How to achieve your goals, Singapore Sports School Style (SSSS)

Looking back when I was 13, I could honestly say that I was undisciplined, couldn’t manage my time properly, and needed my parents to guide me in every aspect of life. It was as though I was a spoilt kid, and everything was spoon fed to me.

My parents decided to send me to the Singapore Sports School as the sports school was a solution for me to balance my swimming and studies. I regard myself as someone who has endless amount of energy, and if I don’t exercise, I’ll get a little restless, so there was no way I could quit swimming and purely focus on studies for my secondary school life. Thus, the right school for me was the Singapore Sports School.

We were quite skeptical at first as there were many criticisms made about the sports school. But in order to continue my passion for swimming, we chose this route.

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In the Sports School, everything was routine like:

6:15am – 8:00am: Morning training

8:00am – 8:45am: Breakfast

8:45am – 9:00am: Assembly and announcements

9:00am – 1:45pm: Classes

1:45pm – 3:30pm: Rest

3:30pm – 7:00pm: Afternoon training

7:00pm – 8:00pm: Dinner

8:00pm – 9:15pm: Supervised study time

9:15pm – 10pm: Recreational time

10:30pm: Sleep

As you can see, sports school life was very routine like, some even say it’s regimental.

Honestly, I hated it when I just entered the sports school. Imagine someone like me, coming from a background whereby I was constantly being spoon fed by my family. The sports school life was hard for me as I didn’t get to see my parents only until the weekends, friends and teachers were the only ones that I could rely on.

I still remember my roommate Andy and I got scolded by the general manager on the first day of school for being late. We were all kids then. Though assembly time was 8:45am, but both of us were equally as blur, we only started to leave our hostels as 8:45am as we thought that we ‘could make it in time’. What was I thinking back then?! The first day of school was already not so smooth for us.

I spent everyday’s recreational time calling my parents to tell them how much I hated the sports school. I still remember telling my mum, “Mum, I hate this place! I want to change school, I can’t take this life, it isn’t suitable for me.” My mum just laughed and said, “son, very soon you’ll start to enjoy the life there, it’s just a new phase in life you need to get used to. You just need to open up to your friends! Just give yourself a couple of weeks.”

True enough, after weeks of the hectic schedule, I got used to it. In fact, I started to like the sports school, it taught me independence. I was responsible for every choice I made, whether right or wrong, and I had to face my own consequences. It kind of forced me to be independent.

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Common choices that I had to make were like, am I going to 6:15am training or am I just going to snooze to breakfast?  Of course snoozing to breakfast was a choice I always made when I was secondary 1 and 2, but I had a price to pay. I kept finishing 3rd or even out of the podium spots when I was secondary 1 and 2. That was when I thought to myself, “Hey, that’s enough defeat for me, it’s time to wake up and start training now.”

The act of self-realization triumphs hours and hours of lectures and scolding from your parents and coach. So sports school has allowed me to learn it the hard way and to date I am still very grateful to them.

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Start with the end in mind

Of course, the sports school has ways to keep athletes motivated. They have a parent to teacher meeting 2 times a year to make sure that we were on par with our goals. Sports School has taught me that the key to achieving your goals is to start with the end in mind. Know what you want to achieve long term, and take baby steps to get there. As long as you have the end in mind, you will be motivated to achieve your goals.

For me, it was to qualify for the SEA Games in 2009, which was my long term goal when I was 13. To ensure that I achieve that, the sports school has set short term goals for me, to do well in age group meets first like the National Age Group Championships and the SEA Age group Championships. Those competitions had given me the chance to gain exposure and experience which I could learn from to prepare to qualify for the SEA Games. I constantly reminded myself that my main goal is to qualify for the SEA Games, thus that kept me motivated to train every day.

Going to competitions like these weren’t a problem as the teachers in the sports school would sacrifice their own social time to give us extra classes. One teacher that I would like to greatly thank is Mr Mak. He was my dean during my time in sports school and he always supported me fully for swimming. He would ensure that I’m always able to keep up with classes even if I miss them. Even though I have left the sports school, he is still watching me compete in major games if it were to be held in Singapore. In the recent Singapore Open, he even congratulated me right after my race when I qualified for the SEA Games. I was so surprised to see him as he even came to watch me swim though I was already an alumnus.

It’s quality teachers like these in the Singapore Sports School that motivates us to be the best that we can be.

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Photo with Mr Mak back in 2009 where he congratulated me for making the Asian Youth Games team

To date, I am still very thankful for the Singapore Sports School, it has left behind many great memories that I will never forget. I have became a more independent and disciplined person today. People often ask me how I stay so motivated to my goals, well; all I can say is that years of experience in the sports school has groomed me to who I am today.

SMART goals

To my readers, what I would advise is that you set a long term goal (minimum a year) of the end result you would want to achieve. Make sure it is achievable. And take small steps to achieve them!

If you’re unsure on how to set goals, here’s a way you could follow. The method that the sports school has taught me is to set SMART Goals:

Specific –

Make sure that your goals are specific,

Instead of setting a goal like “I want to lose weight”

Set a goal like “I want to lose 10kg by the end of the year”

Measurable –

Make sure that your goals are manageable.

Attainable –

Make sure that your goals are achievable

Realistic –

Make sure that the goals you set are reasonable!

Time-bound –

Make sure that the goal you set would be achievable during that time period you set

Never stop thinking of your goal until the day you get there. DON’T EVER THINK OF GIVING UP! 

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Photo with our principal Mrs Deborah Tan before SEA Games 2013

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