School sports

Sacrifice pays off as his charges overcome the odds

William Chua, 44, has coached for 21 years at Anderson Junior College. His boys' volleyball team won the A Division title in 2001, 2003 and 2006 and have a total of 16 top-four finishes under his tutelage.
William Chua, 44, has coached for 21 years at Anderson Junior College. His boys' volleyball team won the A Division title in 2001, 2003 and 2006 and have a total of 16 top-four finishes under his tutelage.PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN 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.

Talk about being thrown into the deep end. Not only was William Chua embarking on a new job in 1995 as a physical education teacher at Anderson Junior College (AJC), he was immediately handed a formidable task.

As a former volleyball player in his school days, he was viewed by the then AJC principal Tan Teng Wah as the perfect man to form a competitive boys' team.

Without hesitation, Chua, who picked up volleyball at the age of 10, agreed. The 44-year-old said: "Volleyball is my passion... I was happy to be given the opportunity to play the sport and help others take it up as well."

 

The learning curve however, was steep. He started with just four players - an indoor team needs six - and they had to train at the outdoor basketball courts owing to space constraints.

With almost no coaching experience and a part-time squad - the players were already committed to their core co-curricular activity - he still led the boys' team to a creditable quarter-final finish in their debut season in 1996.

Buoyed by that result, the team increased the number of their training sessions and they clinched bronze the next year. Chua said: "When the team achieved third place, that was a big gift for us. I told the players no matter what the outcome, we must enjoy the journey together without regrets."

That journey reached its climax in 2001 when AJC captured their maiden boys' championship. They added further titles in 2003 and 2006.

During Chua's tenure, the boys' team have achieved a top-four finish 16 times. The girls' squad - he took charge in 1998 - have reached the semi-finals on 10 occasions.

One of Chua's strengths has been his ability to connect with and motivate his students, noted 2013 boys' vice-captain Sher Zi Wei, who said: "During our overseas trip to South Korea, he spent most of our meal times with us. Not only does he talk about training but he also jokes with us about off-court topics too."

Sacrifice is another apt word. Current girls' team captain Siti Sarah said: "He dedicates his life to volleyball. He's at training from Monday to Saturday and sometimes only leaves school at 10pm."

He may have stumbled into coaching 21 years ago but Chua was clear about his purpose.

Watching his former players return to AJC to assist in sparring has been most satisfying, he said.

"They have grown into people who act 'not for myself alone'. To have built a community that is based on character and values has been very rewarding."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline 'Sacrifice pays off as his charges overcome the odds'. Print Edition | Subscribe