Kim Brothers Excel On and Off Tennis Court
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month occurring in May in the U.S., check out this USTA Missouri feature on Asian-American brothers Joshua and Caleb Kim.
When Max and Sandra Kim sought a sport for their two sons — Joshua and Caleb — to play, they wanted something that would challenge and develop their boys physically and mentally. The Kims considered basketball, baseball and soccer before landing on tennis when Max located a strong academy program in their hometown of Springfield.
Joshua, a 16-year-old sophomore at Central High School, and Caleb, a 13-year-old middle schooler attending Greenwood Laboratory School, have excelled in their chosen sport. They began playing when Joshua was about to turn 8 and Caleb was nearing his 5th birthday. They now pour hours into their craft every day, with each collecting junior championships and high rankings nationally and in USTA Missouri Valley.
“I don’t think either one has the kind of success they’ve had without the other,” said Kyle Wartick, head coach at Springfield’s Cooper Tennis Complex. “Both are each other’s biggest fan when it comes down to results and earning advancement. They root each other on, which is extremely healthy. It’s a reflection of Max and Sandra also.”
Wartick, who has worked with Joshua and Caleb since they started playing eight years ago, credited Max and Sandra with allowing their children to carve their own path and not forcing them to continue. In addition to tennis, both kids take on rigorous course loads at their respective schools.
“To the outside world, it would look like they’re getting pushed really hard,” Wartick said. “They’re here literally the moment school lets out and are here at least three hours a day. It’s their choice. They want to get better. They love it here. This is where their friends are. It’s just a lot of fun for them to be here and be around it."
Max said Joshua loves Gael Monfils and is a competitor who fights for every point. Caleb’s favorite player is Novak Djokovic and he’s fearless on-court. Away from tennis, Joshua is more soft-spoken and enjoys reading, studying and spending time with friends. He’s playing high school tennis for Central this spring after bypassing that as a freshman. Caleb is more outspoken and loves video games.
The duo got to play with and against each other in junior tournaments when they were in the same 12 & Under age division growing up. Max said it was difficult for them to control their emotions in these matches, with one brother inevitably getting frustrated with the other. The siblings still jokingly jaw with each other about why they dropped a doubles match seven years ago.
“In the beginning, it was good,” Max said. “But at some point, they blame each other in the doubles matches. One day Joshua is not happy because of Caleb. One day Caleb is not happy because of Joshua. But they have each other to be better. I’m very happy about that. With two boys it’s not very quiet at home or on the court.”
Both Kims have made plenty of noise in USTA Missouri and USTA Missouri Valley. They play national schedules and have for years. Joshua earned a doubles titles and frequently advances to the quarterfinals and semifinals of major tournaments. Caleb captured a Level 3 singles title last year in Mississippi and L3 doubles championship as an 11-year-old.
“Joshua is extremely comfortable in his own skin,” Wartick said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s in an academy setting, private lesson or just hitting with anybody. He’s the one diving after balls. He just loves the game and getting better. He loves competing. When he’s not here, he’ll even go golfing with my teaching staff.
“Caleb doesn’t just want to win the match. He wants to beat his opponent. Off the court, he’s the nicest and funniest guy. He’s in the middle of everything. We joke and call him the mascot of Cooper because they’re here all the time. He always has something going on with somebody. He’s a little spitfire.”
Wartick said both boys are a blast to be around and are terrific at connecting as well as communicating with their peers and adults alike. With Caleb’s extreme competitiveness he is known to challenge Wartick and other teaching pros in who can hit their ball closest to the ball cart. Wartick likes to ask his players if $1 million was on the line and they had to win a point with one shot, what would they go with?
“Caleb is the only one I’ve ever heard who’s said drop shot,” Wartick said. “And he means it. He just has no fear.”
Max praised Wartick, Mallory Weber — Cooper Tennis Complex community recreation coordinator and USTA Missouri president — and other Cooper teaching pros for their efforts in helping Joshua and Caleb flourish. Max is proud of his sons for divvying up their busy schedules to shine on the tennis court and off it.
“They organize their homework, tennis practice and rest time,” Max said. “They do really well. In tournaments, we are driving six hours, eight hours. We just keep talking. We share all the stories in the same small car. We talk to each other and share everything. I’m really happy about that.”
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