Never Stop Believing In Yourself!
"My ultimate goal is to reach my absolute full potential as a goalkeeper whatever level that may end up being."
We sat down with Kainoa Likewise, an up and coming goalkeeping product of the Colorado Rapids development academy, to discuss his path through the Rapids system and some of the opportunities it has afforded him!
In case people don't know who you are, give us a little background on yourself. How did you get involved with soccer? More importantly, how did you get involved with the Colorado Rapids Academy?
My name is Kainoa Likewise; I'm 18 years old and I am a goalkeeper for the Charlotte Independence. My first memories of playing soccer were when I was around 5 years old on a YMCA team in Massachusetts. Believe it or not, throughout my youth playing career, I was a striker and it wasn’t until I was around 11 years old that I transitioned to being a goalkeeper. Soccer wasn’t even my favorite sport for most of my childhood; baseball was. My dream was actually to be a Major League baseball player when I grew up! It wasn’t until that same time, when I was 11 or so, and I was having a very bad experience with the coach on my particular baseball team at the time, that I decided to quit baseball and see how far I could take soccer. I first got involved with the Rapids academy when I was 14 years old. When I was 13, I was playing for a local soccer club in Colorado Springs, where I lived, called Pride, and I decided to sign up for a goalkeeper camp in Denver because there was no specific goalkeeper training at Pride. It just so happened that the head of the camp was Chris Sharpe who is also the director of goalkeeping at the Rapids Academy and also the First Team goalkeeper coach for the Rapids. I eventually found out that the Rapids were forming a U-14 DA team and I asked him if I could train with the Rapids for half a year when I was 13 to try out for it. I guess I impressed enough in his camp and he said I could. I made the U-14 DA team that summer and the rest is history.
How do you think the Academy, both the Rapids & the Development Academy as a whole, has benefitted young goalkeepers such as yourself?
Well for starters we all get free cleats and gloves! Nah but in all seriousness, I wouldn’t be half the goalkeeper I am today if I wasn’t a part of the Rapids Academy. Being a part of a Developmental
Academy, and especially an MLS Academy, allows young goalkeepers to have access to the best facilities, coaches, training environment, and best game competition there is in this country right now. In the Rapids Academy I have constantly been pushed to perform at a higher level than the one I was at before. Whether I was 14 training with the 16’s or 16 training with the 18’s or even the First team; the constant competition and being pushed to my limits not only elevated my goalkeeper skills, but my maturity as a player and person as well. If your goal is to become a professional goalkeeper and you have the chance to join a Development Academy team, I would definitely suggest taking it.
You've spent time training with the first team in Colorado with guys like Zac Macmath & Tim Howard, how do you think that experience has helped you grow as a goalkeeper?
It’s been tremendous! I have learned many things from Zac! I haven’t learned anything from Tim though. Nah just kidding, I’ve learned tons from both of them! To be honest just being able to watch them in practice; not only how they play, but also how they handle themselves professionally on and off the field, has taught me the most by far. The little bits of advice I get here and there also help too! As I mentioned before, training with them during the season and being able to spend two pre-seasons with them has definitely pushed me to my goalkeeping limits at times which, I feel, has lead to tremendous growth in my game. I mean as a teenager, getting the opportunity and experience to train alongside and learn from a seasoned MLS goalkeeper in Zac Macmath and the greatest U.S Goalkeeper ever in Tim Howard is truly hard to put into words.
In the past couple of years, you have also spent time training with the Charlotte Independence of the USL. Walk us through the thought process that lead to that decision?
Well to be honest, this opportunity for me to play with the Charlotte Independence kind of came out of the blue. Last year, right at the beginning of March the second string goalkeeper for Charlotte got injured and the replacement goalkeeper Charlotte brought in to replace him got injured as well. The Charlotte coaching staff had seen me play a month before during the Rapids Pre-season training camp and I guess were impressed enough with me that they asked that I come out to be the second string keeper for Charlottes home opener. I actually ended up staying for a couple of weeks until the keeper was healthy again and then headed back to Colorado. Shortly after returning, I was offered the opportunity to sign an amateur contract with Charlotte for the remainder of their season. The opportunity to train everyday in a professional environment and get meaningful playing time in practice as the second string keeper, as well as dress for every game was too good of an opportunity for me to pass up. After staying to graduate high school in Colorado, I headed back out here in early June.
What do you think some of the pros/cons have been as far as your decision to train with the Charlotte Independence as opposed to being in Colorado with the Academy? Do you feel your development as a goalkeeper is potentially higher being in Charlotte as opposed to with the Academy?
The biggest pros so far of being in Charlotte have been the opportunity to train meaningfully in practice everyday as well as having the experience of dressing for games. While training with the First Team in Colorado is great, Zac and Tim, naturally, get majority of the reps and all of the games and scrimmages during training sessions. Being in Charlotte on the other hand, has allowed me the opportunity to train in a professional environment everyday, while getting the same amount or majority of reps and playing in all of the scrimmages and games during training sessions. Being able to play in all of the scrimmages and games during training has been a huge positive, I feel like, for my development as a goalkeeper. There actually really aren’t too many cons about Charlotte. The biggest one for me is the lack of actual meaningful games I get to play in. Last year, as the number two goalkeeper, while I was able to get meaningful playing time in training, I wasn't able to get actual game playing experience. The biggest con for me though about Charlotte is the heat and cockroaches during the summer! Those things are nasty!
The next step for you is to head to Air Force in the fall to join their soccer program. What were some of the key factors in making that decision? Did the thought of going professional cross your mind?
This was definitely a very tough decision for me. My college search ended up coming down to Georgetown, Michigan, or Air Force. I ultimately ended up choosing Air Force due to the fact that I felt most comfortable with their coaches and also most confident about the playing situation there. My coaches here in Charlotte and at the Rapids both have said that the next big step for me in my career is getting the chance to play in lots of meaningful games and I felt that I have the best and fairest chance to compete right away for the starting spot at the Air Force Academy. Michigan is also $40,000 dollars a year whereas the Air Force is free, which might have had something to do with it as well! The thought of going professional straight away did actually cross my mind, but I ultimately decided against it due to the fact that no real good viable options came my way that I was happy with. Also personally, I would like to get a college education geared toward a specific career field I would be very interested in if soccer ultimately did not work out for me.
What short term goals do you have for yourself career-wise? Long term goals?
Thats a good question…I think the short term goals I have for myself career-wise are definitely winning the starting goalkeeper spot at the Air Force Academy next fall and if the opportunity arises, to show and prove that I can play and handle myself at the professional level in a game setting down here in Charlotte. The biggest long term goal I have for myself career-wise is really playing at the highest possible level I can play at, whether thats in the USL, MLS, somewhere in Europe, or even somewhere else entirely in the world. My ultimate goal is to reach my absolute full potential as a goalkeeper whatever level that may end up being.
Any advice for young goalkeepers looking to follow in your footsteps?
I think the biggest pieces of advice I would have for young goalkeepers looking to follow in my footsteps is just to try to soak up and learn as much as you can about goalkeeping from everybody and everything. Work as hard, as much, and as smart as you can to improve your weaknesses and strengths, and to never give up. Throughout my brief career so far, and still continuing to this day, I have experienced situations that happen to me I feel are unfair or unjust, and people and coaches that have tried to tear me down constantly. My advice would be to never stop believing in yourself no matter what someone else may say or do and to just keep trudging along putting in the work and eventually good things will come.
Last question here, is it true Tim Howard refuses to be soccer tennis partners with you?
Haha…well sometimes. It depends on the day and mood he is in. If he does though, it’s only because my skills at soccer tennis are so good that he feels kind of intimidated by me….