How does one person juggle 3 sports and debate?

Freshman thrives on staying busy and productive


Chen (left) plays with Camille Lasics and Kylie Nguyen in her last game of the season with the freshmen volleyball team, which consists of seven members, the smallest team she has ever been a part of. The group went undefeated in district and clinched the district title.

Pallavi Gorantla, News Editor

Her parents taught her that “hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.” This saying has stuck with her through every aspect of her life, although she sometimes wonders how she balances tennis, volleyball, martial arts and debate. 

“My parents have always pushed me to try new things, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t be in a single activity if it wasn’t for them forcing me to explore various extracurriculars,”  freshman Karis Chen said.

Chen credits a large part of her success to her desire to succeed and do her best in everything.

“Even if that means having a district tennis tournament, national qualifier volleyball tournament, and a nationwide debate tournament all in the same week, I love staying busy and productive,” Chen said. 

At Meyerland Martial Arts, Chen started martial arts in elementary. Her parents let her try it out when they were signing up her brother.  Chen excelled in martial arts and in fifth grade, she earned her black belt. 

“I loved martial arts because of the many lessons it taught me as a child,” Chen said. “I learned how to respect my teachers/leaders and how to speak clearly to an adult. I also learned lots of self-discipline, and I learned how to control my body and use it for defense. I became more physically fit, as well as more mentally fit and awake,” Chen said. 

Using post-it notes and a bullet journal to plan ahead and keep track of upcoming tasks and events, Chen limits the amount of time she uses her phone, and finishes her homework early if she knows a busy week ahead. 

“Karis is an amazing person, she works really hard and is super caring. She is a great friend who is always there if you need something,” Camille Lasics, Chen’s friend said. “She plays two sports and keeps up with all her school work and is really good at balancing everything.”

Joining volleyball in fifth grade at school as a way to connect with kids at her middle school, Trinity Classical School, Chen moved up to competitive club volleyball in sixth grade. She played at Houston Stars Volleyball and now plays at Houston Juniors Volleyball.

“What started as a social outlet quickly became a sport that I fell in love with,” Chen said. “I quit softball and basketball and began devoting several hours a week to volleyball practices and tournaments. I’ve always loved playing team sports for all the life lessons they have taught me.” 

Chen said she loves the adrenaline she gets from winning crucial games and how excited everyone on the team gets for each other. Volleyball has helped her connect to people inside and outside of school, and has taught her how to be a leader along with working with others to reach a collective goal. 

“If someone is having a bad day, they know they will always have a group of girls ready to help cheer them up,” Chen said. “The community is so strong and the unique chemistry and flow that each team has makes each season so special.”

Chen said she is motivated from the encouragement and genuine excitement that she gets from her teammates.  She loves the excitement and relief captured in championship winning games and stated that it is one of the best feelings in the world. 

“They motivate me to be the best version of myself, not just for me, but also for them,” Chen said. “The energy surrounds you and quite literally ignites a sense of determination that you can’t find anywhere else. Even though it sounds dumb, during those crucial matches and intense game situations my body takes control over my brain and suddenly I’m diving for balls I didn’t even think I could get.”

Her club volleyball team recently placed among the top 20 teams in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas. Her current involvement in three extracurricular activities, can at times, lead her to skip some practices or tournaments. 

“Transportation has also been difficult, but my parents have been able to bring me or arrange for a friend’s parents to bring me,” Chen said. “This year in particular, I have had to miss tennis tournaments for volleyball games or vice versa.”

Some of Chen’s volleyball inspiration has come from  2016-2020 Stanford volleyball player, Morgan Hentz, who Chen said was indisputably the best libero in college volleyball. Watching Hentz play has inspired Chen to work harder.

“She played the same position as me, and I would always watch in awe as she sacrificed her body, flinging it all over the court to make those amazing saves,” Chen said. “She was such an inspiration because she led not only through her words but also through her actions.”

A member of the varsity tennis team, Chen has also played tennis on and off since fifth grade.

“The atmosphere on the tennis court stands in stark contrast to the chaos seen in the gym,” Chen said. “Even though the court is almost silent besides the sound of the ball hitting the racket, I am still able to get excited and ignite that same sense of motivation.”

Chen noted that tennis is a more tiring sport, physically and mentally. It has more formalities than volleyball and  tennis is an individual sport.

“Playing for hours in the heat is accompanied by dehydration and sweat slowly trickling into your eyes,” Chen said. “Since you are the only one on your side of the net, you are guaranteed the ball every time, unlike volleyball where you are on the court with five other people. It is mentally exhausting because it requires so much strategy and willpower to force yourself to go for every ball.”

Both the Bellaire tennis team and volleyball team won district this year. Chen is proud that in the midst of a crazy year, they were able to be successful. 

“Freshman year has obviously been different than I expected, but I’m thankful that my teachers have made virtual learning a relatively smooth process,” Chen said. “I’ve also had opportunities to participate in two in-person sports, so it’s been really nice to still be able to meet other people.”

Tennis teammate Saanvi Sadana said that once Chen sets her mind to something, she does it to the best of her ability, and that’s not only with tennis, but also her academics.

“Karis is a really hard worker, and tennis isn’t even her main sport, but she puts in the work and she’s become pretty good,” Sadana said.

Sports has also opened up social outlets for Chen, as she has met numerous friends through teams and club volleyball. Chen values making time for activities outside extracurriculars and her schedule. 

“You should always push yourself, but that doesn’t mean you should bite off more than you can chew,” Chen said. “Try to narrow down your extracurriculars down to the things you truly care about and enjoy dedicating your time to. In my free time, I love baking or watching tik tok. Always work your hardest, but don’t push yourself past your limits.”