I recently received a "thank you" card that I think I will never forget. It was given to me by the P6 senior boys and girls team. After their NSG competition, they did not need to and should not have turned up for CCA sessions. They should have focused on their preparation for the final exam.
During one such session, I was shocked when they turned up in full force. I chased them away, but one of the pupils passed me the card.
It consists of 2 pieces of A3 paper folded together. Some of the messages are what a teacher would "die to hear," and I can only dream of pupils saying those things to me.
This batch of pupils did surprise me. I wasn't particularly close to them compared to other batches. I asked another pupil why they had gathered together. Did they have a program to express thanks to their teachers? She told me that it was just something they had been planning for a long time.
I am very surprised by how CCA can shape a person's attitude. When I called a parent to remind them to apply for DSA, if they wished, they mentioned how much they had seen their son change after he went for training. They sounded sincere enough to make me feel appreciated.
This batch of pupils worried me a lot when they went for competition. Their progress in the game was rather slow. In fact, I questioned myself why there was a need to work so hard every morning and recess, practicing with them. I even sent a message to myself on WhatsApp to cheer myself up:
"If there is no top four, I must remember that my hard work is not entirely meaningless. I used to give up halfway during my secondary school days, but now I still enjoy it and apply what I've learned. Keep going."
Over the last 3 years, my mindset regarding training the pupils hard has changed. Initially, I wanted to be the champion. After being defeated, I told myself that it was still worth it because the skills and values acquired would help them in the DSA application. But I still quietly hoped for a minimum top four. (Hence the "四强" in the previous message.)
After I wrote that message to myself, I found another reason. Many of these players are hardly athletic. They joined just because of passion and interest. In fact, many of them are shy.
We do not talent scout for our CCA. As long as you are committed to coming for extra training, you will improve and do better, albeit at a slow pace. They might not have had a chance to be in the school team if they went to another powerhouse school.
Coincidentally, that's what one pupil wrote in the thank you card. While it hardly reflects reality, it is a teacher's dream for pupils to work hard and believe that effort can produce results.
There is this player who joined late, towards the end of P5, and she learns very slowly. But she comes for every recess training. I told her that I am impressed by her passion, and while she may not have a chance to be one of the main players, she can still contribute to the training. I told her that her starting line is just too far away, but the route is long. As long as she is willing, she is always welcome to train with us, although I might not be able to give her much attention. She needs to understand the reality of the circumstances.
I thought she might be offended or disheartened, but nope, she continues and told me she is very grateful that I didn't give up on her.
This year, the situation has reversed. Instead of 6 players, I have 8 or 9 ready players, and perhaps another 3 weaker but still deployable players
One year after COVID, the opposing teams have become stronger as schools have intensified or normalized their training. It is beneficial for the sport. While I still yearn for a top-four result, I am equally thrilled about a closely fought match. There are many lessons to be learned from it.
The previous batch had confidence issues. Many of them did not believe in themselves. In contrast, this group has an issue with overconfidence, as they topped their group in the junior league (we got lucky with the draw).