Commerce City, Colo. – On a hot summer day in August, after another long day of training, Rapids defender Kosuke Kimura walked into the team’s front office looking for the address and directions to a community appearance that was scheduled for later that evening.
A staff member looked at the player appearance chart and pointed out to Kimura that he was not scheduled for an appearance that day. It was Edson, one of the team’s mascots, that was requested at a nearby charity event to raise funds for disadvantaged kids.
Kosuke knew this, but said he wanted to also be there, if it was OK with the club.
And so he went, not looking for attention or a pat on the back, or to be paid for his time.
That mentality, in a nutshell, is the reason that Kimura was named the Colorado Rapids 2010 Humanitarian of the Year.
“It’s great," said Kimura about the honor, "But I don’t do these things to get rewarded or for recognition. Obviously we have a lot of spare time, compared to other people working normal jobs. If you think about what you can do with your spare time, there are kids or people out there that need help, and I’m always willing to help.”
Known to be the last player to leave the practice field – every day – Kimura has made an impact not only on his team, but to kids, fans, and the community in general.
“Having worked with him for as long as I have now,” said Rapids coach Gary Smith, “I can fully understand and appreciate what he’s offering off the field because he is such a wonderful individual and such a terrific character. He’s extremely humble, he’s achieved what he has given the difficulties that he’s had to endure, and I’m sure that he’s trying to offer that to as many individuals as possible.”
It is easy to look back at the contribution players made for the Rapids on the field on their way to their first-ever MLS Cup Championship.
In the case of Kimura, even with his tireless work ethic and strong defensive play, he’ll likely be remember for the goal he scored against San Jose in the Conference Championship which gave Colorado a 1-0 win and a spot in the MLS Cup title match.
However, it is his action off the field that provide a look into his upbringing, his desire to excel, and commitment to assist those around him.
“Both of my parents are teachers, they care about kids all the time,” said Kimura. “Obviously doing things for yourself is really important, but in this world, we live as a community and I feel comfortable and at peace contributing to mine.”
Kimura moved to the United States in 2003 from Japan. Without knowing a word of English, he taught himself with dictionaries, got into Western Illinois University, and achieved his dream of playing professional soccer when the Rapids drafted him in 2007.
In his fourth year with the Rapids, the 26-year old made countless appearances on his own and on behalf of the club during the 2010 season.
When he wasn’t spending time with military families, he was working with youth soccer players, or taking part in soccer clinics for underserved children in the community.
“It’s a tribute to his background in general,” said Smith of Kimura’s involvement. “Having come from such a difficult induction to the country, and having to really find the resourcefulness to move forward, to get himself into college, to learn the language, and now, to get to the point where every single day you can see the determination and desire to be as good as he possibly can. It doesn’t surprise me that his work off the field is just as resourceful. He’s given as on much on the field as he has off it.”
Throughout the year, Kimura visited area schools to talk to kids about the importance of health, nutrition and teamwork through the Rapids’ Recess program and the Fitness for Life program.
He visited sick children at HealthOne Hospitals, using his kindness and sense of humor to bring smiles to the kids.
And despite English being his second language, he read books to children and stressed the importance of education.
“My parents always said, “Kosuke, you can do whatever you want, but still you have to take care of others, and do things with a good heart,” he added.
He is a permanent fixture at the Rapids’ off-the field events which benefit Kroenke Sports Charities, including the Rapids’ World Cup of Wine & Beer and Charity Classic Golf Tournament. He also continues to be actively involved with the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.
Closer to his heart, he is also involved with the Asian Education Advisory Council (AEAC) in Denver, which helps students of Asian/Pacific Island heritage by improving educational opportunities and providing quality education.
Following the guidance of his family, Kimura tries to lead as much by example as by his words.
“It is important to help kids, and to be a good role model,” he says. “Showing them to work hard, to stay on the right path, and just guide them to it. And who knows, maybe some will take my advice, example, or guidance. But either way, it feels good to be able to try to help.”