Missing out on a place in the first team can be demoralising for an athlete, but Guangyang Secondary School's football coach Arumugam Kaliappan was determined not to let students who did not make the cut feel that way.
Instead, he set up a developmental squad of about 25 students and dedicates a day a week to train them, on top of the twice-weekly sessions for the first team.
Jubilant members of Guangyang Secondary School's football team carrying coach Arumugam Kaliappan after winning the Schools National B Division League Two title in April. Arumugam and Northbrooks Secondary's Sanjay Radakrishna were among 10 recipients of the Singapore Coach Medallion yesterday. Photo: ST FILE PHOTO
"There are some players who are late developers and that's where gradually they do better and get into the school team," said the 44-year-old, who has coached the school team for six years.
Some of his students come from challenging backgrounds, and the physical education teacher approached Singapore Premier League clubs Hougang United and Home United to provide boots for those who could not afford them.
For his efforts, Arumugam was awarded the Singapore Coach Medallion at the third CoachSG conference yesterday. He was among the 10 recipients for the award and one of only two teacher-coaches.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, the guest of honour at the event, said: "We hope that the award recipients will be encouraged to continue to raise the profile of the coaching profession, and serve as inspiration and role models for the coaching fraternity."
Another recipient, Northbrooks Secondary School teacher Sanjay Radakrishna, started an athletics interest group to share his passion for the sport with students. The school does not offer track and field as a co-curricular activity.
Sanjay, also the teacher-in-charge of Red Cross Youth, trains the running team of 10 students - hailing from CCAs like floorball, band, photography club and youth flying club - four times a week.
The 31-year-old, who teaches mathematics and physical education, said: "The inspiration definitely will be to return back to the community... and to share the love for sports, particularly track and field, with the next generation.
"I was also very inspired by the students after I spotted them training on their own and I believed that they had a lot of capability that could be tapped into."
When the team were first assembled four years ago, Northbrooks finished 28th in the Schools National cross-country competition, but they broke into the top 10 for the first time this year.
Guangyang's Arumugam also led the B Division football team to an unprecedented Schools National League Two title this year.
For the two teachers, seeing their students develop on and off the field is the most rewarding.
Arumugam said placing faith in his students has encouraged them to improve themselves.
He said: "I'm not just a coach, but also a friend with them. Off the field, they will share their problems with me and I will try my best to solve them. If not, I'll bring it up to the respective departments."
Sanjay added: "We are more than just coaches, we are actually educators; we are there to care about the overall holistic development, not just whether they do well in football or track and field."
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