Maybe it’s not too much of a stretch to call Sky Kim the Forrest Gump of Southern California tennis. The iconic movie character played by Tom Hanks is based on someone who had unrivaled experiences and had chance meetings and interactions by global icons. Kim is much the same.
“You know, when you’re living that lifestyle and you are younger, you just don’t know anything else,” said Kim, who moved from South Korea to Bradenton, Fla., as a young child and enrolled at the IMG Academy where he first met Nick Bollettieri, who would later become a close friend and mentor to Kim during his formative teenage years. “At the time, I didn’t think it was that special. Yes, IMG is big and I was around some of the top players in the world, but I didn’t think I was special.
“It’s been quite a journey,” said Kim. “I was hitting and serving as a practice partner to top players like Serena Williams, Venus, Maria Sharapova, Monica Seles, Xavier Malisse, Jelena Jankovic and Tommy Haas. So, at the time I would never have even thought to ask for their autograph.”
Today, a Los Angeles resident and father of two, Kim is 37 years old and a successful tennis coach, YouTuber, book author and entrepreneur. He moved to Southern California from New Jersey eight years ago after his wife had settled here with her parents while Kim was traveling the world as a high-level coach on the ATP Tour.
He was introduced to Tennacity founder Josh Oswald and has been teaching elite players and programs and running Live Ball events in West Hollywood.
Kim prides himself on being a true “problem solver” and once settled in L.A. created a series of products with the goal to help support young players financially, and to keep them injury-free. Helping others is close to Kim’s heart because of those who have helped him over the years. At age 14 and ranked No. 3 in the country, Kim was diagnosed with Osteochondritis Dissecans on his knee that kept him off the courts for 18 months.
After several years away from IMG and training Orlando, Kim’s family made the decision to return to Bollettieri’s where he was personally picked by Nick to come back and awarded a scholarship. After a Top 5 finish in the Boys’ 18s nationally in 2002, Sky once again spent 12 months sidelined following a second knee surgery. The ATP tour beckoned, but injuries derailed Sky’s pro career for good following two rotator cuff and labrum tears.
Once settled in Southern California, the business bug bit and in 2015, Kim created the Road to Pro Tennis Swing Training System with the sole goal to help players. In 2016, Kim authored the book “Art of War: Art of Tennis.” In the digital world, Kim’s Korean Tennis YouTube channel was the No. 1-most subscribed channel. He has plans for a similar channel in English.
“I’d love to help more players financially, especially the junior players here locally,” Kim said. “Because I suffered through so many injuries that ultimately ended my dream of playing pro tennis, educating players and inventing and marketing products that prevent injuries injury is what I want to focus on.”
For Kim, the most expeditious way to promote health-conscious equipment was to invent it himself.
“I played tennis for 30 years and knew dampeners had no effect on injury prevention,” Kim said of his entrepreneurial and revolutionary racquet-dampener Shock-Sorb, which he unveiled in 2018. “But it was really weird because every time I tested a new racquet or strings my pain would come back. My technique didn’t change so I was wondering if these dampeners really work for shock absorption. Using a Sorbothane core, I was able to invent the only racquet dampener that’s made for pain reduction.
“I figured out the biggest opponent is not the player across the net but injuries that you get.”
Next, Kim invented Heel Pad XC, which is a low-profile (2mm thin) insole that also uses Sorbothane which can absorb up to 94.7% impact shock to save athletes joints and prevent blisters not only in tennis but from other sports as well. “We try to find the core problem and try to fix it,” Kim said.
May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Kim said some of this happiest times on tour were coaching top Korean players as the Kim Young Hong Tennis Academy International traveling coach from 2011-2014, which included South Korean Davis Cup players Lim Yong Kyu and Jeong Suk Young.
“Growing up in Florida there wasn’t a lot of Asians playing at the time, but I have recently found out there are a lot more playing,” Kim said. “The Asian community is pretty big here, so it’s been a pretty nice journey.”
A Forrest Gump-like journey, indeed.