Student struggles to balance athletic and academic life


With South Korea hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, national ice hockey team has adopted extensive measures to propel its training program. Meanwhile, the Korean Ice Hockey Association welcomed Jim Paek, the first Korean to play in the National Hockey League, as director of both teams, and Sarah Murray as the new women’s team head coach. Asked to try out for the new look squad, Sue Lee (10) now faces a potentially life-changing decision.

The national team invited Sue to try out during the summer when the Monoplane, one of Korea’s few all-female ice hockey teams, scrimmaged against the national team. Coach Murray, who was few months into her position as head coach, had been looking for a player who could add depth of skill for the team.

“From my understanding, [hockey and soccer have] the same type of passing plays [by creating] triangles, game sense, and level of intensity and energy,” said Alex Lopez-Barton, varsity girls’ soccer coach. “[Sue’s] level of confidence and aggressiveness will transition well in the realm of hockey.”

With less than two months away from the Ice Hockey World Championships, Sue carries pressure to display her talents at the age of 15. Sue dedicates several hours daily travelling to Taeleung, where the official Olympic training facilities are located, and further honing her skills, while still managing her academic schedule. Although she has not been officially offered a spot on the team, Sue is both pleased with the opportunity but concerned by the time commitment and sacrifices that she will have to make if chosen for the team.

“Because my first full week of practice coincided with the first week of the second semester, I was knocked out as soon as I came back from practice,” Sue said. “I am fearful of the consequences that will result from such heavy time, energy and effort commitments toward hockey; I had to give up school sports and I am hoping my grades don’t drop too much. I feel as though I belong neither here nor there, because classmates question my devotion to hockey, while teammates question my devotion to academics.”

While facing a stressful period in life, Sue’s family support has been pivotal. This was true since she first stepped on the ice as a fifth grade student in Vancouver after her friend’s mom suggested the sport.

“My mother is extremely supportive of everything related to hockey,” Sue said. “She and I both have had our doubts, but once we discussed further and decided to give hockey a try, she has been fully supportive of the training process. [Her support] will help me fulfill my potential career dream in sports management.”