SINGAPORE - He had used his own money to fund the running of his school's volleyball boys' team.
One might have expected Chong Boon Secondary's teacher-coach Adrian Tan to use the $5,000 prize money he picked up yesterday to recoup some of his investments since he single-handedly set up the Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) in 2005.
But, being the selfless coach he is, the winner of the S Soocelaraj Award this year is planning to use most, if not all of his prize money to improve his team.
The award honours the best teacher-coaches in Singapore and was presented at The New Paper School Sports Star Award ceremony at Raffles Institution yesterday.
Tan pipped five other nominees to the award presented by Soilbuild Group.
Speaking to TNP at the sidelines of the ceremony, Tan said: "I didn't expect the cash prize to be this big, as I was only expecting a few hundred dollars, so I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the money.
"The first thing I'm going to do is to get some new gear for the team. I'll probably buy some new jerseys, training gear and extra equipment."
The S Soocelaraj Award is arguably the biggest accolade of his 14-year coaching career, but his feet remains firmly on the ground.
"Life goes on, really. To me, winning the award is merely an affirmation of all the hard work that I'd put in over the years. The money is secondary," said Tan.
"With or without the award, we still have to focus on one main thing - whatever sport the students play, the aim is mainly just to give the students something to believe in. I just help to guide them."
When his name was announced as the winner, the 35-year-old physical education teacher could hardly believe his eyes as he had expected to finish outside the top two.
After all, he was up against seasoned teacher-coaches such as Shuqun Primary's Roslan Sa'ad and successful trainers like Raffles Institution's Lim Yao Xiang.
"It came as a huge surprise to me, albeit a good surprise, to win this award," said Tan.
"All the other nominees have stronger backgrounds than I do, and some are even seasoned practitioners of their craft."
The award is just reward for someone who built up an entire CCA from scratch.
Tan started with just five players when he joined Chong Boon in 2005 but, seven years later, he led his charges to the National Schools South Zone title, firmly establishing the school from Ang Mo Kio as one of the big boys.
And he is not resting on his laurels.
Tan said: "The B Division boys are starting their South Zone tournament in January next year, and we're looking forward to do even better than this year, where we fell to Catholic High.
"But, to me, it doesn't matter where we end up, to be honest.
"We have been consistent over the years, so going forward, it's all down to the students and whether they want it or not.
"The boys already have the self-motivation to want to do well because they also want to see their efforts pay off, not just me."
l Winner: Adrian Tan (Chong Boon Secondary School, volleyball)
l 1st runner-up: Roslan Sa'ad (Shuqun Primary School, football)
l 2nd runner-up: Chrislin Lee (Raffles Girls' School, sailing)
l Lim Yao Xiang (Raffles Institution, water polo)
l Renuka Satianathan (Innova Junior College, athletics)
l Vincent Quek (Raffles Institution, athletics and cross country)
This article was first published on November 27, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.