Yuhua Sec's tchoukball teacher-coach wants players to 'earn their jerseys'

Lim Shumin is a no-nonsense coach who does not hesitate to discipline her players.

She once benched two players from her Yuhua Secondary School tchoukball team - even though it meant they were down to six against seven when a player got injured.

Her rationale is simple: the players must be committed to earn their jerseys.

The two were good players, but often skipped training, hence Lim got two volleyball players to make up the C Division Girls' team instead.

When a star player was injured and had to sit out, the rest of the team struggled to hold their game together.

"It was a teachable moment for that team to realise it's not about competing as a player, but as a whole team," she said.

"If some are falling behind, eventually everyone suffers."

Lim, who has been nominated for The New Paper's S Soocelaraj Award, which honours the best teacher-coaches in Singapore, believes in setting a culture of discipline and teamwork.

The 29-year-old makes the team repeat warm-ups until the last player arrives.

"Instead of punishing the few who were late, I asked the whole squad to do the stretch again," she said.

"The team did three, four rounds of stretching in total. I tell them: make sure your team are on time, what's the point of starting training when a few come in late?"

Top-six finishes

Lim, who teaches chemistry and PE at the school, also does not tolerate vulgarities.

If she hears anything disrespectful in class or during training, her students are expected to do push-ups or run suicide drills.

"Victory and results will come when everything else is in place, like discipline," said Lim.

She sent the school's first tchoukball team to the Nationals last year and the B Boys finished sixth. This year, the school sent their first B Girls' team; both the boys and girls made the top six.

It was a struggle at first when Lim joined the school in 2012 and doubts crept into her head.

Juggling dual roles as a teacher-coach, she wasn't sure if she had been too tough on her players.

Her pioneer team of seven were down to three because the students couldn't relate to her strict methods.

But she reached out to them through her remaining players and they eventually returned to training. One of them even became her B Boys' captain.

Since then, she has adopted a more approachable coaching style and her students have adapted to her stricter tone as well.

"I always tell them: this team is yours, it's not mine because I'm just here to remind you of what it means to be players," said Lim.

Despite the tough training, the team have grown to nearly 40 players.

Lim also started a two-day tchoukball programme in 2013. It gave the team a chance to bond and was a platform for her captains to build confidence in leading.

B Boys' captain Aidil Aiken Adam, 14, recalls Lim giving him a pep talk when his team were slack after the Nationals.

"From that day onwards, I realised I had to stop slacking," he said.

"Ms Lim always tells us to give our all, to make sure we're part of the team.

"I want to follow what she says, she is not making us do this for nothing. I also want to be a better tchoukballer."

Fellow tchoukballer Nur Syafina Sardon, 15, sums it up: "She is very understanding to our problems and very caring. Of course, she needs to be serious at times, but we can still joke around with her."

"She will motivate us, believing in us... She made me believe that I could lead the team and I did," the B Girls' captain added.

This article was first published on October 16, 2015.
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