Sophomore Karson Kendall waits for his soccer coach in the sweltering heat of St. Thomas, Virgin Island. He does his pre-practice routine by himself on a soccer field littered with rocks and ankle-twisting holes. Kendall moved to St. Thomas from Phoenix, Arizona when he was six years old and enrolled in a kids’ soccer clinic, which sparked his passion for soccer.
“He works very hard. Sometimes you need to stop him and say enough is enough,” Ahmed Muhammad, his private coach from St. Thomas, said. “If you told him to practice five days he would come five days and give 200 percent.”
Kendall caught Muhammad’s eye because of his size, speed and athleticism. The pair has been training together since last May.
“He was a real talent who needed a challenge,” Muhammad said.
When the opportunity came for Kendall to leave St. Thomas and move to Kansas to play for the Sporting Academy U-16 club, he sprung at the chance. Muhammad, who had previously worked with a Sporting Academy coach, arranged for Kendall to fly to Kansas City. However, moving meant he would leave his family and friends and live with a host family.
“Since moving it has been really hard not seeing my parents every day,” Kendall said. “I have to wake up and find my rides to places, I have to make my breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner because that isn’t my host family’s responsibility. They are kind of like my roommates more than my parents.”
After being pulled aside at the end of tryouts to hear he had made the team, he realized the sacrifice was worthwhile.
Kendall’s tryout took place at the end of the summer.
“I was pretty nervous on the plane, I threw up in the airport bathroom,” Kendall said.
Once arriving in Kansas City, Kendall’s tryout was simple. He watched them play two games, walked through a couple practices and played in a game.
“It was really high intensity and a lot of work. But I really liked it, it was very professional,” Kendall said.
After the last day of practicing, the head coach approached Kendall to tell him that he made the team and they would love to have him come back and play.
“I was kind of surprised when I made the team, all the players are crazy good,” Kendall said.
Kendall went back to St. Thomas to complete his fall semester of school. He arrived in Kansas in early January, joining the team and enrolling at Shawnee Mission East. He now lives with a host family, newlyweds, Adam and Katie Walls.
Welcomed by his Sporting Academy teammates, they spend a lot of time off the field, riding with each other to practice, getting food and going to the movies.
“We all were like family before he came and are still like family with him. Just like adding an additional piece to the puzzle,” Blue Valley Northwest Freshman, Sheldon China said.