Kailua’s Setting Soccer Pace

Naia Graham on the field with his club team. Photo from the family.

Naia Graham on the field with his club team. Photo from the family.

Junior Naia Graham can always be counted among the Surfriders who help set the pace at soccer practice, and that attribute will be as important as ever this year as the lineup has its share of underclassmen.

“Last year, we had a lot of players who were playing for the first time,” said Graham. “I really liked being a leader, and I’m going to like it again. The veterans are helping the younger players with whatever they need.”

What the younger ones may lack in experience, they’ll likely make up for in athleticism, he said. “The freshmen are really energetic – we have young-bloods who can run for days. Half of our team is really skilled, and the other half is really fast.”

Graham is skilled and fast – at either forward or the center-midfield position. He’s one reason hopes are high for Kailua, which went 4-6-1 last year in the ultra-competitive OIA Red East. With the 2013-14 season ready to begin, Graham recently took time away from practice and his studies to visit with MidWeek‘s Windward Islander.

What is your earliest soccer-related memory? The first time I touched a soccer ball was when I was 4, and I played on my first AYSO team when I was 10. Our team was coached by my three uncles (Brent and Sean Graham, and Rob Respicio), and we went undefeated. I remember the whole season, and I was super happy for my uncles because it was their first year of coaching.

Who’s had the biggestimpact on your life? Uncles Brent and Sean. They drive me to every game, and on the way home they tell me everything I did wrong. It helps me to get better.

What area of your game did you focus on during the off-season? My quickness with the ball and my speed of play. I made an academy team (the Portland Timbers), and the little time I had with them taught me where I needed to get better.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned via soccer? Molding my character. I’ve played on so many teams and for so many coaches, and I’ve met a lot of people, and that has affected my character. I’ve had a lot of influences.

Who is Kailua’s best practice player, the guy who puts out the best effort at practice? We all work hard, but if I had to name one, I’d pick Colin Kubota. He’s in great shape, and he just keeps going.

What Internet site do you frequent the most? I check out lots of soccer sites and blogs, mostly Instagram.

What’s your least favorite household chore? Taking out the trash. We have a big house with a lot of people living in it, so the trash fills up fast.

What movie could you watch over and over? Braveheart.

What kind of music do you listen to? Whatever is popular at the time: casual music, a lot of techno – I’m a typical high school kid.

When you have free time, how do you like to spend it? I go to the beach and I surf. My soccer team friends get together and we surf or watch movies.

You’re stuck on Kahoolawe and can have just one food. What would it be? Garlic shrimp.