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Graduation 2011 - Speech by Mrs Deborah Tan, Singapore Sports School Principal

This year's graduation has a special meaning for me. I took on the mantle of leadership at this School the same year this cohort started their schooling here. In that respect, there is for me a special association with this year's graduands.

I have had the opportunity - many of you were my captive audience in the boarding lifts - and pleasure to interact with many of you and witnessed your steady growth as young persons over the past four years.

In years to come when you get together to reminisce about your life at Sports School, you will remember the joys, the pain, the disappointments and the triumphs associated with your training and competition experiences. You will remember your highs and lows in the classrooms and in your respective boarding houses.

You will remember the struggles to balance and harmonise all the important pieces demanded of you as student-athletes. You know that the School is a strong advocate that every student-athlete should strive for excellence i.e to do your best at everything and finish well anything that you start on. I hope all these experiences will add up to helping you be more resilient.

Many of you will have fond memories of the School such as this year's fundraisers - Project Infinity and JapanAid. You were co-sojourners at the Chinese International School, CCAB when the School was displaced from this campus last year so that our School could be part of the legacy of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. You will certainly remember cheering and celebrating the success of the School, your team and your year mates at various sport competitions.

It is this collective memory that distinguishes you uniquely as alumni of Singapore Sports School. We hope these ties will not only bind but continue to strengthen in years to come.

As you prepare to move into the next stage of life, I would like to leave you with two key messages:

First, it is a message about giving your best. At Sports School, we always challenge you to go for your dream.

American novelist and newspaper editor Edgar Watson Howe once said: "Don't be like some men who storm imaginary Alps all their lives and die in the foothills cursing difficulties which do not exist."

I share with you now what Kent Smyth, author of "Anyway, The Paradoxical Commandments - finding personal meaning in a crazy world" has to say about this matter of giving your best. I think what he says makes a lot of common sense.

He said, "The cost of giving your best can be high. The only thing that costs more is not giving your best. If you aren't giving your best, you aren't who you are supposed to be."

Never forget that you are unique. You are genetically unique, and you are unique in your combination of talent and experience. That means you have something special to contribute. You make that contribution by giving the world your best.

Think about it. What kind of person doesn't give his or her best? Why does anybody hold back? Why would anybody want to deliver a second-rate performance?

My second message is this - continue to hone your senses and seek and pursue worthy opportunities so as to grow as a person and to improve lives of others around you.

You have lived, by far, a fairly sheltered life and many things are kind of handed to you on a platter.

When you get into the larger world beyond the hallowed walls of Singapore Sports School, you may find yourself in situations where you are deluged with opportunities. That's a happy situation but you will be called upon to make wise choices.

Alternatively, you could be in a situation where you wonder why opportunities never seem to come your way. If so, remember what a wise proverb says - God gives every bird his worm but He does not throw it into the nest.

So don't just wait for opportunities to come to you, go out and find them. I always believe that you will appreciate a lot more the opportunity because you worked hard to find that opportunity and then pursue after it.

In either situation, I hope each of you, because of what we have imbued in you at Singapore Sports School, will have in you a sound moral compass and character so that you will do the right thing in the right way in any given situation.

As your Principal, I hope that with your talent, the learning and experiences that you gleaned as Singapore Sports School student-athletes will shape you as Learned Champions with Character.

Not all of you are fully minted yet, but certainly you have recognisable traits of the Learned Champion with Character - a uniquely Singapore Sports School graduand.

Parents, I would like to thank you for having faith in the School all these years. We are into the final stages of helping your child be battle-ready for the up-coming GCE "O" level examinations. For those who are on the through-train programme, we hope they are equipped with enough skills and competencies through the Advanced Elective modules and internship opportunities to better succeed in course of choice at Republic Polytechnic.

To all the class of 2011, I urge you:

1) To always give your best

2) To hone your senses, and seek and pursue worthy opportunities so as to grow as a person and to improve lives of others around you.

We hope you will make us - your family, your alma mater and your friends - proud of your efforts and your achievements.

You are privileged beneficiaries of contributions and efforts by many significant others in this School - Mr Seah Poh Chua, Mrs Lu who have cared for you as your Head-of-Year, your teacher-mentors, your subject teachers, your General Managers, coaches and House staff. I would like to say a big thank you to them for their work with you.

This afternoon, we are very honoured to have Professor Er Meng Hwa grace the graduation ceremony. Prof Er currently holds the positions of Vice-President (International Affairs) and Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nanyang Technological University.

I understand that Prof Er just returned from Troye, USA. Last year, at about this time of the year, our school management together with Prof Er and other board members visited the US Military Academy at West Point when he was en-route to Troye. Coincidentally, Dr Ralph Pim from West Point Military Academy was just here with us last week to work on Coaching for Character in our School. We are very delighted that Prof Er is able to spend the afternoon with us.

A final word to our graduands, I wish you fulfilling years ahead. You know that Singapore Sports School will always remain home base for you. We certainly look forward to you visiting regularly, strengthening your ties with us. We hope you will make us proud and return to serve and to contribute to your beloved alma mater.

Best wishes and thank you.