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Seyar Karimi, middle, flanked by two of his slightly taller Marauders volleyball teammates.

Heart trumps height as volleyballer graduates a two-time Academic All-Canadian

At five-foot-six, Sociology student Seyar Karimi was unlikely to make the Marauders volleyball team. Then again, with a 65 per cent average in the last months of Grade 12, it seemed unlikely that he would attend university at all.

Jun 14, 2017

At five-foot-six, Seyar Karimi was unlikely to make the Marauders volleyball team.

Then again, with a 65 per cent average in the last months of Grade 12, it seemed unlikely that Karimi would attend university at all.

But through the willpower that would become his hallmark, Karimi made both things happen. He will become the first in his family to graduate from university this week after completing McMaster’s Sociology program – and becoming an Academic All-Canadian athlete along the way.

“Seyar was one of our community leaders,” says Marauders head coach Dave Preston. “He had a limited role with us on the court, but off the court he was the face of our program. He worked at youth camps, he visited the Boys and Girls club, volunteered as part of our outreach efforts – he knew he probably wouldn’t be playing a lot and was still the hardest worker in the gym every day.”

Preston first met Karimi when he was a Grade 9 student attending a Marauders volleyball development camp. He had been cut from his high school team in Mississauga, but showed such dedication as team manager that his coach brought him to the camp anyway.

A few years later, Karimi approached Preston on the court and made a bold statement.

“He came over to me – he walked right underneath the net, he was so short – and said, ‘Coach, I’m going to play for you one day.’ And I said, ‘I look forward to that, Seyar.’”

Karimi continued visiting Hamilton throughout high school, travelling to McMaster for as many Marauders games as he could, all the while getting to know the team and coaching staff better.

When the time came to apply to university, Preston called Karimi into his office for a meeting.

“He started listing reasons why it would be difficult for me to become a varsity volleyball player,” says Karimi. “I thought, ‘This is it – I’ll never play for the Marauders.’ And then he told me what I was doing right, and why my attitude was the right one, and said that if I could get into McMaster, I had a spot on the team.”

Karimi used that offer as inspiration to improve his academic standing, eventually getting the marks needed for acceptance. After struggling in his first year at Mac, Karimi went on to become a two-time Academic All-Canadian, earning an 80% average or better while playing varsity volleyball.

Despite being the smallest player in the league and playing only a handful of times, Karimi had an outsized impact on his teammates – particularly before games, when he’d deliver one of his popular pre-game speeches.

“It’s not all about wins and losses for us,” says Preston (although his teams do have a history of winning: eight OUA championships in 10 years, including five in a row, and five consecutive medals at the national level). “I’m in the business of building human potential, and Seyar’s story is really what we’re all about.”