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Inspiring Future Fencers

St. Gabriel’s Primary School Sports Day

By Emil Chua Wen Xun
Fencing Academy, Secondary 4

Five Singapore Sports School student-athletes from the Fencing Academy visited St. Gabriel’s Primary School on 8 October 2020 to guide Primary 1 and 4 pupils in learning the basics of fencing. We taught them the basics in a fun and enriching manner, ensuring the experience of the primary school kids to a fulfilling one.

The five of us – Filzah Hidayah Nor Anuar, Kieron Kok Zi Hua, Tim Shee Zhe Guang, Zephaniah Ian Kiew and I – assisted in hosting one of the stations at their Sports Day where we introduced fencing to them. We had hoped to create an enjoyable experience with fencing, while also ensuring that it was physically invigorating.

We arrived at 8 am and proceeded to set-up in the room allocated to us – the music room. There were three roles which we divided among ourselves. Two of us were in charge of teaching the basics of fencing, namely the en garde position, and how to properly move. Another two conducted one-on-one lessons, to “test” their recently-acquired skills. This gave the pupils a chance to run up and down, swinging their blade side to side, in an attempt to hit us, which left most of them sweaty and panting afterwards. Lastly, for safety reasons and to guard ourselves and our young participants against the coronavirus, we had to wipe and disinfect the plastic blades after each round.

To comply with safe management measures, pupils entered the room in small groups of five. They maintained safe distancing between themselves and kept their masks on throughout the session. We also made sure to avoid all physical contact with the pupils.

I clearly remember one child, who was bursting with energy as he came into the room and was so excited about fencing. We subsequently learnt that a group of our seniors had conducted a similar session last year and it sparked a flame in this boy, Michael. Michael listened very attentively and genuinely tried to perfect his en garde, and for a beginner, his stance was quite good. When the time came to “test” the skills he had picked up, he was so focused on hitting me, and each time he did, he celebrated with exuberance. Michael told me afterwards that he would look into joining the sport, and I was pleasantly surprised. It seemed fascinating to me that one simple sports day activity can entice a child to join a sport, and gave me motivation to perform my task more seriously knowing that I have a part to play in piquing the young pupils’ interest in fencing.

Initially, my friends and I had little expectations of this event, but by the end of the half-day event, we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We learnt to always present ourselves in the best possible manner and to always take things seriously, as we had the ability to influence the young students. Due to our role as “coaches”, we had the opportunity to grow their interest in the sport and encourage them to pick up fencing, or shape their opinion of the sport based on what we do and say.

This was emphasised by Zephaniah, who coincidentally is an ex-student of St. Gabriel’s Primary: “I have never seen anyone so interested in what I say and do before, so it’s really cool to know that they can love the sport if we show that we too love it.”

Regarding his return to his alma mater, he said, “It’s very nice to come back here and see my old teachers and my old school building. When I entered the school, I felt a pang of nostalgia even after four years of graduating from St. Gabriel’s. I still recall coming to school every morning at 7 am as if it was just yesterday.”