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Seng Kang Secondary: Cultivating well-rounded footballers through the School Football Academy programme

Seng Kang Secondary School prides itself on providing its students with a holistic education. Its mission is to “nurture lifelong learners, gracious citizens and resilient leaders". So when it came to finding a partner for its school football programme, it is little wonder that the school found the School Football Academy (SFA) a perfect fit.

The SFA is an initiative under the Unleash The Roar! national football project to raise the quality and intensity of football in secondary schools. But beyond creating better footballers, the SFA programme also places emphasis on creating good student-athletes who can excel both on and off the pitch, championing virtues such as resilience and hard work. 

Since coming on board the SFA programme in 2022, the school has seen results both on and off the pitch. Its C Division Boys team improved from finishing in the group stages of the fifth tier in the National School Games to sealing the third spot in tier three last year.

Off the field, the school has also seen how values like discipline, commitment and shared responsibility, which the SFA promotes, can have a positive impact on its students.

Seng Kang Secondary School finished third in the C Division Boys (Tier 3) of the National Schools Games 2023. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

Seng Kang Secondary principal N Sivarajan put it down to how well SFA Seng Kang coach Dawood Anuar and his team connect with the student-athletes.

He said: “Beyond just focusing on football skills, coach Dawood and his team also look at our students as individuals, paying attention to the mental growth as well as helping to shape attitudes and mindsets. 

“It goes beyond just football and this is in line with what we are trying to do in terms of character-building and how we want to develop them as student-athletes.

“It is good that we share the same ethos and vision for the boys and I'm sure they will grow as individuals from the experience.”

Secondary two student Muhammad Audi Irfan, a central defender, reflected on how the coaching team has made him grow as a person, beyond simply football. 

He said: “The coaches always tell us to believe in ourselves in any situation, never give up, and that their coaching and tactics are to help the team be open to different approaches. It made me have more self-belief, that mentally we can adapt to any situation. This is something we can apply not just to football, but to life.”

Seng Kang Secondary School footballers celebrating their win against Bedok South Secondary School. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

The SFA programme also saw the students participate in the Seng Kang Secondary School SFA x Singapore Premier League (SPL) Learning Journey and Seng Kang Football Family Get-Together. For the former, it was an opportunity for Seng Kang SFA players to attend an SPL match at the Jurong East Stadium between league champions Albirex Niigata (S) and Balestier Khalsa.

Interestingly, the match also featured a Seng Kang alumnus, Nicky Melvin Singh, who is playing for Albirex (S) and a current Singapore U23 international. 

Nicky, who was in Seng Kang Secondary School from 2015 to 2019, interacted with the students and gave them a motivational talk. It was a meaningful session for the team as they had the rare opportunity to interact with one of Singapore’s top footballing sides.

Seng Kang Secondary's young footballers had an opportunity to watch the Singapore Premiere League match between Albirex Niigata and Balestier Khalsa  at the Jurong East Stadium. They even get to interact with Alberix player Nicky Melvin Singh (Seng Kang Secondary School Alumni & current Singapore U23 National Team player) after the match.

Looking back on the past year, the SFA program has also impacted the next generation of student-athletes, with Ms Julie Katherina Abdul Samad, parent of student-athlete Mohammed Emraan Mohammed Ezaad, commenting that her son joined the school for its SFA program. Another parent, Mohammad Shukor Sman, commented that his son, Mohammad Nur Rizqy Mohammad Shukor, enjoyed how the SFA training is more structured and effective, thus resulting in a more balanced training and academic workload.

SFA Coach Dawood Anuar (facing camera, in grey) and football teacher-in-charge, Mr Joshua Lim (facing camera, in black) giving a team talk during a 2023 National Schools Games match.

For head coach Dawood and his coaching assistant, Amir Haziq, 2023 was a year of progress and they are hoping to that 2024 will be a year of sustained growth for the development of the student athletes.

“It has been a very positive and enriching experience both for me and the school as we try and build a positive culture of excellence and nurture an environment where the students can excel and do well in both sports and studies,” said Dawood.

Engagement with student-athletes and their parents during the Seng Kang Football Family Get-Together evet. Photo by Seng Kang Secondary School.

Football teacher-in-charge, Mr Joshua Lim, a physical education teacher, paid tribute to the professionalism of the SFA coaching staff and values-centred approach. He notes the positive transformation in the boys’ physical capabilities as well as their discipline and behaviour.

Mr Lim singled out the 2023 Seng Kang Football Family Get-Together as a good example of how the different influences to a student’s growth came together with the purpose of celebrating the student. The event saw parents, SFA and school staff come together in a fun-filled day of parent-son games, community-building activities and sharing sessions. Mr Lim said that the parents felt the time invested in this event strengthened the ties between them and the school and gave them an insight into how the school and SFA are developing their child beyond academics, but also in sport and character building. 

When it comes to holistic development for the student-athletes, Mr Lim shared that the team talk rituals before and after each match, helped them understand the significance of winning with good character values, which sets a commendable foundation for the players.

He cited more examples such as proactive behaviours of arriving early to set up the field, which showcase a strong commitment to the team and a sense of responsibility, qualities that extend beyond the sports field into various aspects of life.

He added: "Inculcating healthy living habits through self-directed exercise during non-peak seasons and focusing on proper nutrition around matches contributes not only to the players' physical well-being but also fosters a holistic approach to personal growth and long-term success.

"The zero-compromise policy on values, consistently reinforced by coaches and teachers, underscores the importance of character both on and off the pitch. This commitment not only influences the outcome of matches but also shapes the players into young gentlemen with values that will guide them throughout their lives."

Seng Kang principal Mr N Sivarajan with school captain, Muhammad Audi Irfan, during 2023 National Schools Games 3rd/4th placing match. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

Said Mr Sivarajan: “I think the whole vision and what we are trying to do is good and inspiring. We just have to stay on it and be committed to it. Over some time, we should be able to see the effects and the improvements.”

Story by: Mashidayat Maszeni

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