Dedication, perseverance and heart transform Lee from manager to MVP
Junior James Lee crouches in ready position. As the ball sails over the net, he leaps two feet into the air with his right arm drawn for the hit. An aggressive expression is plastered on his face as he goes for the spike and directs the ball to the other side of the court in Blair's gym during practice on March 23.
As the ball sails over the net for the score, Lee demonstrates his ability to kill. But just two years ago, Lee could not rake any points for the team.
The lanky Lee is known for his vast improvement, says boys' volleyball coach JJ Rathnam. "In the last two years, he's really blossomed as a volleyball player," he says, citing Lee's designation as MVP and most improved player last year as a stark contrast to his skill as a freshman.
A spiked ball that hits the ground in bounds, called a kill, is Lee's specialty, says Rathnam. Today, Lee averages an impressive 11 kills per game. With 60 or more points scored in total in the three games, Lee usually scores 20 percent of the total points, Rathnam adds.
Without any prior experience, Lee started playing volleyball his freshman year during tryouts. He did not make the team and became manager instead.
Although he didn't make the cut, Lee's managing position freshman year allowed him to practice with the team. He began playing in weekly tournaments during the off-season in the Maryland Volleyball Program, where, Lee says, he improved his skills.
In the beginning, Lee was unable to do push-ups, bumped weak passes and couldn't jump vertically over two feet. Today, he averages 40 to 50 push-ups per day, provides consistent passes and can jump vertically over two and a half feet.
Last season, he led the team in all-county points, which are marks given by the opposing team's coaches' evaluation of the best players for each game.
And according to Rathnam, Lee deserves those points because of his dedication. "He's a hard worker that never complains, asks good questions, always tries hard and wants to learn more about the game," he says.
This season, Lee hopes to lead his team far in the final crucial games. "After not winning any playoff games in the past two years, I want to be a key player in winning a playoff game," he explains.
However, the games still aren't really about winning; being on the court is just what Lee loves, he says. "Volleyball is just a fun way to exercise. It's where my heart is," he says.
As the practice in the gym winds down for a co-ed volleyball game on March 23, Rathnam yells "James!" as one of Lee's spiked ball sails out of bounds. Lee flashes a goofy grin at his mistake and readies up for another spike.
Elena Chung. After several failed attempts to start a school newspaper in elementary school, Elena Chung, a senior, has finally fulfilled a lifelong goal to write for a paper. When she's not hunting down sources or finishing loads of work, she enjoys taking photos, cooking, reading, watching … More »