Karim Khalil, Life Hitter

Written by Susana Lima

At the age of 24, this young man from Mississauga has achieved several goals and has already set new ones for his future. His name is Karim Khalil and I was challenged to write about him. With some simple questions, it was easy to apperciate his love for volleyball, and especially his determination.

Karim was introduced to volleyball by his father, who would play with him at the beach. The YMCA in Mississauga was the first place where he played recreationally when he was in Grade 10, and his passion for the sport began there. “I began playing with adults who were in their mid-20’s and older who took me under their wings and mentored me in the game throughout the next 2 or 3 years of high school. “

In his final high school year, Karim was determined to try out for a varsity team. That was when he was introduced to Pakmen Volleyball Club in Mississauga. His gym teacher recommended that he sign up for one of the club´s clinics so that he could gain more experience and develop his skills as player. And so he did by joining Pakmen’s “Champions League”.

In 2008, Karim met Kelly Smith. “He saw a lot of potential in my ability to grow as a competitive volleyball player.” Knowing that Karim wanted to try out for York University, Kelly Smith took the first step and acquainted him with York University’s Men’s Volleyball head coach, Wally Dyba. A week later, Karim received an email from Dyba, expressing his interest in having Karim be a member of the varsity team. Since then, Karim has been an integral part of the Lion’s Volleyball Program.

However, starting out was not easy. The young outside hitter was not used to playing competitively, which meant he had to make an extra effort to keep up with the team. At this point, Karim was playing with and against the best players in Ontario, which just added fuel to the fire and gave him more reason to be determined. He challenged himself by “putting in all the extra practice hours to catch up to all my peers”

“Pakmen changed my life 180 degrees from what it could have been. I don’t think I would have made any varsity team as a walk-on without the training I received with Pakmen. With the varsity team, I’ve built friendships and relationships with unbelievable people and created memories that I will carry on with me through life.”

His connection to Pakmen did not end at this time. He stayed in touch with Kelly Smith and as soon as a coaching opportunity appeared, Karim applied. He started his career as coach in the weekend house league programs and found a new passion. “Coaching gives me a feeling of gratification that no other job or sport ever has. I love seeing the growth and development of young athletes as people and as athletes. On the other hand, playing has always been my outlet and it gives me a joy and rush that can’t be reciprocated by anything else. However, since my playing days are over, I can’t imagine another way to extend the joys and memories I’ve got from playing this game than to coach our youth.”

As a coach, Karim is constantly challenged. “Understanding the different goals and personalities of each athlete and trying to get the best out of each athlete is always a difficulty. One of my largest challenges is now to adjust my perspective of the game from a player’s standpoint to a coach’s and to not demand the same performance of the athlete that I would of myself. I need to appreciate each individual’s learning curve.”
But it seems that Karim is up to it. “I have coached with Karim for 3 years now, and every year I am amazed at how quickly he connects with the kids and finds creative ways to teach any and all skills and drills. Not only is he a talented coach, but acts as the perfect example as how one can excel in both athletics and academics if you put in effort. Besides being a tremendous coach and athlete – he is a great friend of mine and I love being able to work with him week after week”, says Victoria Altomare, national team beach volleyball player and also a Coach at Pakmen Volleyball Club.

Not one to harp on his own accomplishments, since he stared this journey, Karim has earned the Gator Excellence Award, Valedictorian honours, the Queen Elizabeth II Award, the CIS academic all-Canadians Honours, the OUA’s Dale Iwanoczko Sportsman Award and York´s Stuart G. Robbins Award and was Team Captain with the York Lions for three seasons.

Instead of talking about his personal accolades, he’d much rather go on about these special moments: receiving the email of interest from Wally Dyba, travelling with his team on his final year of eligibility to Japan and beating Queen´s University for the first time in their gym in the Quarter final match this past February.

Karim´s determination and humility have helped him to achieve his goals. Today he is a Master’s student studying sport psychology, Sports Administrative Assistant at York University, Volleyball Coach at Pakmen Club and he still has time to dedicate to one of his first loves, basketball.

10 years from now, Karim hopes to be in sports administration, building his career towards an Athletic Director of a university program.

Way to go, Karim! With your effort and dedication, we know you will get there!