Deacon Spotlight: Hosei Kijima


Khushi Arya, Staff Writer

Hosei Kijima is a sophomore on the men’s soccer team. Though he is a defender, he essentially plays all positions. Originally from Yokohama, Japan, Kijima moved to the U.S. when he was 12 years old and played club soccer with the IMG Academy U18 Elite Boys squad. Earlier this month, he scored two goals in the last five minutes against ACC rival, Boston College.

Khushi Arya: How and when did you start playing soccer?

Hosei Kijima: As a child, I was always on the athletic side and liked running around a lot. When I was six years old, I joined a local soccer team in the park near my house in Yokohoma. It was just something I did to stay active, and my parents were happy to see me enjoy playing a sport.

KA: What made you pick Wake Forest?

HK: In all honesty, Wake Forest was my only option. While I was a junior in high school, Coach Bobby Muss needed a player because someone who was supposed to come to Wake Forest went pro. I was the first player that the IMG coaches recommended to him and, luckily, he ended up liking me. I committed to Wake as a junior and graduated [high school] one semester early so I could play in the spring of last year. I am glad Coach Muuss believed in me.

KA: You were born in Japan and moved to the United States. How is living here different?

HK: The Japanese culture, in general, entails a lot of discipline and hard work. Football (soccer) is the number one sport in Japan. It’s almost a way of life. There are four to five teams playing for each school, and the competition is intense. I was 12 years old when I moved to Florida to train and study at IMG academy. It took me two years to fully adapt to the American culture, and while it wasn’t necessarily difficult, it was different. I was trying to assimilate, but at the same time, trying to figure out my unique identity. I respect and honor my family more than anything, and I try to visit them every now and then. My intention is to never forget my roots as I find my place in this world.

KA: Let’s talk about the Boston College game last week. How did you feel when you scored your first career goals at Wake Forest?

HK: It’s a funny story. I had been practicing a lot of volleys the week before the game. A day before the game, I was at the pit eating with my teammates, and I vividly remember telling my teammate Nico that I was going to score a volley in the game. One minute we were losing, and the next, the ball was up in the air — I just knew the goal was bound to happen. It was pretty seamless. The emotion I felt was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. After tying the game in the 85th minute, I didn’t want us to go into overtime [because] I knew everyone was exhausted. When the goalkeeper moved from his position in the last minute of the game, I caught him off guard and put in another goal. The ball was beautifully passed to me by David Wrona, and I took a low shot [that found] the goal.

KA: What’s your favorite Wake Forest soccer memory?

HK: Everyone will assume it’s that Boston College game, but that is not true. My favorite memories are simply seeing everyone work hard during training and getting through the ups and downs, together, as a team. I always remind my teammates that we are not perfect and we are not going to win everything. But the beauty of the game is coming back stronger every time.

KA: What does a regular week of training look like for men’s soccer?

HK: We have 8 a.m. training sessions that incorporate intense training in short periods followed by 10 a.m. lifts four to five days a week. In the afternoon, we have Zoom calls to review the film and tactical stuff. On game days, we have a jog and stretch in the morning. The idea is to bring the heart rate up and bring it back down so we are ready to go during the game. Then we go over defensive principles and get breakfast sandwiches.

KA: How do you balance schoolwork with a demanding soccer schedule?

HK: I don’t believe a perfect balance exists. Nobody can balance academics, a college sport and social obligations equally. I try to get things done early, but sometimes I leave something until the last minute. I think that happens to the best of us, and it is okay as long as we learn from those mistakes and do better next time.

KA: How do you feel about this season so far, in light of the pandemic?

HK: The pandemic has been a serious issue for us. Just yesterday at the pregame meal, we were talking about how adversity shows a person’s true character. We wear masks and socially distance so we can stay healthy and support the team. The fight we give for each other as a family is noteworthy. Last semester, the UVA game was unfortunate because most of our players couldn’t play due to contact tracing. But, we got through it, and that experience made us stronger.

KA: What is something that you do for fun aside from playing soccer?

HK: I like to produce music once or twice a week. I also enjoy controlled recovery periods or CRPs, as I like to call them. In other words, I appreciate my 30 or 90-minute naps.

KA: What are your future plans? Do you plan to play professionally?

HK: I would love to play professionally if I can. Currently, my focus is on this season. I want to do my best to help the team win. More importantly, I want to be there to put a smile on everyone’s faces when we are going through tough times. I like to crack jokes to make people laugh and to project good energy to the team.