When Zacchaeus Goh picked up volleyball four years ago, he struggled with hand-eye coordination, despite playing hockey during his primary school days, and mastering jump techniques.
The 15-year-old has improved since then, from being a key player in the St Hilda's Secondary School team to being called up to the national team last year.
And yesterday, the Secondary 4 student was awarded the Singapore Schools Sports Council (SSSC) Best Sportsboy prize for volleyball, presented to the best male athlete in the sport at this year's National School Games (NSG).
The top male and female athletes in 29 categories from 27 sports were feted at the SSSC Colours Awards ceremony at CHIJ St Theresa's Convent.
Zacchaeus told The Straits Times: "I knew our school had a good volleyball reputation so I expected to be able to play, but I didn't expect to be sitting right here now with an award like this."
The award was a result of his hard work when he was picking up the sport. Zacchaeus took up volleyball in Sec 1 after passing his school's selection trial, as he wanted to learn a new sport.
But, while he played hockey - a sport that also requires hand-eye coordination - he "wasn't a very good player... when I saw the ball, I just hit it forward".
So, Zacchaeus honed his coordination skills with help from more proficient teammates and played practice matches, some of which were outside of official training.
He spent his first year on the bench, taking to the court only in his second year in the C Division, and has evolved into a key player for St Hilda's, who won a seventh straight B boys' crown this year.
Teo Siew Lan, the school's volleyball teacher and coach, said of Zacchaeus' quick improvement: "He's very focused and takes a lot of initiative in his own learning, and that's how he can be so good."
Zacchaeus, who relied on encouragement from his teammates in the initial days that he was still mastering the sport, added: "Winning this award doesn't just reflect on me but on my entire team - if it weren't for them, I wouldn't have improved and achieved this."
More than 8,700 students from secondary schools, junior colleges, and Millennia Institute were awarded SSSC Colours Awards yesterday. The presentation also marked the closing of this year's National School Games (NSG), which saw the participation of more than 60,000 students.
Also among the awardees were cricket player Gune Atharva Rahul of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), who is one of The Straits Times Young Star of the Month winners, and Radiance Koh who was named sailing's Best Sportsgirl.
The 15-year-old national Optimist sailor, a Nanyang Girls' High School student, was third in the B Division girls' byte fleet in her first year of racing in a bigger boat.
"Prior to the NSG, I sailed maybe five training sessions in this boat... I capsized many times," said Radiance, who will compete at the Nov 30-Dec 11 SEA Games in the Philippines. "It was quite disheartening... and I realised maybe I needed a different approach."
The teenager, who won two bronzes in her SEA Games debut in 2017, believes she will benefit from this experience when she races again in the Optimist fleet in this year's edition.
She added: "I feel like I'll go to the SEA Games with more confidence that I'm going to do well, and I'm going to try to get a medal of a different colour this time."