Kama Kang is a hero to his parents.
The senior on the Kamehameha-Maui football team has faced many challenges. And a landmark start to overcoming them were the months leading up to his ninth grade year.
“This sport has taught me more than life. It has given me so many opportunities,” Kang said.
Football wasn’t Kama Kang’s first love. It was wrestling and jiu-jitsu – which he didn’t just love, he dominated.
But even though he dominated the competition, things took a turn in middle school. In particular, in the classroom.
Things continued to get worse when he made the transition to Kamehameha Maui in eighth grade, which led to a meeting with a specialist.
That’s when Kang was diagnosed with high-functioning autism.
“I always felt that I was kind of a different kid,” he said. “At the time I didn’t know that I was diagnosed with that. I always thought that I guess this just how I am. I was just never the cool kid or I was always always the kid that just sit by himself. My reaction was oh, I’ve never heard this term before. This is effecting me.”
That same school year Kama had surprised everyone one day when he got home from school with some news.
“I always thought I was too small,” he said. “I always thought that I would never be able to play such a sport like this. But then they had signups one day and I was like oh wow! Maybe I can give this a chance, to show them that I can play. And so one day I just signed up and I came home was like I’m gonna play football. And they were like what? Really? And I was like yeah I’m going to play football. And they were shocked. But at the same time they were so happy because it was one of the sports that I love watching on tv and I was like wow I actually get to play this sport.”
Starting football and his diagnosis were separated by just a couple months. And four years later, Kama’s growth has been rapid. He’s started on special teams for the Warriors as a junior and a senior – a bright period after a bleak time that would cause any parent to worry.
“There are limits in the real world where I can’t do certain things. But it doesn’t mean that I won’t. Be able to try. One thing is communication,” he said. “That’s what I’ve learned from playing this sport. In life I’ve learned that you got to communicate with others in order to be successful. Everyone is different. There’s always going to be people out there telling you other things. It may never be good and it may never be bad. You’re always going to have both sides. But as long as you believe in yourself. As long as what makes me happy and what makes me a person, and accepted to society than what can go wrong?”