By WAYNE JOSEPH
For many who first get exposed to sports, their parent becomes their greatest influence. Such is the case with John Kai whose father was a huge influence on him and his siblings.
“Dad was a star athlete at St. Joseph High School and excelled in baseball and basketball and his love of sports rubbed off on all of us,” Kai said.
Kai Sr. was a multi-talented athlete and coach who taught and coached at a variety of schools throughout the Big Island.
“He coached many youth teams, he also coached high school baseball and won the Big Island Interscholastic Federation title for the Honokaa Dragons in 1977,” Kai said. “In 1975-76, he coached the Kau Trojans High School baseball team and basically rebuilt that program from scratch, a real life ‘Bad News Bears’ story.”
As was common in most sporting families, the Kai kids were always hanging around the gym, the baseball dugouts, attending practices and games.
“It gave us opportunities to watch the big kids play,” Kai said.
In high school at Honokaa, Kai was active playing baseball and basketball and running cross country. He graduated in 1983.
“I played varsity baseball as a freshman, but that’s not saying much because I could barely make the throw from third base to first base during tryouts, so the coach, Rodney Botelho, placed me at second base and I grew to become a decent baseball player. I made the BIIF all-star team my junior and senior year,” Kai said.
“I could field, I was fast on the bases and I was part of the pitching rotation.”
Kai went onto play varsity basketball in his junior year for the Dragons.
“I was thrilled when Coach Sunday Marcellino asked him to come out for the team,” Kai said.
It was during one preseason tournament on Maui that the young Kai showed his value to the team.
“During our pre-season tournament I came off the bench and scored 25 points for the team,” he said. “I didn’t follow any of the scripted plays, I just played and scored. The coaches weren’t happy but we won and I did make the all-tournament team.”
Still this day Kai admits to playing pickup games in Hilo in the 35 and older men’s league where he is still a shooter.
“Funny thing is that all the older guys in the Big Island hoops community know that I won’t go left, never been confident or proficient with dribbling or shooting with my left hand but that doesn’t matter. I’ll keep going to my right, my strength until the day I die,” Kai said.
He uses the above as one of his life philosophies.
“Why bother working on a weakness when you can perfect strength?” he asked. “You can always surround yourself with teammates, co-workers or employees who can complement you. If everybody works to their strengths there is never a downside.”
Kai became a financial advisor and has been in that profession since 1991 with Merrill Lynch and later moved to Paine Weber in 1999. Currently, Kai works at Pinnacle Investment Group where today he manages $40 million of assets for numerous clients.
“The stress is tremendous due to the single fact that I’m working with intangibles like retirement planning, investing for growth or income, and using instruments that are not even close to being within the realm of my control.” Kai said.
Kai has been married for 25 years to Lori, and together they have three children. Lori’s daughter Monique is 32 years old and played basketball and graduated from Hilo High in 1998.
Their oldest son, Ian, is 25 and a 2007 graduate of Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii where he played junior varsity basketball, volleyball, and baseball. Ian also ran cross country in his freshman and sophomore years, said a proud father.
Today, Kai stays active by playing in the basketball league for men over 35 where he is known as a shooter.
“It is known as pure play and the pickup games are great for instant cardio,” he said. “It is also a great stress reliever for most. When you are on the court playing at game speed there is no time for day dreaming unless you want to get hit in the head with the basketball.
“It is pure play and since a score is being kept it brings out my competitive juices. I just love it.”
At home, Kai continues his exercise program using both the P90X and Insanity, not religiously, just when he feels sluggish and finds the need to get the blood flowing.
Kai said on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons he plays basketball usually for about one to two hours depending on the length of the games. The rest of the time he does two to three days on the Insanity.
Kai also watches what he eats.
“I try to stay away from carbs with very little rice and I’ll juice in the morning when I have the stuff available,” he said. “But every now and again I’ll pig out on a McDonald’s Big Mac meal with that special sauce.”
Kai still has exercise related goals today at age 47.
“I try to maintain a weight of 165 pounds and a BMI under 26,” he said. “I always pay attention when the size 33 pants start getting a little to snug and when my head looks larger than normal when I’m brushing me teeth in the morning.”
Here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and someday should you see a slow moving man coming down 22nd Street in HPP, remember to say “woof” and “Never shy away from Running with the Big Dog.”
Email the Big Dog at firstname.lastname@example.org.