The Budding Triathletes of Edgefield Primary School
Thursday, March 22, 2012
At Edgefield Primary School, age is no obstacle for pupils who want to challenge their stamina and athletic technique. As the only primary school in Singapore to offer triathlon training as a CCA, the school has pupils from Primary 3 to Primary 6 who can hop swiftly onto a bicycle in a flying mount, grab a quick drink from the water bottle while cycling, and keep one arm held straight out while swimming.
Looking fit and sporting healthy tans, these young triathletes approach their training with unbridled enthusiasm. While some who joined the school team were already confident in one or two of the triathlon components, the training helps them to gain competence in all three sports (running, swimming, and cycling). Says teacher in charge Mr Zhang Kaixin, "As long as they are willing to learn, we are willing to train them!"
Pri 6 pupil Javier Kiang recalls, "When I first joined the CCA last year, I was not confident about swimming." Now, not only have his cycling and running improved, he swims well and is gearing up to take part in the MILO-MOE Youth Triathlon on 24 March 2012.
Getting the techniques right
Pri 6 pupil Joan Ching joined the CCA because she loves all three triathlon activities. Training to run, however, is her favourite. "I like running, especially long distances. Sometimes our coach will get us to do drills such as running sideways, or doing jumps and hops," she says, referring to one of the two coaches who trains the team.
Drills are an integral part of the training to improve technique, and develop agility, speed, strength and endurance. Pri 6 triathlete Curtis Tan points out, "For instance, we have to learn to bike with only one hand on the handlebar, so that we can use the other hand to take a drink while biking. We also learn how to cycle in a zig-zag manner around cones, mount a bike while running, and swim while keeping one or both arms still."
While the training is challenging, Mr Zhang explains that it is not meant to be taxing. "They are kids, and we don't expect them to train like adults. The distances they cover are shorter, and there are frequent breaks." Safety aspects are also carefully considered. For instance, pupils must demonstrate sufficient competence in the swimming pool before they are allowed to swim in open water. Even so, they often swim in the shallow parts of the beach with life-buoys and lifeguards within reach should they need help.
The values behind the training
For Curtis, his favourite part of the training is in his weakest sport, swimming; as he says, "With training, I can improve." This attitude reflects what Mr Zhang wishes to inculcate in his young charges: an openness to work hard and do better. He reflects, "It is heartening when the students put in the hard work and see themselves improving."
Indeed the CCA is not all about excelling in sports and winning races, but also about life skills, lifelong learning, and values such as discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork. For Javier, his self-confidence received a boost when he learned to swim well. "I feel very proud to be in the triathlon team," he says. "Also, I do best at running, and my parents are happy that I'm good at it." Mr Zhang is pleased to note that many of the triathletes likewise have grown in their confidence and in their determination to give their best.
Being part of the triathlon team has taught pupils other skills such as time management. Curtis shares, "I've learnt to be disciplined, to set aside time for training, and still focus on my studies. At home, I finish my homework first before I practise cycling." The pupils and Mr Zhang also relish the fun and the bonding that takes place during events. Not only do parents of the triathletes turn up to cheer them on, alumni of the CCA who have graduated from the school also join them on the bus journeys to take part in the events.
As the pupils train for the upcoming MILO-MOE Youth Triathlon 2012, their sense of self-motivation is apparent. While this is a non-competitive triathlon that seeks to encourage a passion for recreational sports amongst youths, the Edgefield triathletes are not taking it easy. Curtis says, "Even though timings are not taken for this triathlon, I feel that I should do my best."
Knowing that his students, past and present, love the sports they've dedicated themselves to, is very heartening for Mr Zhang. When asked what he hopes to achieve from being on the triathlon team, Curtis's reply encapsulates some of the basic values of the CCA: "I want to be fit, I want to be more disciplined, and I want to continue taking part in triathlons after I leave school."