By Lee Chin Wee (14A01B)
Cover photo taken by Chung Kityin of the Photographic Society
Sometimes it seems rather pointless to take part in sport. Why cheer when a ball dotted with hexagonal patterns trickles over a white line painted hastily on grass? Why celebrate when the thin strip of fibreglass you threw happened to fly the furthest? Why indulge, anyway, in an entirely arbitrary activity where arbitrary actions garner absolutely arbitrary reward? To some, that encapsulates the entirety of what school sports are – events which may be nice to have, but really have no relevance to their student lives altogether. Sport, as it seems from the limp and half-hearted cheers from legions of students conscripted down for match support, is “someone else’s game”.
While it may be convenient to think so, this could hardly be further from the truth. At the risk of romanticizing or waxing lyrical about it, there is a certain transformative quality to school sports. The very same guy whom you just saw flying down the flanks of the rugby pitch, taking on three defenders at once, could be sitting next to you in class, using your math assignments for ‘reference’. The girl who scored the winning goal with a scorcher deep in extra time could be your OG mate, someone who witnessed you in your full awkward glory during Orientation. The stony-faced team captain bellowing out orders to his team could be the most humorous, soft-spoken guy you’ve ever known. Therein lies the beauty of school sports – that it takes everyday, otherwise ordinary Rafflesians and moulds them into giants on the sporting pitch. Cheer not just for the generic “Hockey Boys’ Team”, but rather for your friends and batchmates who are playing with the kind of dogged intensity you’ve never seen before.
In the same way a musician thrives on performing to a packed concert hall or an actor flourishes in front of a full house, a sportsman relies on the throaty exhortations from the crowd in order to push on. There is nothing more energy-sapping than playing out a drab 0-0 draw on a football pitch tucked away somewhere in Punggol, or sprinting to the foreign beat of another school’s cheers. For those of us who believe that RI is much more than a transitional period of our lives where we flit through countless lectures and tutorials before entering university, there is every reason to cheer our hearts out for the teams which represent us. This is what holds the fabric of the Rafflesian identity together; because we share in the collective achievement of not only our peers but generations of seniors past whenever we tell someone what school we are from. When we sing the Institutional Anthem alongside a hundred other Rafflesians after a sports final, or simply offer our bitterly disappointed friend a comforting hug, we are forging a community which transcends the mundane academic details of regular school life. (Of course, whether or not one chooses to buy into the fictitious construct of “being a Rafflesian situated in the wider school community” is an editorial for another day.)
Little wonder then, that it is usually a fellow sportsman who shouts him or herself hoarse when supporting another team. It takes an athlete who has endured the rigorous exertions demanded in training to fully understand the hard work on display. A deft flick of the wrist to return a shuttlecock belies months of training; an elegant tennis drop shot disguises the daily toil exerted on the treadmill. Our athletes put themselves through gruelling training sessions and countless hours in the gym even in the off-season, just so they can gain that precious half-stride over their opponents. This year’s inter-school sports season was no different, with sports teams training from the moment school ended till dusk had fallen. Walk past the amphitheatre and you would see the floorball team practising shooting drills ad nauseum. Head over to the stadium steps, and you would see the soccer team perfecting their latest routines. Tucked away next to the Humanities Block, the basketball team shoots hoops with metronomic efficiency. Such is the long road to becoming a sporting hero.
Sometimes, however, it could almost be said that RI has too many heroes. One victory in a sports final may rally the school; ten of these very same victories only serves a numbing effect. We have been witness to Strapping Captain X of the Y Boys’/Girls’ Team presenting the Championship Trophy to Principal Mrs. Lim so many times that our applause has merely become routine, one more step towards the end of morning assembly. Yet sometimes it would pay to pause and reflect, just for a moment. Because behind every shining gold trophy hides a story of a year-long slog toward the proverbial finishing line of victory, of hopes, of injuries and of worries. Behind every silver or bronze medal hides that very same story of hard work and determination, of battling for every single square inch of turf, of falling short when it mattered. Every single medal which our teams earn is not only a representation of their accomplishments, but also a representation of the superhuman effort required to get that victory in the first place. Some of us think that running 2.4 kilometres is hard enough – try telling that to the cross-country team.
Here at Raffles Press, we have had the privilege of being privy to all the latest sporting results, in our attempt to cover as many sports finals and 3rd/4th playoffs as possible. Amidst the flood of 1st and 2nd place finishes, it suddenly occurred to me that finishing outside one of the coveted Top 3 spots meant dropping off the news radar entirely. Why do we fetishize quantifiable achievement over the acknowledgement of intangible effort? It’s simply because that’s the expedient thing to do, since the team which took the championship title has to be better and trained harder than the team which battled to a loss in the quarter-finals, right? On the contrary, results are but an inaccurate approximation of the arduous journey every sports team goes through in a season. A bad refereeing decision, tough on-pitch conditions or season-ending injuries to a team’s best players could easily derail a team’s charge to the top. We salute the efforts of all our sportsmen and sportswomen, because we firmly believe that you don’t have to stand atop a podium in order to stand out.
Officially, this year’s sports season has been no different from the numerous seasons preceding it. A decent haul of medals, mostly of the shiny golden variety, adding yet another feather to our Rafflesian caps. Statistics, however, are but a numerical condensation of the real stories and real experiences of our fellow schoolmates. It’s irrelevant if green, black and white are the colours of gold, because the blood, sweat and tears behind a medal are what matter the most.