Unlike most kids who learn to play, his father Doug Hoffman played in a national championship game at Duke in 1982 and his brother Seth Hoffman is a former Duluth News Tribune Player of the Year and led Duluth East to the game. class AA championship in 2018.
Last month, Kai brought the Greyhounds back to US Bank Stadium and this week was named the 2021 News Tribune Player of the Year.
Kai said when he and Seth were young they used to build their own goal with PVC pipes, but switched to a metal frame when their shots at the crossbar started to shatter the plastic.
Seth, who has helped with Greyhounds coach Corey Bachand’s summer camps for the past two years, said he enjoyed watching his brother improve his skills.
“It was great for me to watch because he was at that difficult age, he didn’t quite have the physical or technical abilities that he has now,” Seth said. “But watching him grow over the years has really been a lot of fun. It’s fun to look back to see that it started on our little field in our backyard.
While Kai has led Duluth East with 22 goals this season, it was the things he did that weren’t on the stats sheet that pushed the Greyhounds to the Class AAA semifinals.
“What makes Kai different is that he handles pressure really well, understands the needs of the team and not the individual and that he really was the teammate we’ve had all of the time. year, “said Bachand. “He wasn’t just one of my captains – a great leader who had a lot of points – but the mental side of things he brings to the team keeps everyone a lot more relaxed and that really, really helped. helped our team succeed. “
Duluth News Tribune, Men’s Football Player of the Year, Kai Hoffman of Duluth East, on Thursday, December 2, 2021, at Ordean Stadium in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
In addition to his skills on the pitch, Kai put the team aside before practices and games to make them focused and ready to play.
“As a coach you break down the team in a very different way and then you see a player’s point of view,” said Bachand. “Kai has done a really good job bringing this to the kids. A lot of the kids actually have an easier time digesting this sometimes even than the coaches because we’re not on the pitch, we’re on the sidelines.
Even when coaches could ignore an opponent, Kai was there to highlight a team’s best player or the Greyhounds’ strongest opposition aspect.
“A lot of times coaches didn’t know some of these players because I was playing against them in the offseason or watching the tape,” Kai said. “I thought it was important this year as we were one of the better teams, who could ignore the opponents, but we had to play every game to the best of our ability.”
Kai’s dedication to keeping the team focused and improving was motivating for the rest of the Greyhounds, according to teammate David Wallerstein.
Duluth East’s Kai Hoffman (11) scores a goal against Moorhead goalkeeper Jacob Vannett (1) in the AAA Class Quarterfinals on October 27, 2021 at Irondale High School in New Brighton, Minn. Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune
“Just the way Kai plays makes you want to work,” Wallerstein said. “You see him working his butt and you can’t just watch him do that.”
Kai started playing backyard football with his father and brother, but it wasn’t long before he made his way to his brother’s Youth League practice, where Doug was the coach.
“I coached Seth’s team growing up and we spent all winter indoors working on skills,” said Doug. “Every year it would just be skills, skill, skill and Kai would come in without a team and play with the big boys – he never missed a beat.”
Even this season, when the Greyhounds dominated the regular season, Kai was breaking the tape with his father or even working on his skills.
“A testament to Kai’s work is that he was asking ‘Dad, can we work on the free kicks,” Doug said. “It’s not just his natural talent – he’s talented to be able to do that – but it was he who was motivated to work on his free kicks so he could do better for the team.”
The work proved to be invaluable in the semi-final game against Rosemount. As the Greyhounds scored in the first half, Kai tied the game on a free kick. Duluth East lost the semi-final 2-1, but even in the loss, Kai’s dedication was evident.
Scoring, however, is only part of Kai’s game. If the team needs him to focus on defense, he is more than willing to do so.
Duluth East’s Kai Hoffman (11) directs the ball near Rosemount’s Reid Wolf (6) in the AAA Class Semifinal game on November 3, 2021 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Clint Austin / Dossier / Duluth News Tribune
In 2020, during the Greyhounds games against Duluth Denfeld and Keegan Chastey, two-time player of the year across the zone, Kai’s job was to mark Chastey and keep him from scoring. Duluth East won both games by shutout.
“(Kai is) mature and he wants to win and he will do whatever it takes to win the game,” said Doug. “If that means being a support player, if that means playing defense and not scoring goals, that doesn’t concern him. He doesn’t care about scoring goals, he cares about doing his part to make the team do their best.
Seth said it wasn’t Kai’s offensive prowess that led to the success, but his willingness to do whatever the Greyhounds need to secure a victory.
“What impressed me the most about Kai was that he really enjoyed himself preparing himself and the team for the game, whether it was breaking down a movie or talking. strategy to his teammates – all of that, ”Seth said. “Then on the pitch, he was an unsung hero in so many games, not necessarily a late goal, but the dirty work he did in that midfielder, just locking him down defensively and in the air.”