“Our local boys have gained because of the higher level of competition and commitment we encouraged by recruiting the foreign students.”
-Montfort Secondary Principal Simen Lourds.
The Straits Times ( 24 Nov 2007 ) – Saturday (S8)
Should schools stay off the bandwagon?
Montfort Secondary Prinicpal Simen Lourds feels differently.
Mr Lourds, who used to play competitively growing up in Malaysia, is credited with reviving the school’s status as champions.
“Our overall goal is not just to win badminton tutles,” he says, refering to the strategy of recruiting foreign students crucial to Montfort’s championship plans.
“We want to do out part in the national target of having a team in the final rounds of the sports’ supreme tournament the Thomas Cup, in 2012.”
The first question he and his badminton teachers asked themselves was whether schools were competing at the level of top countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
“The answer was ‘no’, because our local boys were complacent,” he says. “They thought they were good by just beating one another.”
So, four years ago, he recruited a top Indonesian student to play for the school team although Montfort already had the National champion, Derek Wong.
Derek was the son of former SEA Games singles gold medalist Wong Shoon Keat, Montfort’ coach.
The two qualified for the final of the national championship, recalls Mr Lourds.
“The Indonesian boy, Albertus Teddy Setiadi, beat Wong easily, allowing him only five points in each game,” recalls Mr Lourds.
The humbling defeat had the intended effect of jolting the Singapore boys.
They bought into the school’s programme of year-round training and competition.
“We train every day and a nights too,” says Mr Lourds, The boys get a break only yo prepare for the O levels.
He did not reveal how many foreign players the school has drafted. But last year, Montfort dominated the two secondary schools tournaments. Of the 14 it fielded, nine were foreigners.
The schools started a badminton alumni to persuade former students to provide sparring time for the players. “We created the chance for them to play against men,” he says.
“So, the foreign talent is just one component in our effort to raise the level of the local game,” he says.
Last year, Derek turned the tables on his Indonesian schoolmate and beat him for the national title.
Derek has grown into such a promising talent, he is the only teenager in the senior national squad.
Half the national age-group players in the national association’s stable are Montfort boys, says Mr Lourds.
They include Indonesians and a Thai who want to represent Singapore, he says, and that can only be good for the country.
As for the local talent? He says that Montfort players emerge regularly as champions in the annual national tournament which restricts entrants to Singaporeans.
“Our local boys have gained because of the higher level of competition and commitment we encouraged by recruiting the foreign students,” he says.
They also hold their own in regional tournaments, although they may not win.
“We are still behind, but we have closed the gap,” he says.