“I want to be remembered as a happy player,” says Kim Kwang Kook as he begins a new chapter in his volleyball career

Setter Kim Kwang-kook is calling it a career. As he prepares for a new life, he recalls the names of those he is grateful to.

At 16:00 on the 18th, the 2024 V-League Men’s Free Agency (FA) results were announced. While some players found new homes and others re-signed with their existing teams, one unsigned player stood out. It was Kim Kwang-guk. According to Article 5.3 of the Korean Volleyball Organization’s (KOVO) Free Agent Management Regulations, an unsigned player cannot sign a contract with any club during the season. For Kim, born in 1987, taking a season off and looking for a new team was a practical impossibility, 메이저 토토사이트 so the announcement of his non-signing was tantamount to a retirement announcement.

On the 25th, a week after the news of his de facto retirement broke, Kim told The Spike in a phone interview. “Recently, I’ve been resting at home. I also went to the volleyball center, which I had been running but hadn’t paid much attention to during my active duty days, and taught younger friends. So I’m still involved with volleyball,” he said at first.

Then, cautiously, he brought up the word retirement. Luckily, his reaction was muted. “Actually, I’ve been thinking about retirement a little bit since two years ago. I’m in my late 30s, and I’ve been playing less and less. If I played for another year, I felt that I would have to think about the same thing this time next year, and I also felt that it was time to pass the torch to my juniors, so I thought it was the right time to retire.”

“I didn’t get to see all of them together because they were still on vacation,” he said. “I met with some of them separately, and they told me that they were sorry and thanked me for my hard work. I was very grateful for those words, and I felt that the time I spent with them was not in vain,” he added, thanking his teammates for their warm words.

We asked veteran setter Kim Kwang-guk, who has played 14 seasons in the V-League, what his most memorable season was, and he chose 2021-22. “It was the first time we played in the postseason, but it was also the first time we played a one-game playoff due to COVID-19, and we lost and didn’t make it to the championship game. It’s memorable because it’s a season with both happy and unhappy memories,” he said.

After a disappointing 2021-22 season, Kim Kwang-kook and the KEPCO tried to reach the championship once again in 2022-23, but were swept in the playoffs by Hyundai Capital in a best-of-seven series. In 2023-24, Kim’s final season, the team failed to advance to spring volleyball, and Kim ended his career without ever reaching a championship game.

“I made it to the professional level, which everyone dreams of, and I made the national team and played A-match. I was even selected to the league’s Best 7. But I didn’t win the title I wanted the most. “My son is in the fourth grade now, and he’s playing volleyball,” said Kim, who expressed bitterness. If my son becomes a player and fulfills my unfulfilled dream, I will be able to feel similar happiness. My father also played volleyball, and I’m looking forward to seeing the third generation playing volleyball.” He passed on his dream to his son.

Kim then recalled the names of the people he was grateful to during his 14-season career. “I’m really grateful to coaches Kim Ho-chul, Shin Young-cheol, and Kwon Young-min. I wasn’t a very good setter, but these setter coaches maximized my abilities, which is why I was able to play in the V-League for so long,” he said, thanking the three setter coaches for their guidance.

We also asked Kim Kwang-guk, “Of all the strikers you’ve played with, who is the one you’ve had the best chemistry with?” The answer was a mixed bag. “I played a total of 8,342 sets in the V-League,” he said. The attacker who contributed the most to that was the late Choi Hong-seok. I think about him a lot,” he replied, reflecting on the precious and nostalgic name.

Kim Kwang-guk also mentioned Park Chul-woo, Shin Young-seok, and Seo Jae-duk, who played together until the end. He said, “I had a good understanding with (Park) Chul-woo, (Shin) Young-seok, and (Seo) Jae-duk because we were the same age, and we talked a lot. It was fun to play volleyball with them,” he said, thanking the three attackers for making the end of his career so enjoyable.

While Kim’s career as a player is coming to an end, his career as a volleyball player is starting a new chapter. “I want to continue to run the volleyball center I’m running now and promote volleyball as much as possible. In Japan, people are exposed to volleyball naturally from a young age, but in Korea, it’s still not easy to get into volleyball unless you really want to. I want to provide an opportunity for young people to experience volleyball in an easy and fun way, and if any of them want to give it a try or realize their potential, I want to help them reach the elite level,” he says of his new role.

At the end of the interview, we asked Kim two final questions: what volleyball means to him and how he would like to be remembered as a player. “To this day, volleyball has always been with me. Even though I’m not a player anymore, I’ll always be with volleyball. So I think volleyball is my life itself.” Kim Kwang-guk, a player for whom volleyball was his life, gave a wonderful answer: “I would like to be remembered as a player who had fun and was happy when playing volleyball.

Kim was humble throughout the interview. He said that he wasn’t a very good player, and that he was able to play for so long because of the people around him. However, the ability to humble himself and let those around him shine is something that not many veteran setters have. He will surely be remembered in the hearts of many fans as a talented setter.

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