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Coaches Impact Lives Through Sport

Staff Awards 2020: Coach of the Year

Many believe that coaches are instrumental in the development of an athlete, both in sport and as a person. And rightly so. Good coaches not only help their athletes become stronger physically, but emotionally and mentally as well; they inspire athletes to believe in themselves and the attainment of their dreams.

However, Singapore Sports School’s coaches are a different breed. Apart from being teachers and mentors of sport, they also educate their student-athletes on life and impart the values, attributes and mindset of a champion, so as to nurture not only Champions In Sports, but Champions For Sports and Champions In Life.

Two such coaches, Francis Yeo Lai Seng and Geraldine Ng Jie Hui, are epitomes of a “good” coach – one who has his athletes’ best interest at heart, looks beyond sport achievements and develops an all-rounded individual. The outstanding work with the student-athletes performed by Francis, Head Coach of the Bowling Academy, and Geraldine, Coach of the Netball Academy, earned them the Coach of the Year Award at Sports School’s 2020 Staff Day Awards. Recipients of the Coach of the Year Award should have displayed proficiency in sport planning, training and development through their work, as well as look out for the physical, social and emotional well-being of their athletes. This includes adopting and adopting coaching methods to ensure they are age-appropriate and suited to the varying abilities of student-athletes.

Spreading Joy Through Bowling
He may be small in stature, but his caring yet firm nature causes those around to look up to him. Francis’ commitment towards nurturing his bowlers sees him creating teachable moments after training sessions and competitions through reflection-writing. His deep belief in the importance that character development and sport go hand-in-hand, the Head Coach of the Bowling Academy takes the effort to personally go through each written reflection with the student-athlete and guide the bowler towards becoming a better athlete and individual.

A simple desire of seeing his athletes improve has been Francis’ driving force throughout his nearly 40 years of coaching experience. What stemmed from an interest in growing his personal skill and knowledge of bowling expanded outwards towards developing others.

“When I first started coaching, I gave a lot of free coaching. Seeing my bowlers improve, their joy of being able to execute a movement well; seeing some of them move on to the next level and representing the country, going on to win medals for Singapore and achieve their goals and dreams. This is what keeps me going,” said Francis.

Upon joining Sports School in 2019, he implemented a well-structured system to ensure that every bowler’s development is monitored and no one is overlooked. It is this commitment towards seeing his charges mature as athletes that Fion Liew Shan Ting, a Diploma in Business Studies Year 3 student-athlete, is grateful for. She credits her progression into Singapore Bowling Federation’s (SBF) National Youth Team to Francis’ close guidance and belief in her.

“Coach Francis has been key to my success as a bowler and an individual. Since my early days as a bowler, Coach Francis saw potential in me and constantly fought for me, even till today. Through the good and the tough times, he believed in me more than anyone, even when I didn’t believe in myself. I wasn’t the best bowler but worked hard to improve my game and me as an individual,” said the Sports School post-secondary bowler.

“He taught me to be smarter on the lanes, to be more independent and self-reliant during competitions without leaving me to drown. Whenever Coach Francis ‘scolded’ me, it was always with good intention of guiding me in the right direction. His passion and big heart for coaching drives me to work even harder, so that I can make him proud one day.”

This nurturing spirit of his extends beyond just the student-athletes, to his coaching team as well. As the former National Head Coach of SBF, the veteran coach openly shares his knowledge of sport planning, training and development with his team of coaches to boost the coaching capabilities of the staff at Sports School. Yet, Francis remains humble and receptive to feedback from staff and student-athletes alike, earning him the respect of colleagues and athletes.

“I am eternally grateful for everything he has done for me. His motivation, encouragement, wisdom and life lessons inspire me on and off the lanes. Coach Francis grew my passion and love for bowling and he is the man behind why I am who I am today,” said Fion.

Being More Than A Coach
As a former Sports School student-athlete, Geraldine Ng Jie Hui is able empathise with the struggles her athletes face while juggling both sport and studies. This experience served as motivation for her to return to her alma mater as a netball coach. It was homecoming for Geraldine, better known as “Coach Gerry”, when she joined Sports School as a staff in July 2016, six-and-a-half years after graduating from secondary school. 

“My experience as a student-athlete of Singapore Sports School really shaped me as a person. My coaches, General Managers, mentors, teachers and sport directors believed in me more that I believed in myself and always gave me opportunities to grow. Even till now, years after I have graduated, it is all the values I learnt from my coaches and teachers that have helped me grow and pull through successes and setbacks. I will always grateful for the support system available to me when I was a student-athlete, which is why I’ve come back to serve again.”

In 2019, Netball Academy’s “C” Division team achieved a milestone when they won the National School Championships title for the first time in 10 years. The feat was the result of Geraldine’s 1.5 years of detailed planning and dedication to honing the skills of her athletes. The coach of six years goes to great lengths to develop their technical abilities, physical fitness and knowledge of the sport through her detailed planning of trainings and reviews of training sessions, match videos and statistics.

“Coach Gerry cares about her student-athletes and does not give up on us easily even if we do not meet her expectations. Every day that we step on to the court, we’re learning something new. Coach Gerry looks beyond our skill level during training; she also observes our fatigue level and adjusts her trainings from there. There have been times when she saw us looking tired and she switched up exercises for more calming ones that helped us unwind,” said Megan Low Wen Qi, a Secondary 2 netballer.

However, to the 28-year-old, a successful athlete requires more than sport talent and ability on court; embodying good character and moral values is just as crucial. As such, Geraldine enforces the importance of personal and character development, and role models it by constantly upgrading and upskilling herself in the areas of sport and life, so as to better mentor her athletes. She shares that a key motivation to improve as a coach is so that she can in turn help her athletes improve.

Geraldine also finds meaning and joy in her job when she is able to impact the lives of student-athletes of different abilities and backgrounds, as well as having opportunities to “build strong rapport with the athletes and be their go-to person on good and bad days” to talk about anything related or unrelated to the sport. In her four years since becoming a Sports School staff, Geraldine has successfully earned the trust of her student-athletes as someone who is more than a coach, but also a senior, a mentor, a confidant.

“Coach Gerry not only teaches me skills that a netballer should have, she also stresses the importance of values such as respect and responsibility that an individual needs to display in our everyday lives. Most netball coaches may stop at teaching the team netball skills, however, Coach Gerry goes the extra mile to make sure that everything is well for us – including our studies. Through her, I’ve learnt about setting priorities, such as my studies over phone time or sleep over phone time. She even gives us tips on how to make our days more productive,” shared Megan.

“As a coach, I hope to help my athletes achieve their long-term goals regardless of whether it is sport-related or not. If my student-athlete looks back after leaving the system for 5, 10 years, and is proud and grateful to have come from Sports School, it would be a very heartening achievement for me,” said Geraldine.