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Bonding with Dads for Life

08 Nov 2011

Dads for Life at Swiss Cottage Sec

Bonding over badminton: The first Dads for Life event at Swiss Cottage Secondary School. Photograph courtesy of Ho Kin Kee.

It was a smashing time at Swiss Cottage Secondary School. Big boys were serving up a storm at the school, but these were no troublemakers. Better yet, they were fathers who shared badminton courts with their children and battled other father-child teams in a "Dads for Life" Badminton Challenge on 10 September.

Fun and fitness aside, the event kicked off the school's collaboration with Dads for Life, a national movement that seeks to inspire and mobilise fathers to play an active and positive role in their children's lives. Given the camaraderie and cool running of the show, with family members standing by ready to water the players and doubling up as cheerleaders, few would have guessed that the school's Parent Support Group (PSG) was introduced to the movement only a mere three weeks earlier.

A match made in the family

"It felt like a big, extended family." Mdm Girija Viswanathan, chairman of the PSG, expressed what many must have felt during the match, which featured 15 pairs of players. Twelve teams were father-and-child combinations, but three dads were unable to take part, so members of the PSG rose to the occasion so that the students got to play as planned. "The atmosphere was very personal, very family-like," added Mdm Viswanathan. "The dads who came forward to stand in for the fathers who couldn't make it became 'foster fathers' to the students." One of the 'foster father' teams even came in second in the challenge.

Dads for Life at Swiss Cottage Sec

It's also an opportunity for fathers to make friends! Photograph courtesy of Ho Kin Kee.

Two evenings before match day, Mr Gan Chin Kai, coach and teacher-in-charge of the badminton team had led a clinic to impart the basics of the game and give the players, many of whom were 'rusty', some practice. As it turned out, one of the fathers was a badminton coach, so he chipped in as well.

Competition was keen during the actual matches and the eventual champions turned out to be a father-daughter duo. "I'm surprised that we won!" declared Rohini d/o Ravindran, a Secondary 3 student who teamed up with her father Mr Ravindran Kathergamathamby to win the challenge "The other teams were very strong and it was hard to beat them."

Dads for Life at Swiss Cottage Sec

A little cheerleader here to support her sister and father in their friendly game. Photograph courtesy of Ho Kin Kee.

In Rohini's eyes, however, the real prize was not the trophy but the chance to battle it out alongside her father. A badminton player in his school days, Mr Kathergamathamby had introduced Rohini to the game when she was seven. But having not played for a while and missing the times when they played regularly, she readily invited her father to sign up for the Badminton Challenge when she heard about it. "I really wanted to just have a fun time with my dad," she said. "My father enjoyed it too. It was a very good way to bond with our dads."

Sharing what he saw during the coaching clinic and the match, Mr Gan said, "The dads really got to know their kids, see what they are like outside the home and bond with them in a different situation." Concurring with her coach, Nicolette Ng, Vice-Captain of the badminton team who helped to keep scores, added, "I think it was very meaningful. The students got to bond with their fathers, the fathers got to make friends with one another and also got to know more about the school and the activities their children are involved in."

Getting fathers involved and active

Dads for Life at Swiss Cottage Sec

It's great being Dads for Life! Photograph courtesy of Ho Kin Kee.

For Mr Ho Kin Kee, the match day was a double challenge as he was both a participant with his son as well as one of the event organisers. What's more, the two had to rush off to another appointment right after their game. Despite the hectic pace, Mr Ho, who is also Treasurer of the PSG Exco, believes the effort was worth it. "Work is work," he stated. "But after work, one can still find time for kids and family - this is very important."

Mr Ramani Bin Kusen would agree. The single parent of four children still finds time to fulfil his role as Vice-Chairman of the PSG despite long working hours. "I feel that we have to be more involved in our children's lives and school activities," he remarked, adding that he realises many parents find it hard to make the time to do so. "If we can make the time, however, it will be good for our children."

Dads for Life at Swiss Cottage Sec

Doubling up with their Dads for Life. Photograph courtesy of Ho Kin Kee.

Getting involved in the PSG is one solution that allows Mr Ramani, who often works late into the evenings, to bond with his children. He recounted how joining his daughter in a school cross-country run provided the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll to her grandmother's house, chatting happily along the way, after the event. "I think Dads for Life is a good thing," he said. "It's a new initiative for us, and we want to attract more dads to be more active in their children's lives."

For Mdm Viswanathan, the Badminton Challenge marked a promising start for the school's partnership with Dads for Life. "Dads for Life is wonderful because it creates opportunities for fathers to become more involved," she observed. Looking ahead, she hopes the PSG will be able to hatch new activities and programmes that would hook fathers to a happy habit. "Dads these days are involved, not as involved as the mums, but they are involved," she said. "They know what is going on, they are very loving and caring towards their children, and if given a chance to get involved, they will take it!"