Ex-mentor inspires Yangzheng teacher Chan to be players' guiding light
Yangzheng's Chan inspires his school footballers, and it is because of a former teacher
A particular greeting card stood out for Samuel Chan this Teachers' Day.
The teacher from Yangzheng Primary School in Serangoon received it from a pupil in the junior girls' football team.
"She said if she could, she'd like to have training every day after school," said Chan, who is also the coach of the team.
"Of course we can't do that," said Chan, with a chuckle, "but it was heartening to read. Even though this pupil hardly ever speaks up, I know she's always ready to participate in training."
Chan, who teaches mathematics and physical education (PE), has been nominated for The New Paper's S Soocelaraj Award that honours teacher-coaches.
While the 28-year-old is a role model to his students, he himself was inspired to teach by his former Nanyang Junior College (NYJC) PE teacher, John Lim.
Lim, the football teacher-in-charge, encouraged Chan to try again for the team after the student did not make it in year one. Chan succeeded the following year and represented his school in the nationals.
His inspirational figure has since died in an accident.
Recalling how Lim used to help him through injuries and always had words of encouragement, Chan said: "He was like a light shining the way for me.
"When he passed away, it felt like the light had been extinguished.
"But he passed on the baton, that light, to me.
"What I'm doing today is the same thing for my pupils, to guide them and show them the way."
Chan first began coaching at his alma mater NYJC, whose girls' football team initially struggled to get off the ground with only four players.
He had to modify drills and invite other students to join the team so they could take part in external tournaments.
When he joined Yangzheng in May last year, numbers were similarly small, but Chan went on a recruitment drive.
He introduced drills in the form of games to get pupils interested in the sport.
He inspired the youngsters with his team talks, encouraging them, urging them to trust each other and have fun. And his methods worked.
The seniors were playing a national round-robin game earlier this year, and Chan's girls were suddenly faced with a crisis after their goalkeeper suffered an injury just before half-time.
The team had no chance of qualifying for the next stage, but a teammate who had just joined the squad weeks before stepped up to take the goalkeeper's position.
It is apparent how much the girls respect their coach, says head of department for physical education and co-curricular activities, Simon Lim.
"The girls listen to his instructions. He has the ability to get them ready and not to give up easily."
In turn, the pupils have motivated Chan to be a better coach.
Apart from his Asian Football Confederation Level One coaching certificate, Chan also has coaching qualifications in basketball and handball.
He diligently reads books on football skills and techniques, as well as biographies of famous football managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis van Gaal and Arsene Wenger, although he declares that he is a Liverpool fan.
Said Chan: "Their passion to learn has motivated me to invest time and effort... to consistently improve my training, and to elevate the quality."