Thursday, 4 April 2013

Possible for a little girl to fly?

Gymnastics club team with Coach Joe at the then Extra-Curricular Activity Centre (ECAC)

"Hi Joe, have you seen my daughter?" my mom asked coach, Joe Leighton. "Look up there in the sky, she is flying!" Joe happily replied. :D

Childhood gymnastics was fun especially with Joe around. He's great with kids, with a great sense of humour that children love. He made training warm-ups enjoyable, a breakaway from the mundane stretching and drills. His cheerful-self made a hard workout fun and memorable that would otherwise been tough and painful. Joe is your everyday best friend who sprinkled positive dust around you and make you feel good about yourself.

Left: Coach Joe, with his young gymnasts attending another coach's wedding at St. Andrew's Cathedral (Eileen, 4th from the left);
Right: Coach Joe celebrated our Birthdays every year (Eileen, 4th from the left)

Like all great coaches, he wants the best for all his gymnasts. He set targets and goals, and made sure we stay focus and achieve what we've promised ourselves. Step-by-step, we began to jump higher, flip better, twist tighter and learnt all the new tricks and somersaults that we once dreamt of. We were motivated to reach greater heights, push our boundaries and keep improving. 
Being the mischievous and active kid then, I treated the gymnasium like my playground-climbed up and down the Uneven Bars like a monkey, play-acted Robin Hood saving a damsel in distress on the Balance Beam, flew over the blue floor exercise mat like a dragonfly over calm waters. My energy was in abundance; after training, I had enough body fuel to do another round of practice.

1985, Pesta Sukan @ the Singapore Badminton Hall - Mischievous me @ 7-years-old with Coach Joe on my right

Play-acting on gymnastic apparatuses in 1982 in a gymnasium at Bras Basah

I would try anything that my supple body could handle as I yearned to feel my body fly in the air ('Possible for a little girl to fly?' @ 1:05) like a butterfly spreading its beautiful wings in the wind, to experience independence, freedom and spontaneity.
Joe helped to uncover this vivacious, gusto and zest in me. I was free-spirited, and liked to perform and make people happy. Nothing could hold me back once I had set my mind to do something. A good friend once used the analogy that I'm like Thomas the Train, the children toy train, in a single track of constant locomotion spreading happiness to people he meets.
Back in the late 1980s, we trained at the top floor of the Delta Sports Complex along Alexandra Road. The venue used to be a school with low ceilings, which was a problem for training as it did not allow us to fully stretch our legs up into the air while we did handstands on the upper bar of the asymmetrical apparatus. We needed an approval to create a gap in the ceiling for us to do Giant Swings. Mr S Dhanabalan, the Minister for National Development at that time, visited the gymnasium for an event. All gymnasts performed short routines for the Guest-of-Honour, I was last up and did mine on the Uneven Bars: Kip mount, Handstand, Free Hip Circle, Straddle Swing to the high bars, Kip, Handstand (Oops! Two feet to the ceiling), Giant Swing (Oops again!), Layout Dismount, and finished with a huge grin on my face. :D Yes, we got the approval to dig a hole in the ceiling!

Coach Joe and I on the Uneven Bars, then and now

I believe everyone has talents. It is how we as coaches, educators and friends, help identify and bring out the potential of each individual. Coach Joe saw a side of himself in me; he slowly coaxed out and built on my intense spirit for life to great use in learning difficult moves that require courage. Students of all ages, have talents waiting to be discovered. We try to identify and find alternative ways to develop their hidden abilities for self-discovery and life-changing experiences.

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"Debby, a photojournalist with a passion for the natural environment, plays a French Folk Song after her fifth lesson!"

Paragliding above the Pattaya, Thailand waters, waving my hands wildly in the air with the biggest smile on a 7-year-old kid, I looked down from the sky and shouted,"Mom, I'm flying!" :D

A new loop song played on my rig, "Fly Away". Enjoy and have a great week ahead!

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  1. Lovely story. :) I like that mischievous face of the 7 years old very much. Hahahahahahahaha!

  2. Wow!! Coach Joe hasn't changed a bit! ;)
    Brilliant & Lovely!!

  3. Joe, Thank you! :D It was Fun, and still is.

  4. Chris, Thanks :D We change for the better.