NJC’s teacher-coach Shanmugadas' philosophy: Team before self or medals
NJC's Shanmugadas and fellow teachers even pen 'commandments' for students to follow
Before every training session, the National Junior College (NJC) basketball team are greeted by a plaque listing 10 "commandments" at the entrance to the playing hall.
These commandments are neither about drills nor game tactics, but guiding principles on what makes a good leader.
The student-athletes recite the first commandment to this reporter on cue: "I am not an NJC basketball player. I am an NJC leader who happens to play basketball."
These principles come from teacher-coach Shanmugadas Kumaresadas and four other teachers in the team, whose objective is not to mould their students into national players, but future leaders.
It may be surprising, given that the 38-year-old was a former national cager and currently the men's national team manager.
Shanmugadas also plays for Home United Basketball Club, and used to coach the national Under-16 girls' team, as well as the Asean Schools boys' team.
But he is adamant on the team's coaching philosophy, and gets his academically stronger students to coach the weaker ones during compulsory study sessions between trainings.
"I tell them, 'you're a team on and off the court.' We want the whole team to do well together, not individually," said Shanmugadas, who has been nominated for The New Paper's S Soocelaraj Award, which honours teacher-coaches.
Having taught in NJC for 10 years, Shanmugadas has an alumni team, with ex-students from as far back as 2005 who come back to play.
Recently, one of his ex-players donated part of her first pay cheque to the school's fund for needy students.
"For one of my kids to do that, I can't ask for more.
"We've created memories for the students so they come back; it's better than any top-four placing," said Shanmugadas, who is a head of department, year head and house master in the NJC boarding house.
This is not to say his players do not have sports achievements.
Despite taking in non-players, his A Division girls have finished in the Schools National top four for the past two years, while the B and C girls are among the top four in the South Zone.
In training, Shanmugadas focuses on "small-sided games on a very high intensity level" to keep his players engaged.
But he refuses to take credit for their successes.
"Success is from the students. They have amazing work ethics... they didn't have skills, didn't play competitively before, but they work very hard."
To his players, Shanmugadas is both disciplinarian and joker.
The team get to bond and have fun through Christmas dinners and training trips.
Shanmugadas even had loudspeakers installed in the basketball court so the team can play music during trainings and school events.
But the students know when their coach means business.
Shanmugadas once made his A Division girls run side-line drills for slacking in a friendly game, even though they won.
Vice-captain Gwen Sim, 18, said: "That's one of the worst punishments we had, but it was a good wake-up call to be focused."
Her teammate and basketball president Kristerbel Pang, 18, added: "Mr Sham would rather us be better people than better basketballers; basketball and winning is secondary."
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