Long before the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to resort to online classes, Pacific Games gold medalist Carol Lee had been through virtual education and credits the setup for her success as a student-athlete.
Lee graced Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association’s second podcast, which was hosted by long-time CNMI national coach Jeff Race and aired yesterday, and she discussed her journey in the sport, including her stay in the International Tennis Federation Training Center in Fiji for years.
“I was 14 when I was invited at the training center. I had early morning fitness training, then online school, less than an hour break, back to online school, and then afternoon training. In the evening, it’s school work and then personal/team duties likes doing the laundry, mopping the floor. It was a tough schedule and in my first year, I asked myself ‘why I am doing this?’ But, I am glad I chose to stay because it’s all worth it,” said Lee.
While at the ITF facility, Lee managed to compete in international tournaments around the world—Asia and the Pacific, New Zealand, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. Despite the high travel requirements that boosted her junior tennis career, which was highlighted by a lot of historic firsts for NMI tennis, Lee did not skip school.
“Online school helped me pull through,” said Lee, who graduated in high school early this year.
When asked if she had regrets not attending a regular school or the opportunities/milestones she missed in a normal high school setting, Lee said yes, but was quick in pointing out that she needed to make sacrifices to attain her goals—which are to play high-level tennis and get into college.
“Of course, there are disadvantages in attending online classes. But they also offer advantages, like flexibility in schedule, which is very helpful for student-athletes. I also missed a lot of events that regular students would like to experience, but I’ve got to do what I have to do and I am happy I did,” said Lee, who won the gold medal in the mixed doubles event (with Colin Sinclair) in last year’s Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa.
The 19-year-old is now in Atlanta after receiving a full athletic scholarship from NCAA Division I school Georgia Tech.