In Europe, academics and athletics are not intertwined like they are in the United States; athletes have to decide between pursuing an education or pursuing an athletic career.
In the United States, universities are able to provide an opportunity for athletes to play and study. That balance was exactly what German national and Bradley senior soccer player Gerit Wintermeyer was looking for after finishing high school.
Coming to the United States was not originally Wintermeyer’s plan, but because of some connections, he played in a college showcase where Bradley recruited him.
Wintermeyer’s decision to come to Bradley was a product of starting college in January, when schools have limited athletic scholarships left to offer.
“Back then it was simple; Bradley was the university that offered me the most scholarships,” Wintermeyer said. “That was the main key why I came here.”
Joining the team halfway through the school year seems like it would be a challenge for any athlete. Because he decided to come during the winter and as a testament to his talent level, he was able to become part of the team smoothly, according to Bradley head soccer coach Jim DeRose.
“He was ready to play,” DeRose said. “He was able to integrate into the team very quickly. It did not take long for him to establish himself as one of our top players, and one of the top forwards in the league.”
Junior and fellow forward Nick Feeney feels that it’s his talent that makes him stick out as a leader on a very young Braves squad.
“You can tell he’s the best player on our team … everyone looks up to him,” Feeney said. “When we played in games last year we ran a lot through him and he was able to take … the pressure pretty well.”
The words of his teammates will mean more to Wintermeyer than any awards ever will, but he’s stacked those up as well. He’s been named College Soccer News’ player of the week, to the Missouri Valley Conference first team twice and the MVC offensive player of the week three times throughout his career.
Off the field, Wintermeyer majors in international business.
“It just made sense for me speaking two languages,” Wintermeyer said. “[For example] I could do anything related [to] imports and exports between Germany and America, anything from sports to cars, which are both obviously big industries.”
Wintermeyer plans to graduate this semester, but moving forward, he is still a little unsure of what he wants to do. COVID-19 threw off his plans, but he is thinking about continuing his education with a master’s degree, then pursuing a professional soccer career.
His absence from the team will be a big one to fill, but DeRose believes he will leave behind a lasting impact on team culture.
“When you take away the spine of a team … it leaves more than a hole, it’s a wave effect,” DeRose said. “The impression he’s going to leave is that whatever he [was] asked to do at the time, he’s going to do it till the end … he’s very professional in his approach … That’s what you want the young guys to see every day.”
It’s team culture that motivates Wintermeyer to continue to work hard, but most importantly give back.
“I’ve always wanted to do as good as I can to give back to Bradley, to Coach [DeRose], to the [people] that have invested in me, the time [and] the money invested in me,” Wintermeyer said. “I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
While he is still unsure if he will get to play his senior season — which was moved from the fall to the spring — Wintermeyer can be assured that his legacy will stay with the Braves for years to come.