Volleyball captain Xiu Heng lets his actions do the talking
Described by his teacher as "not the typical rah-rah captain", 14-year-old Leong Xiu Heng is someone who lets his actions do the talking.
When asked why he enjoyed playing volleyball, all the Bukit Panjang Government High School (BPGHS) student said was: "I just like it and, since I can play well, I continue."
But, talk to him about last month's National Inter-school C Division Boys' Volleyball Championship final, where Bukit Panjang pipped Presbyterian High School to the title, Xiu Heng opens up considerably.
"When we were one point away from losing, at 11-14 in the final set, our coach called for a time-out and told us it wasn't important whether we won or lost, because we were already champions in his heart," said the 1.76m-tall open spiker, who has been playing volleyball for five years.
"But our minds were still very strong, and we didn't think about losing.
"I just told my teammates not to give up and to continue doing our best."
The Secondary Two student's encouragement worked, as BPGHS, who had also won the West Zone Championship in June, clawed their way back to defeat their opponents 25-14, 20-25, 25-16, 13-25, 17-15.
Bukit Panjang's teacher-in-charge of volleyball Tan Kok Yew reckons Xiu Heng's positive attitude rubs off on his teammates.
Said Tan: "You can expect Xiu Heng to give his 100 per cent once he's on court.
"When others see that he's working so hard, they become inspired to learn from him."
Xiu Heng, who was elected captain last year, feels that mutual respect is a key element in the team.
"That's my style," he said. "When my teammates get tired during training, I tell them not to give up. But you must also know when to let them rest.
"I'm the same as them. We train together and sometimes when I get tired, I realise my teammates may be tired and need a rest, too."
Tan, who also teaches Xiu Heng physical education, believes the teenager has the makings of a fine leader.
"I've always told the team they should aim to be kings of the court. One day, before a match, I asked Xiu Heng who the kings of the court were," said Tan, 31.
"Instead of replying with 'our team, BPGHS' like I had expected, he told me: 'Everyone is a king.'
"That impressed me, because it showed he understood that everyone had to play his part to be king of the court.
"Xiu Heng puts himself in others' shoes and shows respect to his teammates.
"Once he becomes more accustomed to the role, he will become an even better captain when he reaches Secondary Four."