Kim Chang was on the soccer team I coached after coming home from my mission. It was a time when soccer was new, and I was coaching 12 year olds. We had a fast stopper in the back (Mark Wengreen) and with him a couple kids who could kick the ball a long ways; (one was Steve DeHeck) but the focus of the team was Kim Chang. We wanted to get the ball to him, and let him do his magic.
He could score and distribute and create better than anyone else on our team, or in our league for that matter. We road his shoulders to many victories, and he did some incredible things with the soccer ball—at least for us who had never seen such play. I know he had several games with multiple goals, and three in one game.
I didn’t know how to coach any way but offensive. I would put most of our players forward, and we would control the ball most of the game. It was just a matter of time until we scored, and keeping the ball at our end, the other teams had few chances except for an occasional counter attack.
The only time we had a rough game, playing one of the better teams, they put somebody on Chang the entire game, with the idea of pushing him and playing rough with him so as to knock him off of his game. It worked, and that game we lost 1-0. It was a rough game because the opposition scored their only goal on an indirect free kick that went directly into the net untouched. In those days all the refs were new and inexperienced (as well as the players) and there was no way to get it corrected.
But the Chang family was something more to our community. I grew up in a small rural Utah town, where everyone was white. As I was growing up, a minority in our town was someone who wasn’t Mormon. I think we had a couple of Catholic families, and sometimes people who were affiliated with the university would spill over into town with different religions. There were also a few people of Mexican decent who worked in the agricultural industry, but not many. The Chang family represented the first family from Korea to live in Hyrum.
At the time, I did some writing for newspapers, and I wrote an article about this family, and their culture. I was thrilled with the different types of food they ate, and how they were adjusting to a new lifestyle, and their experiences that landed them in rural Utah. Kim Chang’s younger brother (who also played soccer and often practiced with us) was also named Kim Chang. I couldn’t understand that. But I imagine it was hard adjusting to a new culture.
But Chang always seemed happy, popular and content with life. But being the first at anything can be hard.
I moved on with my life, and so did Chang. I guess he had some problems becoming an adult. I don’t know if the stress of being from a different culture, or just the beginning of a mental illness had anything to do with it, but the way I understood the story, is that he was becoming paranoid and delusional. He was arrested for being in someone’s house. I think he had been hiding in the closet. He had become parnoid. It wasn’t his first arrest.
While he was in jail, he hung himself with a sheet and died.
I loved to see him playing soccer. I will always remember him on the soccer field.