Adam Braz believes the first step to success in soccer is to find pleasure in just playing the game.
"You have to enjoy playing," the 28-year-old Montreal Impact defender said. "If you believe in yourself and your abilities, work hard and you can go far with soccer."
Now in his third stint with the United Soccer Leagues First Division club, Braz said during his development he focused on his own strengths as a player.
"Growing up, I tried to do everything to play to my strengths and avoid being exposed to my weaknesses," Braz explained. "I tried not to take days off because I knew in the end I'd regret it."
He became passionate about soccer at a young age.
"I started to realize that playing professionally could be a possibility if I worked at it, so I just put my head down a worked as hard as I could," Braz said.
Now in his seventh professional season, the Montreal native said he's seen soccer increase in speed and physicality.
"Players have become much more athletic and much quicker," he said. "You see that especially in the Premiership: what a fast, athletic and great-paced game."
Off-season training and nutrition have made a huge difference in the quality of play, he said.
"When I was growing up, no one really spoke about proper nutrition and now it's one of the main things people talk about," Braz said.
"Of the two months players get off, they only use two to three weeks to rest and then they’re back training on their own to stay fit."
Another change he's noticed in the United Soccer Leagues is the emerging parity among the teams.
"Now, on any given day one team can beat another," Braz said. "Five years ago, two or three teams were always on top."
Braz signed with Toronto FC for the 2007 Major League Soccer season, but he was underwhelming in an injury-plagued season, playing 13 times for 733 minutes in total.
Bedevilled by injuries and a lack of consistency, Braz was publicly called out by coach Mo Johnston (now the team's general manager) and was let go by the club at the end of the season.
Braz returned to the Impact, with whom he won a USL championship in 2004.
Despite Impact's struggles this season, Braz said he hopes to win another title.
"It was such a wonderful feeling and a great experience in 2004.… That serves my memory well and I'd really like to bring home another championship," Braz said.
As for his personal goals, "I just want to play the game as long as my body permits me to."