Iâ€™ve been asked to write about either a person or an organization that inspires or supports or encourages participation in sports.
I can think of a handful of people I know who have been influential, although not in the way weâ€™re accustomed to seeing, in promoting participation, and to a certain extent, excellence in their field of sport.
I recall very fondly my rugby coach in Sydney, Frank, who was in charge of our hapless MacArthur Mooses (rhymes with Losers) clubâ€™s menâ€™s team, which was entrenched at the bottom of the NSWSRUâ€™s 6th Division, and which didnâ€™t look like winning a single match when I joined in the 2000 season.
With only about 20 players to pick from, it was a hard task every week trying to form a team of 15 players when a rough match the week before could decimate the playing stock through various injuries, but Frank soldiered on for some reason, and for some reason, the rest of the team soldiered on with him.
Before you think thereâ€™s a fairy tale ending here and the Mooses go on to win the division and get promoted to the 5th Division, stop. They lost every match of the 2000 season but one, and also in the following year.
Still Iâ€™m quite sure the teamâ€™s still in the competition somewhere, playing and losing and the players earning Frankâ€™s quite remarkable ire every time.
Frank used to run us through our drills every training, very earnestly â€“ shaking his head at every spilled ball, and egging us on with all sorts of vulgarities â€“ which we eagerly translated to income via a swear-fine jar ($5 for every swear word).
And then there was one bizarre pre-match briefing which entailed Frank trying to hypnotise key players to help us play better. We lost that match 145-0, and urged Frank to try that trick on opponents instead. He just sighed, swore under his breath, and took $5 out of his wallet and put it into the swear-fine jar.
Not a potential nominee for coach of the year, Frank. But what my teammates and I liked about Frank and many other coaches/managers of the suburban sporting leagues in Sydney was their unwavering policy of â€œgiving everyone a goâ€. It didnâ€™t matter if you were tall, short, fat, skinny, fast or slow, heâ€™d give you a run on the team at some point, whether or not you were a 100 game veteran or a newbie whoâ€™d just only recently touched a rugby ball.
It was no surprise that the MacArthur Mooses comprised Anglo-Australians, Pacific Islanders, Italian Australians, Lebanese Australians, and at the end of the backline, a Malay-Singaporean, a Chinese-Malaysian and of course, yours truly.
Everyone got a go, and I never once felt demoralized at being on the wrong end of hundred point hidings, and neither did my teammates. We loved playing, and being on the field, and being part of a sporting culture that embraced everyone.
Nothing sums it up more than one afternoon, while gearing up for another hiding on home ground, with my Malay-Singaporean teammate in the stands in charge of the BBQ stall because he is out injured with a broken nose. The referee is about to blow the whistle to start the game when my teammate yells:
â€œFRANK! Are these sausages HALAL? Because if theyâ€™re not, I shouldnâ€™t be touching them!â€
Frank, to his great credit, did not utter a single swear word in his response, which was simply a measured: â€œFor the lot of you, whaddya think?â€
If you, like me, are inspired by people whoâ€™ve pushed you to participate in sport, and think that that person or organization deserves mention â€“ do check out the Singapore Sports Councilâ€™s POSB Everyday Champions and nominate them: http://www.singaporesports.sg/posbchampions/home.aspx
It could be your coach, your teacher, or your father who drives you to training every morning â€“ anyone!
Speaking of which, I recall a teacher from secondary school at ACS who used to be in charge of our swimming PE lessons. Mr Goh, I think his name was, but which was often forgotten in favour of his more popular nickname, Darth Vader, on account of his raspy voice and stern demeanour.
Every swimming PE lesson, every boy in the class would be ushered into the swimming pool, and made to swim. No mucking about, no games, just swim, and swim laps.
Darth Vader would prowl the perimeter, and although dressed only in his Speedos, would never actually be in the water. In place of a light sabre, he had a broom stick or a swimming pool cleanerâ€™s net, which he would use to prod boys whoâ€™d been tired enough to hang on to the side of the pool.
â€œSWIMâ€, heâ€™d rasp.
â€œBut sir, Iâ€™m tiredâ€, would come the typical response.
â€œTHEN SWIM SLOWLYâ€, heâ€™d rasp again while poking you off the side of the pool.
And so, every boy swam at every PE. (OK, I’m exaggerating – some managed to get out of it totally).
And you might argue that the link is tenuous, but in 1984, some of the boys whoâ€™d swum in that same pool (Shaw Pool, Barker Road): Ang Peng Siong, Oon Jin Gee, Oon Jin Teik and David Lim formed the Singapore Olympic team that swam at the Los Angeles Olympics.
It all starts somewhere.
POSB EVERYDAY CHAMPIONS
Nominations open from 16 Oct â€“ 16 Nov 2008