Don’t be a lone hero. Attack and defend as a team. Play for the love of the game, for the friendships that you build; not just to get a gold medal. When every member of the team has an equal chance to score, everyone wins.
That’s my personal mantra, and the advice I have been giving the floorball team that I coach at Special Olympics Singapore. It is common in our training sessions to hear shouts of “just pass the ball!” because I believe no single player should hog the limelight. Everyone should have a chance to shine.
As a floorball coach for students from mainstream schools, I used to train players to gun for gold. Since volunteering with Special Olympics and working with athletes with intellectual disabilities over the past five years, my coaching style has changed dramatically and I believe I have become a more nurturing coach and a better person.
When I first started, I realized that some of the athletes struggled to follow my instructions. I had to break down what I needed them to do into simple steps, guide them through a certain action slowly, and repeat the motion. It was often necessary to also pay special attention to individual players to help them master a certain floorball move. It took some creativity to incorporate games into the training to make it easy and fun for them to learn.
Patience is necessary, but it is more than worthwhile when you reap the results. Watching the players develop, both on and off the sports field, has been my greatest reward.
I have personally witnessed the growth of two players in the team, Syahir and Ramadhan. They are diligent players who have not missed a single training session, rain or shine. The reason they push themselves so hard is because they feel they are not good enough.
They were part of the team that won the silver medal for Singapore at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. Despite winning a medal, they felt inferior to the other teams they met at the Games. Since then, they have been training rigorously and have made huge progress in their game. In fact, I’m so proud and inspired to watch them develop as leaders and mentors to the younger players. It’s heartening to see how their confidence has grown. They’ve become more chatty and jovial.