Coffee with Kevin Chang

A special Coffee With Shay this Father’s Day.  Featuring the man himself, my own father Kevin Chang.. or as I call him, “Dad.”  Many know him as Coach Kevin or even Mr. Chang.  For this reason, I have been coined “Kevin Chang’s daughter.”  As much as I complain about this, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Kevin Chang.  Where do you begin?  Well, how about at the beginning?  He is an athletic trainer by trade.  My brother and I grew up in the training room surrounded with sports – it was amazing.  As an athletic trainer of a high school, my dad covered all of the games.  My brother and I would stay up on our balcony, where we could see the football field lights from our house.  We cheered knowing that our dad was under those lights.  When we got to attend the games, me and my brother would get so excited to see him run onto the field.  As we were only in our early elementary school years, we didn’t understand at the time that the reason he was on the field was to help an injured athlete thus putting our mom into sheer embarrassment that her two kids were cheering on an injury in an otherwise silent stadium.  But that’s how excited we were to see our dad helping people.  He has always wholeheartedly helped everyone.  He will always stop to help someone and if he doesn’t have the answer, he will find it for you.  After all, he does know everyone – and I do mean everyone.  He is one of those people who will run into someone he knows in every aisle of the supermarket and spend fifteen minutes talking to each one of them.  A true people person.  He’ll connect you with pretty much anyone or anything you need.  Networking skills might be one of my favorite things I’ve learned from him.  So now it’s my turn.  If you don’t know him, let me introduce you to Kevin Chang….  

Change-maker: Kevin Chang

Coffee of Choice: Black coffee.. Kona coffee preferably

Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaiʻi

Education: Saint Louis High School; B.S. in Sports Science with a concentration in Sports Medicine from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO

Profession: Athletic Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Coach

Who is Kevin Chang?
I am a business partner of a sports performance and rehabilitation company for the last 16 years.  In addition, I help manage a public charity that focuses on under-served communities in Hawaiʻi, Washington, and Texas.  Through the years, I’ve also worked at hospitals in sports medicine, orthopedics and marketing.  I even taught high school for five years – Biology, Health, Sports Medicine, and PE.  And now I’m a lecturer at University of Hawaiʻi in the department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Services.  Early in my career I got my start working as an athletic trainer at high schools and physical therapy clinics for many years.  That pretty much sums up everything I do.

What is Hawaii Optimum Performance (HOP)?
It is a sports performance, fitness, and rehabilitation training company that focuses on youth athletes and their families.  We help develop functional movement and athleticism to help our clients increase performance and prevent injuries.  We also work with physicians to help their patients return to normal activities and sports in our medical bridge program.

How has HOP grown and where is it at now?
It started with Ross Oshiro and I working with soccer athletes in community parks in 2002. We then rented gym space once a week for about 3 years. Finally, we opened a clinic in 2007 in Kaimuki sharing space with Rehab Therapy Partners. As we grew, we moved to Waipiʻo into a 4,000 sq foot converted warehouse – this is where we’ve been since 2010. It includes a 2,000 sq foot indoor turf field, weight lifting equipment, and athletic training area. In 2014, we opened a satellite location at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa Stan Sheriff Fitness Center. In 2018, NFL Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowl MVP, Michael Bennett joined the company as a partner. Now we have a staff of nine trainers – more than half of them were prior clients starting from when they were in middle and high school, continuing into college, and coming back to work with us after graduation. We are one of the only companies in Hawaiʻi that focuses on developing young athletes from every sports and level. But we have expanded in the last five years to include elite level NFL players. To name a few: Michael and Martellus Bennett, Manti Teo, DeForest Buckner, Cliff Avril, Jadeveon Clowney, Danny Shelton, Arik Armstead, Earl Thomas, Robert Nkemdiche.

What makes HOP different?
We focus on the small details.  Anyone can train.  Anyone can put in the work.  But in order to succeed, you need a solid base.  What we do at HOP is to change the way athletes look at their training, their sport, and their perspective.  Developing a mindset that will enable them to grow physically, emotionally, and mentally.

What would you say to all of the aspiring trainers, especially those that want to train the type of clientele you have?
Go to the mainland and learn from as many people as you can.  This field is always evolving.  Developing a systematic philosophy will help you provide quality training every time.  But knowledge is only part of it.  It’s really more about knowing how to cultivate and develop an athlete that already has access to the best trainers and coaches in the world.  Having the opportunity to train an athlete is one thing.  But to change the entire mindset of an athlete can change the entire direction of their career.

What does it take to own a sports training business and to train athletes?
That’s multifold.  It comes down to an athlete trusting their trainer or coach.  To have the knowledge, to know when to apply the skills to help them achieve their goals, and for these elite athletes to trust that you will help them achieve their pinnacle of success.  The other things is that it takes a lot of money and connections to establish yourself in the community and in this field.  

Speaking of networking and connections.  How do you know so many people? Why does it take so long for us to get in and out of a supermarket?
Because I see a lot of people I know! Being in the sporting world for such a long time in Hawaiʻi, you meet people from all walks of life including coaches and parents.  Cultivating these relationships really comes down to sincerely being a friend and resource.  

What is your favorite part about training athletes – both recreational and professional?
When I see them “get it.”  The light bulb comes on and they realize their potential or the next step to achieving their potential.  

What is your involvement with The Bennett Foundation?
I was one of the individuals who helped to start the foundation and helped managed it for the last five years.  Since it started in 2014, I’ve held positions as the managing director, the executive director, and now a board member.  

What is The Bennett Foundation?
It is a 501(c)(3) that was started by Michael and Pele Bennett to help fight childhood obesity.  It has evolved into an educational program for children and their families to create social equity in under-served communities.  In Hawaiʻi, the foundation focuses on farm to early childhood education and mentoring teachers on how to incorporate nutrition, cooking, gardening, and sustainability into their curriculum.  In Seattle, the foundation focuses on social equity education and sports camps.  In the past, we have supported educational programs in Houston, South Dakota, and Senegal, Africa.  

What issues are you passionate about? 
Providing equitable opportunity for all people so that they can be happy.  It’s really making sure people are given a chance to succeed in their dreams.

What change do you want to see in the community?
I would like to see people care about others more.  Just in general, I think people should care more.  That might lead to less crime, less poverty, and more happiness.  That has always been my key word – “to CARE.”  

Who inspires you?
My father.  He has been my role model from day one.  

What is the greatest piece of advice you have ever received?
“When you get older, you’ll find out” – that was Ray Fong, my friend. I don’t know if that’s advice but he would always tell me that. He helped transition me to thinking more like an adult. Him and his wife Chloe – he was one of my early mentors in life. I met him in college in Colorado. He was another Saint Louis graduate and he took care of me. He was one of the guys that helped me grow up mentally. And he was very right.

What is one piece of advice that you like to give?
My greatest piece of advice is, “Every experience is a stepping stone.  Keep moving from one experience to the next.  From one stone to the next.  Reaching your destination is not the key.  It’s the journey there that is most important.”

What is your life motto?
My two life mottos since college are: “Everything happens for a reason” and “Everything always works out in the end.”  

What are some of your favorite coffee shops for meetings?
Starbucks.  That’s pretty much it.  It’s convenient.  I like hotel lobbies that have coffee shops – it’s a cool vibe.  

A few photos down memory lane…