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Junior Preston Kao kicks his soccer journey up a notch

Taek Kim
Having traveled the world to play soccer throughout high school, junior Preston Kao is a self-motivated and talented student athlete. Photo used with permission from Preston Kao.

Having traveled the world to play soccer throughout high school, junior Preston Kao is a self-motivated and talented model student athlete. He started playing soccer recreationally when he was just 8 years old and has since been invited to many tournaments across the world and transitioned to playing for the most competitive league in Santa Clara Sporting Soccer Club through his recent years of dedication and hard work.

From a young age, Kao was motivated to play soccer because of the enjoyment he gained from playing with his friends. His initial devotion to soccer, paired with his support system, allowed him to enjoy soccer to its greatest extent. From the beginning, his biggest supporters have always been his parents, coaches and teammates. At the age of 11, Kao started playing competitively on a local soccer team, where he played three times a week. Unlike some student athletes, his passion for soccer has always been rooted in his self-motivation and love for the sport itself. 

“My motivation to play soccer has remained the same throughout the years, which is to have fun,” Kao said. “Some of my idols include Luka Modric and Johan Cryuff.”

Since joining Santa Clara Sporting, he has had extraordinary opportunities to attend tournaments all over the country, as well as various European countries including Sweden, Germany and Spain for special matches.  He joined Santa Clara Sporting when he was 13 years old with the hopes of playing soccer at a more competitive level  to improve his game, and has since remained on the team. Beyond the development of his skills in soccer, he’s been able to meet friends and coaches who support him along the way.

“Preston was always quiet and didn’t talk much,” junior and teammate Rayyan Ghafoor said. “But when the game started, he turned into a whole different person screaming and shouting at everyone. He would turn into  a leader by trying to motivate his teammates. He always made sure to get to the ball first and his mentality was unmatched, which made him a good player.”

Additionally, being a player on a prestigious team comes with solid time management skills and a good work ethic — traits that Kao has either demonstrated or picked up over time. While traveling and competing, he also stays on top of his rigorous schoolwork by managing his time spent on each class in order to keep up with all of his classes.

“I keep up with my schoolwork by trying to stay focused and set myself goals,” Kao said.

Throughout his soccer journey, Kao has had to push through many injuries, including a pulled hamstring and sprained ankle. Despite these injuries, Kao continued to work hard, demonstrating resilience.

“Sometimes when you’re injured, it is hard to get back up to speed when you return,” Kao said. “I was motivated to continue playing soccer because I still loved playing it for fun.”

At just 16-years-old, Kao has already been able to achieve what many athletes can only hope to achieve during their careers. He envisions himself to continue playing soccer in college and in the future as it has become such a large part of his life already.

“Soccer is not like a job to me, it is a passion,” Kao said.

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About the Contributors
Eileen Zhu
Eileen Zhu, In-Depth Editor
(she/her) Eileen is a junior and this year's In-depth editor. Outside of journalism, she likes playing soccer, baking, making bracelets, listening to music, eating snacks, playing piano, and spending time with her friends. 
Taek Kim
Taek Kim, Staffer
(he/him) Taek is currently a junior and is very stoked to be a first-year staffer on the Epic for 2023-24! Aside from journalism, Taek enjoys listening to jazz, yapping about politics, and playing cello during his free time.

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