The fast-changing nature of work has prompted many Singaporeans to upgrade their skills to stay relevant. TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts of young Singaporeans who have recently done so to give their careers a boost, or even pursue new paths in life.
In this instalment, Mr Kang Rui Jie, 28, describes how life as a full-time student reminds him of his days as a national taekwondo athlete, juggling school with training and competitions. Mr Kang is pursuing a Sport Science degree in hopes of helping other athletes perform better.
I am pursuing a degree in Sport Science with Edinburgh Napier University via PSB Academy.
My goal is to become a sport psychologist, helping athletes ease their nerves especially when they do not perform up to expectations.
I chose this course to deepen my knowledge of the science aspect of sport, for example, by learning ways to help athletes cope in high-pressure situations.
Being a full-time student brings to mind the sacrifices I made during my days as a national taekwondo athlete.
Taekwondo has been a huge part of my life since I first donned my uniform some 20 years ago.
I won a gold and bronze medal in the poomsae event at the 28th Southeast Asian Games in 2015.
In 2018, I began working as an operations executive at Evolve MMA, a mixed martial arts gym, after completing my National Service.
I later became an operations manager there and found myself needing to step out of my comfort zone to lead a team.
In 2021, I had the opportunity to return to taekwondo in a different capacity.
I joined the Singapore Taekwondo Federation as an operations manager to oversee the nuts and bolts of the national governing body for the sport.
I was quickly involved in many committees, including the High Performance Committee which was made up of ex-national athletes and technical experts.
My role in that committee was to assist in organising open selections to recruit new athletes and closed selections to select athletes going for competitions. I also liaised with our Korean coaches to put their plans on paper, and acted as a translator.
Throughout my two years there, I had the privilege to see through policies and a series of projects to enhance the development of our athletes.
These included coming up with selection policies and criteria for our national team and a code of conduct for athletes.
It was inspiring to have been involved in redefining the career pathway for athletes and coming up with strategies to improve their performance.
This sparked my desire to equip myself with knowledge and skills to better contribute to the sporting industry.
I left the federation in August 2022 to pursue my Sport Science degree. It will take me one year and four months to complete the programme.
Balancing social life, family time, and many other factors was something that I had to learn to manage from the start.
I remember back in my polytechnic days, which were packed with training and overseas competitions, it was really challenging to juggle school and taekwondo.
After evening training, my mum made sure that I had dinner before I took off to revise or finish school assignments.
The challenge for me now is juggling between part-time coaching to finance my degree, and focusing on studying.
Being a newlywed, I also needed a strong support system at home because I had to make the difficult decision to leave my full-time job for my studies.
For this, I am grateful for my wife’s unwavering and wholehearted support.
My experience as an athlete has taught me to cope with challenges by reframing negatives into positives. I’ve learnt to see each challenge I face as a learning opportunity.
I am also blessed with very supportive parents who have always been there for me throughout my athletic — and now academic — journey.
For parents reading this article, your support to your child is of the utmost importance to them as you are the first person they see before they leave home and when they get back.
Sometimes a small act of encouragement leaves a large impact and provides the very boost they need after an arduous day.
To all athletes, when a goal or event seems too big, break it down into smaller goals and start by achieving them while gaining confidence to tackle the bigger ones.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mr Kang Rui Jie, 28, is a full-time Sport Science degree student at PSB Academy in Singapore. He was a taekwondo (poomsae) gold and bronze medallist at the 28th Southeast Asian Games, and graduated with a diploma in Aerospace Electronics from Temasek Polytechnic in 2016.
If you have an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.