One for the books

Alice Li’s head buried in her academic studies when she’s announced as Athlete of the Year for eastern region

Alice Li works hard and plays hard.

The Riverdale Collegiate student balanced a part-time job while playing for her school’s volleyball, tennis and archery teams. She made it to the provincial championships on each of them, all while maintaining an 89 percent average.

It’s no wonder she was named the Town Crier’s Athlete of the Year for the city’s eastern region.

However, the grade 12 student wasn’t able to fully enjoy the ceremonies as she was buried in her biology textbook preparing for an exam.

“This kid, she does it all,” said her volleyball coach Karen Gallagher. “She does it all with a smile on her face — she’s just a fantastic young woman.

“I’ve been at Riverdale for 11 years and she is by far the best all-round volleyball player.”

Li is the setter on the school’s competitive team, while she plays as libero — a role that is all passing and defence — on her high school’s club team.

Her coach recognized Li’s tough nerves, which she said separates her from other athletes.

“She’s so calm,” Gallagher said. “She’s mentally tough and in high pressure situations she’ll never let her team down.”

Despite her win, Li remains humble.

“I was really surprised,” said Li. “Whenever I play I see a lot of really skilled people and it’s just amazing that I could get an award.”

Her main sport is volleyball, which she picked up in middle school. She took up tennis the summer before high school and just started archery last June.

It’s tough organizing her obligations, but Li said she enjoys playing all her sports. And the variety is also good, she said.

“It’s good to try different things for balance so it’s not too much focus on one thing,” said Li.

How does she manage it all?

“Have a minimal social life,” she said with a laugh.

Not only is competing fun, it’s also taught her some memorable lessons.

“It’s helped me gain confidence and motivation because I used to be a really shy person who’s not really outgoing or a leader or anything like that,” said Li.

They’re life’s little lessons, she added, things you wouldn’t learn inside a classroom.

“It’s different than working on a group project because if you make something like OFSAA, … you get to know that it was the entire team that put all the effort and dedication that got you to your goal.”

On a closing note, she served up an ace of advice for future student-athletes wanting to succeed in their chosen sports.

“Training is key and you have to be committed,” she said, “but still have fun.”

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By: Josephine Lim
Posted: Jul 21 2009 11:42 am
Filed in: Sports
Edition: Toronto