School sports

Discipline a key element in nurturing her winners: CHIJ Sec (Toa Payoh) netball coach Kok Mun Wai

Kok Mun Wai, 47, has coached netball for 20 years at CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) and has won 13 C Division and 10 B Division titles. She says the manner in which her players conduct themselves on court is important.
Kok Mun Wai, 47, has coached netball for 20 years at CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) and has won 13 C Division and 10 B Division titles. She says the manner in which her players conduct themselves on court is important. PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Between them, they have almost 70 years of combined coaching experience in Singapore school sports and together have captured more than 60 national titles. But winning trophies was never the priority as Adrian Chong (rugby), Kok Mun Wai (netball), William Chua (volleyball) and Fabio da Silva (football) tell The Straits Times. First and foremost, they are teachers and the most important lesson offered on the sporting field is a simple one; success requires hard work.

Kok Mun Wai may not have any children but she has nurtured hundreds of "daughters" during her two decades as the CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) netball coach.

Raising batch after batch of convent girls requires a firm hand and it is why the no-nonsense coach places a heavy emphasis on discipline during each practice session.

The 47-year-old said: "When they roll their eyes, show attitude during trainings, or if they pull a long face when they are penalised by the referee during matches, they will get it (scolding) from me.

 

"How they behave on court is important. I do not condone rough play and improper attitude."

National netballer Natalie Long spent eight years under Kok's tutelage and dreaded training sessions. She said: "We hated her stopwatch. Her signature would be the fitness portion of every training. When I left home one Saturday for training, I actually cried."

Yet under Kok's watch, CHIJ (Toa Payoh) have flourished, winning 23 B and C division titles since she took charge in October 1996. This year was the school's third double in four years.

Her success is infectious. Kok also coaches CHIJ Kellock (Primary) and Anglo-Chinese Junior College and has completed a calendar sweep of all five national titles - the primary junior and senior, A, B and C divisions - on two separate occasions in 2005 and 2013.

Despite the collection of silverware, the former national goal-attacker insisted that trophies were never her priority.

During matches, Kok never looks at the scoreboard - occasionally not knowing who won - but only at her players to see what can be improved. She said: "Even though the girls would win by a big margin in some matches, if they did not execute the plays correctly, they would still be scolded by me."

But her devotion to her players is reciprocated by unwavering loyalty. Long, 26, said: "Yes, she was very strict, but off the court, she is kind and caring... She even tutored some of us in accounts for our 'O' levels and it really helped."

Over the years, Kok has received numerous attractive offers but has no intention of leaving her three schools.

Not bad for someone who had never envisioned herself as a full-time coach in the long run.

She said: "I initially gave myself just three years being a coach. But the schools - the teachers and staff - have made a difference to me."

Her impact on generations of schoolgirls, in many ways, has been equally telling.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline 'Discipline a key element in nurturing her winners'. Print Edition | Subscribe