball coaching career in 1991, he remained devoted to soccer. By 1994 he had brought many of his youth girls players together to form the Peninsula Aztecs, who have gone on to become one of the state’s premier women’s teams while playing in the Garden State Women’s League.
In the 15 years the Aztecs and ‘Mr. B.” have been together, they have maintained a high level of play and sportsmanship. Their commitment to soccer excellence has become the Aztecs’ trademark.
In 1994, Rich coached a GSSL Select Team against the N.J. Wildcats of the WSL and was awarded a plaque by the Istanbul Sports, Culture and Educational Center for promoting soccer in N.J.
The GSSL honored Rich as Coach of the Year in 2001 and the next year named him Women’s Coordinator. Rich directed Peninsula Aztecs women’s teams in GSSL, N.J. State Cup and National Cup competitions where the team as posted 264 wins, 23 ties, and just 53 defeats. Peninsula’s resume includes 12 league titles, 10 State Cup championships, three appearances in the USSF national semifinals, a trip to the U.S. Women’s national Cup finals in 2002 and an NJSA U-23 title in 2001.
Monmouth university honored Rich in 2009 with the Rebecca Stafford Leadership in Sports Award, saluting him for “providing a place to play for female soccer playersin which they can have fun and success at the same time. Rich volunteers his time and energy for the good of the game.”
His Aztecs players have given back to the game as recreation, high school and college coaches as well as referees and trainers. Today you can still find Rich Braun coaching, fixing nets at a match, lining a field or helping players with school or personal issues. “It’s for my ladies,” is always Rich’s answer.
This Hall of Fame salutes him for a life devoted to women’s soccer.