A little while ago I heard talk that I should write an article on this, so here goes. Everything here is my own personal opinion-you may not agree with any of it. I'm what this world would consider a "third culture kid," having been moved around a lot throughout the years due to my parents’ work. My whole life, sport has always been the one thing that has kept me going, and I like to think that I have lived along the lines of the quote from T.S. Eliot that says "Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
My whole life has been about working hard, but playing so much harder. If I think back to a couple months ago, I would go to school from 8 a.m. till 3 p.m., play soccer from 3 till 4:30 p.m., play touch rugby from 4:30 till 6, play basketball from 6 till 7:30 and then I would have to go to club training until about 9:30 and often wouldn't get back until 10 p.m. To keep this up, and force yourself to get back at 10 p.m., eat, shower etc and then sit at a desk and do your work when all you want to do is sleep takes a lot of mental strength, and I think this is where a lot of mine has come from. I don't believe in fate or destiny or any of that. I was always taught that if you want to do anything, to achieve anything, you have to do it yourself. The hardest step in all training is to just take that step to get to training. I have had some amazing inspirational coaches throughout my time, and at the age of 17 I have realized that to get into the top universities or to reach the highest standards in sports I need to have self-motivation and need to do it for myself. I was very privileged to be chosen last year to represent Singapore at the All Nations Touch Rugby Champs in Christchurch, New Zealand at the age of 17, and to get to play there against the best teams in the world (Australia and New Zealand) -it was more than I could ever ask for. I have been fortunate to travel much of Asia for soccer, touch rugby, and basketball as well as some triathlons. I have also been fortunate enough to travel to Australia and New Zealand on multiple occasions for different sporting events. In terms of let-downs, I don't know where to even begin with that. I have been through tons of races and not achieved what I wanted, or lost tournaments we should have won. I always grew up wanting to be an Olympic swimmer, and then when the realization came that I was never going to be good enough, my dream became to just to make it to the Olympics for any sport—and it’s never going to happen. This year we lost a soccer tournament (BIG) that we have never lost in the history of the tournament (8 years). I also lost my cross-country championships for the first time in 5 years. All of these things would take down weaker athletes, but the stronger athletes take it in their stride and realize that it’s part of developing.
I have come to realize one of the most important sides of sports is mental. I have been through multiple pysch sessions with sports psychologists and, well, “never give up” is basically the best advice I have for anybody. I know it’s easier said than done, and that everybody says the same thing. Injuries may have put me out of sport—I was told I could never play contact sports again due to an ankle injury—and disappointing races have shattered me, but in the end it makes you stronger, it makes you want to come out for more. In November, I was offered the opportunity to test my mental strength by being one out of 11 from our school completing a 53.5 hour basketball game. At first, this sounded fun and it sounded easy. The world tricks you into these sort of ideas. There were 11 of us vs. 11 from a local school here in Singapore. Both teams also had a boy from Aceh, Indonesia, as the basketball game was not only an attempt to break the world record but also to raise money for tsunami relief. Still sounding easy? Every player has a log book for when they get on/leave the court. You are not able to walk, you must continually play as if it is a real game. There are refs. You can be fouled out. Score is kept. You cannot leave the building. Still doing okay? You play from 11pm-3am, and then try and sleep for a couple hours before your 7am-11am shift starts but all you can hear is the music and ball bouncing. But that’s okay, because you still have at least 6 shifts to do. We made it. Finally but it’s definitely improved my mental strength dramatically. Basically, if you want something in life you have to go out there and get it. Nobody is going to bring it to your door and give it to you, nobody cares if you get it or not. It's only about you, and if it’s a team sport, like many of mine are, then it’s about your teammates too. You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. You're right. I'm just a 17 year old with a huge passion for sport like millions of others out there, but if you learn anything from this learn that it’s never about the numbers, it’s all in the head. If you can't beat them physically or technically, beat them mentally—the rest will come.