National ice hockey players take their schoolwork along during tourney
National ice hockey players take their schoolwork along with them on international tournament
Ahead of a crucial match, five national ice hockey players were huddled up in a hotel room, each of them deep in concentration.
They weren't analysing tactics though, that was done by the coach.
The five youths were busy completing their school homework before their bronze-medal match against hosts Malaysia at the International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Challenge Cup of Asia.
The tournament was in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of their school semester in March and caused them to miss a whole week of lessons.
One of those affected is Bryan Lee, a 16-year-old student at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).
"We have to be very diligent in our work. During tournaments, we collect the work we'll miss from our teachers so that we can complete them during the downtime," he said, adding that they would gather in a hotel room to study together.
When asked if it affected him during the tournament, Bryan said: "When I get on the ice, it's just hockey. I don't worry about anything but the game."
The team finished third in the seven-team tournament to clinch the best ice hockey performance for the Republic yet.
The addition of these schoolboys added a youthful edge to the squad.
Although just 16, Bryan has 12 years of experience under his belt and has played the game in countries like Qatar, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Bryan and his other teammates who are still in school, however, have to balance between pressures of the ice and pressure from parents to maintain their grades.
To make matters worse, ice hockey training is held from midnight till 2am at JCube on Fridays due to cheaper rates.
"It's the only timeslot the team can afford as ice time in Singapore is one of the most expensive in the world," said Bryan.
The 25-strong team train once a week but increase training sessions closer to a tournament. Then, they would also train on "school-nights" Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Apart from Bryan, teammates Ryan Goh and Cael Chua, both 16, will be sitting for O-level examinations in October, just before the South-east Asia Games in the Philippines from Nov 30 to Dec 11.
Ryan, a student at Saint Joseph's Institution International School, however, sets his priority on the books before the ice.
"For me, studies come first. I love hockey, but I have to make sure I have good grades before I can play," he said, adding that he aspires to be a doctor.
Teammate Christopher Kelly-Wong, 17, a Canadian International School student, agreed.
He said his parents have supported his ice hockey pursuit since he started 10 years ago, on the condition that he performs in school.
"If I'm not doing well, the Monday nights that I help the Singapore Ice Dragons kids I'll have to stay home and study instead," he said.
For Christopher, a fan of professional American side Chicago Blackhawks, the struggle between school and training hits hardest after they return from overseas tournaments.
For Catholic Junior College alumnus, Richard O'Brien, however, his biggest struggle was staying awake in class.
"My grades definitely suffered a little bit, but that's my fault more than anything," said the 20-year-old, whose father is the head coach of the men's national team.
"It's possible to do both. You have to be willing to sacrifice your social life and other hobbies and let studies and sports be the only thing you have time for."