Hampton teen, martial artist makes 2020 Team ATA USA

Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Alex Haas, 15, of Hampton, a taekwondo student, made the 2020 Team ATA USA for combat sparring.

The high school sophomore competed against 90 other black belts from across the United States to achieve a spot on the team, which will compete against other top teams from around the world, according to Alex. He was one of nine males to make the team, along with six females.

The style of martial arts used is Songahm Taekwondo, and Alex has been learning and training at Kaminski’s ATA Black Belt Academy located on Talley Cavey Road in Hampton since he was 5, said his mother, Paula.

He is a third-degree black belt and a junior instructor with the academy.

Like other students at the school, Alex has achieved a number of rankings and awards over the years. He competed in July in Little Rock, Ark., against other fighters from across the country who were chosen by ATA scouts to compete.

Kevin Kaminski, owner of Kaminski’s ATA Black Belt Academy, said Alex is one of many students at his school to be awarded in recent tournaments and competitions.

Kaminski said Team ATA USA — which is not affiliated with the Olympic team — has scouts who travel the country looking to invite top fighters to compete in tournaments. In addition to last month’s competition, there will be one more in October in which another Hampton resident and student from Kaminski’s school, Madelyn Hess, 15, will be competing for a spot on Team ATA USA as well.

Though Kevin is a coach for Team ATA USA, he does not have a hand in selecting the students who make the team.

“These kids have earned it. Not me picking them. They were invited to camp, trained and went against other people. They earned their spot,” he said.

Alex is one of four fighters at last month’s tournament to get on the Team ATA USA combat team, beating out 90 other black belts.

Those who make the Team ATA USA will be going to the World Championships next summer to compete against other top Taekwondo teams worldwide, said Kaminski.

Alex, who also plays baseball and track at school, said the combat team uses a stick for fighting.

Kaminski said Alex is on the varsity team, which is for those 17 and younger. Krista Kaminski, Kevin’s wife and a coach at his academy, made the elite team, which is for 18 and older. In her 40s, she competes against other fighters across the world and of all ages and is currently a 20-time world champion, Kevin said.

Alex said there’s a lot of benefits to this type of taekwondo.

“You learn responsibility and you learn good work ethics.”

It makes someone responsible for their own successes and losses, he said.

“It’s not something you can blame on others for how you perform. If you won that’s great, if you lose it’s your fault,” he said.

Taekwondo runs in the family as Alex’s older brother, Ryan, who just graduated from college, is a fifth-degree black belt.