SINGAPORE - Play was halted by a heavy downpour but the songs and cheers were not at the National B Division girls' softball on Monday (March 28).
Even as the rain pelted down on the pitch at the Raffles Girls' School (RGS), their spirits would not be dampened for the student-athletes had waited two long years to compete in the National School Games (NSG).
The hosts were up against Geylang Methodist School (Secondary) in their opening NSG game when it was halted after 20 minutes owing to inclement weather. The RGS softballers continued to sing school cheers while waiting for the rain to abate, with the match eventually postponed after an hour.
But there were still smiling faces all round. RGS captain Nydia Chew, 15, said: "My team celebrated after we had the news (of the return of the NSG) because we have worked super hard since 2019.
"But then in 2020 and 2021, we didn't manage to play and finally this year we managed to play and I feel like finally we have a chance to play and showcase what we have trained for."
The past two years have been particularly challenging for team sports as coronavirus restrictions limiting group sizes have left many unable to play these sports in their usual formats.
The pandemic-enforced suspension of the NSG in 2020 meant that competitions for various sports were cut short or did not even start, while last year's Games only featured two team sports - sepak takraw and volleyball in a modified 3v3 format.
So it was no surprise that student-athletes were thrilled when the B Division softball, basketball and cricket competitions kicked off on Monday, signifying the long-awaited return of team sports to the NSG.
All team sports will be contested in their respective standard formats this year, with the exception of rugby which will be played in a sevens format instead of 15-a-side.
Geylang Methodist School (Secondary) softballer Zoe Tan, 14, was glad to make her NSG debut in softball after making the switch from netball, which she played in primary school.
The Secondary 3 student said: "I was really sad because when I joined the CCA (co-curricular activity), I was expecting to be able to play in my first year or second year. Going right into the B division is quite challenging because the level is really up there."
RGS softball coach Gerann Ngiam said it has been challenging trying to keep his charges motivated over the past few years.
With group-size limitations restricting their activities, Ngiam, 29, tried coming up with different ways to make training interesting such as arranging for mini games or internal competitions.
Geylang Methodist School (Secondary) basketballer Reyes Chee admitted that he struggled with motivation during this period.
"I wasn't really motivated at first to train because there was uncertainty over whether there was competition and the format so I just took training really lightly," said the 15-year-old after his school's 33-23 defeat by Dunman Secondary School in the B Division East Zone at Pasir Ris Sports Hall.
"But when it was announced that there would be the NSG competition, I wanted to get ready both physically and mentally."
For others, there was some ring rust to dust off. Dunman Secondary School basketball captain Lau Yong Qing, 16, who was part of the team who won the national C Division basketball title in 2019, said that they took some time to get used to competing again after two years.
The Secondary 5 student added: "I felt like we could have done better - in the first half we were quite scared because we were all quite inexperienced and it's been two years. We have to adapt to it - it's not easy, but we're going to do better and hopefully win the (zone) championship for the school."