After two pandemic years, Tzu Chi International School Kuala Lumpur (TCISKL) was finally able to organize its first sports day. The event, participated by 1,700 students and school staff, was held over three days from July 22, 2022, for kindergarten, primary and secondary students respectively.
The school atmosphere came alive during the sports week, with the contestants training diligently, while other students got involved in poster and team slogan design, cheerleading and even setting up of mini game stations.
“Do you all know why we are gathered here today? We are having our inaugural sports day, and together, we are marking an important milestone in the history of TCISKL.” The opening remark by Principal Khoo Li Lin for the three-day sports event further charged up the spirit of the teachers and students.
It was a much-anticipated moment for all, as the country entered the movement control order period about two months after the school opened in January 2020, and physical classes had been interrupted intermittently, while outdoor activities were put on hold for the students. Themed “We learn through sports”, this sports day presented an opportunity for everyone to stretch their bodies and relax their minds. Principal Khoo reminded the students that they may not win in all the games, but their selfless contributions towards their respective sports houses and teammates will make them a champion in the eyes of others.
◎True spirit of sportsmanship
Teacher Wong Shiau Choong, Head of Co-curricular Activities and Sports, explained that the primary and secondary school students were divided into four sports houses, namely red, yellow, blue, and green. Each sports house consisted of students from different grade levels, teachers and school staff. This provided opportunity for all to get to know one another, and to foster mutual respect and team spirit.
The sports day kicked off in the early morning of July 22 for the kindergarten children, after the teachers ensured that each of them wore a face mask according to their respective team colours. Following the teacher’s instructions, the children put a beanbag on their heads and stepped forward carefully. Their cute looks of trying to balance the beanbags amused the spectators. In addition, the children also enjoyed other games, such as three-legged race, ball passing and kangaroo hop.
The sports day for the secondary school group held on the following day radiated an entirely different atmosphere. Donning their specially-designed team costumes, the students marched into the school field for the opening ceremony. The energetic performances brought on by the cheerleading teams, be it their exuberant dance steps, pyramid stunts, or ballet dance mascots, astonished the spectators, who responded with thundering cheers.
The first event for the secondary school was the boys’ 800-metre race. The contestants sprinted forward at the sound of the gunshot. After running for 2.5 laps, one of the contestants began to slow down due to exhaustion. His schoolmates outside the running track cheered him on shouting, “Go! Go! Keep it up!” Some teachers were even seen running alongside the contestants to boost their spirit to complete the final 100 metres. All the teachers and students in the audience cheered and applauded for the tenacious sportsmanship displayed by the contestants.
Approach, take off, flight and landing; Gan Kok Leong, a high jumper, jumped over the bar in perfect moves to win a silver medal. He exclaimed excitedly, “I had never tried high-jump in the past. I am not competing to win, but to challenge myself and learn from every failure so that I could do better.” It was a comfort to the teachers seeing the students’ performance and positive attitude.
On the third day (July 24), it was the primary school students’ turn. They entered the school field energetically amidst the upbeat music played by the primary school band. Jerome Wong, a teacher in charge of music and activity planning for the primary school sports day, explained that the band performance symbolized unity and discipline, which is an indispensable part of a sports event. The students of different ages and grade levels had allocated 15 minutes daily during their break time to practise together. In the process, they learned to accommodate one another and work as a team.
In the 200-metre race for Year 5 Girls category, Tan Yan Qi, who was leading, had an unfortunate fall when approaching the finishing line. Despite sustaining scratches on her knees and hands, she immediately got up and charged forward. Although she still missed the gold medal by one second, she has shown excellent sportsmanship by not giving up and persevering to the end.
◎Children, I am proud of you
In addition to the cooperation of the teachers and students, the physical education (PE) teachers had contributed greatly towards the success of the three-day event. Due to time constraint and various uncertainties, the PE teachers had stayed back at the school until 10 p.m. almost daily, trying out different ways and giving their best for the event.
Wan Nornajihah Wan Endut, a primary school PE teacher, said with tears in her eyes, “The process was hard and tiring, but do you know when I saw the children putting their hearts into the games and were all smiling, I felt it was all worth it!”
She recounted that some Year 6 students went up to her and asked if she saw their performances in the field. When she responded with a “Yes”, the students asked, “Teacher, are you proud of us?” Speaking of that, she could not help shedding tears of emotion.
An outgoing and active person, Teacher Wan Nornajihah’s life felt empty in the past two years owing to the pandemic, which also disrupted the PE classes. She was overjoyed upon learning that the school was going to organize a sports day. “I want to fill up my time. I like to work with others, and it delights me when others are happy!” More importantly, she had been looking forward to doing something for the students since she joined TCISKL in January 2020.
Students who were enrolled in Year 4 classes back then, are now in their final year of primary school. It boosted Teacher Wan Nornajihah’s motivation thinking of the students’ anticipation for a sports day. As the primary school PE group leader, she led the young teachers to prepare for the event, sharing her experiences selflessly. To her, having everyone working hard together towards a common goal, was a wonderful experience.
Teacher Goh Wei Jian, leader of secondary school PE group, was in charge of the overall planning for the event. He joined TCISKL early this year and started preparations as early as March. A 29-year-old runner equipped with past teaching experience in an international school, he was well aware that a proper system is required to hold a large-scale sports day.
Therefore, he began to find ways to develop a sports house system for the school since the beginning. He explained, “For example, students need to have a name list, theme and uniform for their respective sports houses. The proposal was revised many times and had not been finalized even until June.”
The schedule was hectic for Teacher Goh and his team, as the school had also received invitations for sports competitions outside the school, amidst preparations for the sports week. The team was also involved in sourcing of equipment for the sports day amongst other tasks. Fortunately, with concerted efforts, they complemented one another and did their best to complete the tasks at hand.
Teacher Chuah Yu Tian related smilingly, “Before the sports day, we, the four PE teachers, were too busy to see each other!” Teacher Chuah, a former Malaysia national athlete, joined TCISKL post retirement.
In order to prepare for the sports day, she and the team slept overnight on the floor of the school the day before the event. When asked about it, she replied in an easy manner, “It was not tough (sleeping on the floor). We just slept for two hours anyway.”
Her colleague, Teacher Nathan Khoon, remembered that as a memorable experience. He felt the hard work was worthwhile, especially that the students also took the initiative to help out whenever the teachers needed assistance. He looked forward for a more fantastic sports day in the coming years.”
◎Falling is not failing
Teacher Goh shared that as TCISKL is still newly established, and that he and his fellow colleagues have just joined the school, it would require a lot of communications among them in order to work together seamlessly and to organize a sports day that meets an international school standard. Therefore, the successful completion of the sports day was not without trials and errors.
Nevertheless, Teacher Goh was grateful for the cooperation shown by all the teachers and students, which had collectively made the school alive and full of vigour. He shared, “The students were not so good at expressing themselves, perhaps because they had been learning online for the past two years. However, after the sports week and sports day, I found that they have become more proactive. They have the courage to express their thoughts, and would seek the teachers’ opinions for winning strategies for their respective sports houses. I was touched to see them unleashing their potentials and taking the first step.”
Teacher Chuah, too, acknowledged the students’ growth. During the tug-of-war competition, a girl’s hands were scratched by the hemp rope. However, she rejoined after bandaging her hands with cloth. “Actually, this is part and parcel of a child’s growth process. Get up after falling down, and soldier on! We should be brave after all!”
Physical education allows students to learn through sports activities. Teacher Goh hoped that the students would demonstrate sportsmanship while participating in the games. “Do not be conceited upon gaining victory, and do not be discouraged by defeat. Physical education can be integrated into our lives and conduct, as well as become life principles that the students can adhere to in the future.”
The first sports day of TCISKL ended successfully in blissful joy. It was evident from the smiling faces of the teachers and students that they cherished each other’s efforts and what they had endured together. To quote the school principal, every diligent and mindful team is a champion in everyone’s heart!