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Tuesday, July 29, 2014         

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Wong enjoys some chill time

The beach volleyball pro is doing clinics here before giving the Olympics a go

By Billy Hull

POSTED:

cindy ellen russell / crussell@staradvertiser.comKevin Wong, center, is conducting a Spike and Serve!* volleyball clinic at Star of the Sea school.

For the past two weeks, Kevin Wong has been in the unusual position of coaching kids at his Spike and Serve!* Volleyball Clinic at the Star of the Sea gymnasium.

It's not the coaching that's the unusual part however. It's the fact Wong is enjoying a few summer days in Hawaii.

The 2000 Olympian and former Punahou School standout said it's the first time he's been on the island during the summer since his professional volleyball career began in 1995.

Wong, who turns 39 in September, made the surprising trip home following a disappointing finish at the FIVB World Championships in Italy last month.

"I haven't been to Hawaii in July in 15 years," Wong said. "It's been a mix of things. I miss my wife. I came back and did some TV for NBC during the world championships.

"But I'm 38 and looking ahead at what's next. I'm still playing but looking at different things too."

A seven-time winner on the AVP tour, Wong thought about retirement after the 2010 season.

But in the last international event of the year in the Netherlands, he teamed with Casey Jennings to notch his third title overseas, which suddenly made the Olympics in London in 2012 seem doable.

"I had one last itch to go scratch and we ended up winning the last tournament of the season, which probably postponed my retirement a couple of years for sure," Wong said.

This season, the duo has played in five international events, but hasn't cracked the top 10. At last month's world championship, they stunned No. 1 seed Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser, but failed to capitalize on a favorable draw, losing the very next match.

After a quick broadcast assignment with NBC, Wong returned to Oahu in late June and spends his weekday afternoons running his Spike and Serve!* Volleyball Clinic.

Wong began the clinic in November and has enlisted the help of former and current Hawaii volleyball players, including Joshua Walker, Kanani Danielson and Heidi Ilustre to help coach daily sessions available for kids 7-14 years old through the month of July.

"It's something I love to do and at this stage of my life you start to think about what's next," said Wong, who is entertaining possibilities both in the broadcast booth and on the sidelines.

"You start planting some seeds and you never know which one is going to grow. You just try to water them all and give them all a chance."

Coaching is a natural fit for Wong, who as the elder partner on many of his recent professional teams, tends to fill that role as a player.

His brother, Scott, is an associate coach for the Hawaii women's volleyball team and is heading up the school's beach volleyball team that begins play next year as an NCAA-sanctioned sport.

But whether it's that or a career as a broadcaster, neither endeavor will become a full-time reality until at least next year, after his playing days are over.

"I'm still going to play this year and next year and really want to try and make the Olympics in London," Wong said. "It's not too late to qualify, so I'm going to give it my all playing, but if I'm not going to make it playing I'd love to be there doing TV stuff."

After an exhibition in Milwaukee, Wong says he'll resume international play in events in Poland and Austria, beginning July 26.





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