Endria Tai arrives home at midnight, sleep-deprived and delirious. Fighting exhaustion, she forces herself to sit and study until sunrise. Like most students in the exam period of April 2018, Endria Tai’s schedule was as hectic as it had ever been. But unlike others, she was also spending several hours a day at volleyball training.
“In volleyball, you don’t lose until the ball touches the ground,” the 15-year-old Renaissance College student told Young Post. “There are endless variables at every point in the game, so you really need a good mind-set,” she added. “You don’t lose unless you give up.”
Last month, the volleyball captain once again led her school’s team to their third consecutive victory in the annual Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS) volleyball tournament in Suzhou. Named MVP of the tournament in both 2017 and 2016, Endria dedicates much of her time to training and competing in tournaments, earning her prestige within the sports community at her school.
But Endria is also a high academic achiever, taking part in countless community service and extracurricular activities. Though her peers may wonder how she is able to cope with so much pressure, Endria said that volleyball actually gives her the mental strength she needs to excel in her studies. It has taught her to apply to same mindset she has during a tournament to her everyday learning. “Even if I’m just doing practice questions for math, and I don’t know the answer, I ask myself, what if this was a test? Then I have to know.”
Of course, like anyone else, Endria is no stranger to failure. She admitted to crying for two hours after she found out she hadn’t been selected for the 2018 Asian Girls’ U17 Volleyball Championship earlier this year, and bemoaned the sacrifices she had made to train for it: missing her school’s camping trip, only allowing slivers of time for exam studies, and never being able to simply go straight home at the end of the school day. But the experience also made her realise how much she is capable of, and that “you never don’t have enough time”.
“If you have a lot to do, don’t tell yourself, oh my God, I’m so busy’, because you can always make time.” As someone who has mastered the art of time management, Endria has learned that the word “busy” is a cop-out: “if I had all the time in the world, I would probably never get around to my homework.”
Clearly wise beyond her years, it comes as no surprise that the team captain is also the youngest member of her volleyball team.
“I’ve learned that age or skill aren’t all it takes to be a leader,” she said, adding that the role requires “heart” too.
Still, the passion Endria feels for her studies is equally strong; that’s why she’s determined to break the stereotype that athletes aren’t intelligent. Since she first started at Renaissance College, she has received an award for academic excellence every single term; but the more that volleyball became a part of her life, the more people began to assume that her only school achievements were sporting ones. She went from being “a person who’s pretty good at academics” to “a person who’s pretty good at volleyball”.
“That hurts me,” she admitted, pointing out that although she never ceased to be both of those people, society only allows her to identify as one or the other.
For Endria, being able to challenge both the mind and the body makes you “the healthiest version of yourself that you can be”. She wants others to realise that they can more than one interest, too: “people assume you can’t be both, so they don’t try to be.”
What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I sit up and look at my beautiful EXO posters.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
I always put on my left knee pad, right knee pad, and then left shoe and then right shoe. I don’t know why.
Describe yourself in three words.
Short. Hopefully funny. Overrated.
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be?
A horror movie because I am so scary.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
I’m pretty sure I ate a lot of tissue paper when I was young.
What is your favourite song?
Heaven by EXO.
If you could buy any type of food right now, what would you buy?
Sushi. Because my mom doesn’t let me eat sushi.
What are you most afraid of?