By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo
KANSAS CITY, Mo—For transportation planning executive Michael R. Kodama, the chance to devote full-time to his favorite sport of soccer is a dream come true.
Since 2009, Kodama has been serving as executive director of Eco-Rapid Transit, a collaboration devoted to economic and community development among 11 cities and an airport in southeast Los Angeles County. He also taught transportation planning at the University of Southern California. That all changed recently when he accepted a position with the United Soccer Coaches, the world’s largest soccer coaches’ organization.
“As much as I liked my job and what I’ve done in transportation and urban planning, those who know me…I have been saying since I’ve been coaching my entire life…if I could kick around the ball all day, I would,” Kodama told those gathered for a farewell party.
In addition to soccer, Kodama, who has an M.A. in urban planning from UCLA, has been working with a diverse group of communities, helping them to implement a wide range of projects as well as environmental justice and equity initiatives, such as the planned West Santa Ana Branch line from Cerritos to Union Station.
As coaches community relations manager, Kodama will be working with 30,000 coaches across the U.S. as well as coaches in Latin America and Asia on both the men’s and women’s sides. He also pledged to bring soccer resources back to Southeast L.A.
Kodama’s passion for soccer began as youth coach at the recreation, club, and high school levels. He served as the boys’ varsity soccer coach at John Burroughs High School for 30 years, winning over 300 games and 11 league titles, in addition to reaching the CIF Southern Section Finals (1994), Semi-finals (1993), and Quarterfinals (1998 and 2008).
His players have gone on to play for junior colleges, universities, and professional soccer, including one player who was recently named a coach for Los Angeles Football Club youth programs. He has served as a volunteer scout, helping universities and colleges identify and select student athletes. He was also selected to coach six high school all-star teams.
Early in his career, Kodama worked in the UCLA Athletic Department, responsible for marketing soccer, basketball, and gymnastics programs.
“I am excited to be joining the United Soccer Coaches team in Kansas City and to work with the coaches communities,” Kodama said in a statement. “I look forward to working with everyone to build upon our association’s effort to foster diversity, equity and inclusion.”