Al Chase

Just For Kicks

By Al Chase

Thursday, August 12, 1999

Fukuchi has developed
on and off soccer field

USING the knowledge and insight he gained from one disappointment has proved very beneficial for Kyle Fukuchi.

A soccer player since he was 5 years old, Fukuchi made the Hawaii Olympic Development Program state team when he was 14. He went to the regional camp in Boise, Idaho, but was not selected for the regional pool.

"At that age and four years ago, I really didn't know too much about it," Fukuchi said.

But, he realized there were opportunities available if he succeeded in making the regional pool (the first step in making the regional team).

"You can go to the national trials and possible make the national team. Then you get to travel to other countries. Most everything is paid for and you get free gear. At the minimum, you get better as a player," Fukuchi said.

It costs Hawaii players between $1,100 and $1,200 to attend ODP regional camps.

DEVELOPING skills and improving on one's knowledge of the game to the point someone else picks up the tab takes hard work and dedication. Fukuchi was convinced he knew what was necessary to stand a better chance of being selected for the regional pool.

"A lot of it was your awareness of the game, seeing plays developing before they actually did," he said. "At that level, skill has a lot to do with it, but you had to do things out of the ordinary that got you noticed."

The 5-foot-9 attacking midfield honed his game and was picked for the regional pool as a 15, 16 and 17-year-old.

That led to a roster spot on U.S. national teams that traveled to Costa Rica, Germany and Argentina the following April each year. Those experiences were varied.

"On my first trip to Costa Rica, I didn't know what to expect culture-wise," Fukuchi said. "But the people were really nice. They treated us well. I think we all grew as people and we played good soccer."

In Germany, he faced boys his age who already had signed professional contracts and had free cars. The game was played in a hail storm. The final: 2-2.

This past April, he played before 80,000 fans as the U.S. team took on a comparable age-group team from Boca Juniors, a club synonymous with success in Argentina.

With the U.S. ahead, 1-0, in the second half, a hard tackle by a U.S. player was whistled by the referee, but that didn't satisfy Boca.

"They were really frustrated and walked off the field. When they finally came back, another coach came over and said 'that's it'," Fukuchi said. "They hadn't lost in two years."

HE missed school for two weeks on each trip and it was tough making up all the work, but Fukuchi wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.

And, his academics did not suffer. Fukuchi graduated from Mililani High School with a 4.10 grade point average on a 4.00 scale due to his advance placement courses. His GPA was No. 1 out of 507 graduates.

He credits the ODP exposure with landing a partial athletic scholarship to play for the Washington Huskies, the defending Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champs.

A Washington assistant coach first saw the 1999 Oahu Interscholastic Association player of the year at ODP camp.

Head coach Dean Wurzberger then traveled here with the Husky football team last December to watch Fukuchi play.

UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Brown and Portland were interested but Washington's business administration program was the best fit for Fukuchi.

"His participation in ODP was the vehicle for Kyle to be seen by mainland coaches," said his mother Ruth.

Al Chase has been covering sports in Hawaii
since 1968. His column appears on Thursdays.
From the local ranks to the World Cup,
Al Chase will help keep you up to date on futbol.

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