Welcome to our Q&A session with Justin, the newly appointed president of our soccer club! We are thrilled to have Justin leading our club, and under his guidance, we are off to a great start to the season. Justin brings a wealth of experience and a passion for soccer that is contagious. In this Q&A, we’ll get to know Justin better, hear about his vision for the club, and learn about upcoming initiatives and events. Let’s dive into the conversation with Justin!
What inspired you to take on the role of president within the club, and how has your experience been so far?
It wasn’t planned. I’ve always been a soccer addict, and since I’ve played my whole life, I figured I was in a position to help my kids. After signing up my youngest with Bulls, I found that youth soccer development had changed drastically since I was a kid. The coaching knowledge is miles ahead of where it was when I went through the youth programs. Like any parents, I want my kids to reach greater heights than I did. I got to know the coaches, and my work schedule allowed me to get involved as an assistant coach. What took me by surprise was the joy I got from watching the rest of the kids grow as players. I find it very fulfilling to be a part of their development. During those hours at the field, I get the opportunity to help them understand leadership, hard work, confidence, and many other desirable character traits. After a year or so, I was invited to a board meeting where I learned more about the management of the club. I felt my passion for player development, my competitive nature, and my career experience in managing from senior positions make me a good candidate for president. Fortunately, the board felt the same way, and so far it’s been very hard but rewarding work.
Are there any specific initiatives or goals you have for our soccer club in the coming years that you’d like to share with the community?
I think Alika Reppun and the previous board members did an outstanding job in bringing stability to the club. I learned all about the bumps along the way, and their hard work has allowed me to come into a club with a lot of potential for growth. Two goals I set out to achieve with the board are the growth of the girls’ program and the return of the Hawaii International Cup. The club put on a very successful tournament in August, and the girls’ program is continuing to develop. Balancing growth and quality is very important to the coaches and the board. I share that view, and this will be our approach to the Girls Program and the HIC tournament. Outside of those initiatives which are already in place, the board continues to search for further sponsorship partnerships and seeks out ways to be more efficient and targeted with our spending. We will look to bring back the Golf Tournament as a means of increasing our revenue, and I want to focus on ways to bring us closer together as a club by holding more events that families can participate in.
Besides your role as the president of our soccer club, what do you do for a living? How do you balance your career with your passion for soccer? I have spent my career on ocean-going ships. I graduated in 2001 from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in New York and spent the next 20 years sailing all over the world on oil tankers, container ships, car carriers, and cruise ships. Getting a job as a harbor pilot is a job that many ship captains look to find in order to stay home more. So after a long sea-going career, I now work as a Mooring Master for Island Energy Services. My job is to pilot (drive) and moor the product tankers that deliver jet and gasoline fuels into the West Oahu offshore moorings. After mooring the vessel, I stay onboard to monitor the 2-day cargo transfer.
As a soccer enthusiast, do you have any favorite soccer players or teams, either at the club level or on the international stage?
I am a proud Chelsea fan. Blue all the way! I realize they are not the strongest right now, but every true fan sticks with their team through the good and the bad. I started following Chelsea my senior year in high school when I took an interest in a few of their strikers like Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Gianfranco Zola. But shortly after starting college, Chelsea bought a certain young player from West Ham named Frank Lampard. The English will have an endless argument about who is the greatest center midfielder of all time between Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, or Frank Lampard. For me, it’s Super Frank all the way! Unfortunately, his coaching ability hasn’t gone so well.
What do you believe is the most important aspect of building a strong and successful soccer community within our club?
The most important aspect is balancing growth and quality, communication, and sticking to the mission. We will continue to produce a certain number of kids that go on to MLS academies and college programs and hope to steadily increase those numbers as we grow. But for many of our players, the years they spend with Bulls are about preparing them for life. For those of you who don’t know it, our motto is “Success is winning at life.” It is our duty as a club to instill a winning mindset, self-belief, leadership, and teamwork into their DNA so that they can be successful, and we can send them out into the world knowing we played some part in it all.
Are there any upcoming events, projects, or initiatives within the club that community members should be excited about or participate in?
The next club event we will hold is the Holiday Party, which will take place most likely in early January. The board of directors and coaches dedicate a lot of time and man-hours to the club. One project is the formation of an Events Planning Committee. Relationships are at the center of the club’s success, and we have benefited greatly from our connections and sponsors who have ties with Bulls. I know there are many other families in our membership that have connections or ideas that the club would benefit from. Finding ways to strengthen relationships club-wide among families through the formation of committees like an Events Planning Committee and completing the Club Directory has the potential to make the club stronger, more enjoyable for the membership, and provide greater resources for the players and our members. So in summary, I hope to find ways to strengthen connections and communication within the club through engagement with membership and welcome all interest that aligns with the club’s initiatives.
How do you envision the club’s role in supporting and engaging with the local community beyond the soccer field?
Since I have come into the role as president, there hasn’t been too much community engagement outside of the club. I know in the past the club has volunteered at Youth Day and contributed to other volunteer groups individually as teams or as high school seniors working to meet the volunteer credit hours. As a board, we have discussed exploring partnerships with volunteer organizations, and I think it is important to do so. Contributing time and energy to a good cause always feels good. Hawaiian culture is deeply rooted in caring for the island and the community, so Bulls should look for opportunities to connect.
Are there any unique traditions or events that our soccer club participates in that you’d like to highlight for the community?
The HIC tournament is probably our most notable tradition. The club was very happy to bring it back again after several years without running the event. This year we have started a Fantasy Premier League competition. We had a good amount of interest with 35 participants but hope it can grow to include more soccer moms and dads as well as players. There will be some sort of awards and recognition at the end for all participants. I have a few other ideas like a Club Field Day where all club players are split into two teams, Red and Black, and compete in various team-building exercises and races to find a winner for the year. The inclusion of potluck, concessions, and fundraising can be incorporated as well. We just need to find an appropriate window to schedule it. Lastly, we have had success in running a Golf Tournament in years past. It is a lot of work, and like HIC, we have taken a break from running it in the past couple of years. I would be thrilled to create a Golf Tournament Committee to help get that event back on track.
In your opinion, what makes our soccer club stand out, and why should community members get involved or support the club?
What makes HSC Bulls stand out is the rich history of the club and our contribution to the development of youth soccer in Hawaii. Honolulu Bulls Soccer Club has been around since 1975. At 48 years old, it is one of the oldest clubs in the nation. For context, the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) was established in 1964, and US Youth Soccer (USYS) was formed in 1974. So the club has been around since the beginning of organized soccer in the country and only 16 years after statehood in 1959. Bulls Soccer Club was the first club in Hawaii to start programs to help coaches attain licenses. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, players could only join the club through invitation. Many of you may not know that when you make the weekend drive to Waipio Soccer Complex, you are driving to a facility founded by ex-President Frank Doyle in 1990. Honolulu Bulls holds Hawaii’s ONLY Boys USYS National title with the ’86 Boys winning the tournament in 2004. The next year in 2005, our ’88 girls’ team won Hawaii’s first-ever girls’ national title with US Club. These titles are signified in our club crest with the Gold and Black stars above the Bull. The recognition Bulls brought to the state in those years spurred competition and growth within the soccer community. The increase in opportunities for youth players with the formation of other clubs, some of which had national backing, challenged the club. Honolulu Bulls went through a restructuring in 2017. While the heydays of the late ’90s and early 2000s have passed, Honolulu Bulls remains a highly respected club with a deep connection to the development of soccer within the state. The return of the Girls Program is exciting for Club growth, and we will support that side of the Program so that it can be successful. As a registered non-profit business, the club is heavily reliant on volunteers who recognize the value the club serves in the development of our kids as athletes and human beings. We welcome those parents and future coaches that see the potential of the club as we work towards a better future and another star for the badge!