Our school years are critical developmental years for children, with many of our students pursuing their passion and talents through and out of GESS. We speak with 12-grader Madison Telmer, who has stayed dedicated to football since she was a child, on her journey in this male-dominated sport.
We know you train with the Lion City Sailors (LCS). How did this opportunity come about?
My football journey began in my second grade when I joined our GESS girls’ football team. I really enjoyed the sport from a young age which is why I chose to join ANZA Soccer Singapore two years later, playing for several years on an all-girls team against boys teams.
My dedication to the sport reached a new high when a professional coach, Adelina Gomez – now a teacher in GESS – joined our girl’s programme and transformed us from a casual team that played on weekends to a competitive one that travelled overseas for tournaments. I began to take my training even more seriously and plan my personal training sessions to improve. A few years later, Adelina introduced me to LCS and brought me to their try-outs. I joined LCS in late 2020 after passing the try-outs and Adelina joined at the same time as the head coach of the Women’s National Team. I started training with the u18 girl’s elite team and the Women’s national team, though games and leagues were on hold during the pandemic. After training with LCS for a couple of years, I was selected for the Women’s Premier League team, which plays in the highest division of women’s football in Singapore.
Suffice to say, I attribute a large part of my footballer development to her.
Sounds like quite a journey there, with opportunities being presented to you by people and also your grasping them when they came.
I feel that I responded to my opportunity with LCS with a lot of hard work on my part. However I am also very fortunate to be able to train under a professional coach – it really motivated me to train even harder, and I was lucky that I had a connection to LCS through Adelina so that I could take my footballing to the next level.
If I was given the chance to choose again, I would have joined LCS from an earlier age, as the youth development programmes that they have are excellent.
How often do you train with the LCS team (and if you are still playing for the GESS team), and how do you balance your school life with your sport pursuit?
Currently, I train with the LCS team three times a week, each session 2.5 hours long. Our league games are either Saturday or Sunday night. On top of this, I also train one-on-one with a coach on Fridays for an hour, and I typically train individually 1-2 times a week, depending on my workload. Aside from physical training, I also study game footage and review tactics for upcoming matches for LCS in my free time.
Balancing my school life with my sport pursuit comes with its challenges, especially since I started my IB curriculum. Training takes up the majority of my time, including public transport commute to my training venue. To manage my time effectively, I plan ahead and complete as much schoolwork as possible before the week starts, as I don’t have much time on training days. Sometimes, I have no choice but to start homework at 11pm when I return from training.
Despite the challenges, I feel that the key to managing your time effectively as an athlete is to prioritize. I place my academics and football over anything else, and I’ll always find time for these two priorities of my life. Sometimes that can mean sacrificing my social life, sleep, or free time.
How do you see sport playing a role in your personal development as an individual, and even academically?
Sport plays a huge role in my development as an individual. There are so many benefits to sport, not just physically but academically and socially too.
When I first started football, it taught me the value of teamwork. As I started to play more competitively against boys’ teams, it taught me how to handle failure and focus on improvement. Training individually taught me the importance of self-discipline and that hard work is necessary to achieve my goals. The biggest lessons football has taught me are discipline and commitment, which can be applied to every aspect of my life.
Even though football takes up a large part of my time, I would definitely say it has boosted my academic performance, by improving my focus and teaching me valuable time-management skills.
Lastly, football has introduced me to some of the most important people in my life. The many coaches I have had over the years have been influential figures and role models in my life. My teams over the years have been like second families to me.
What are some challenges you encountered and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I have encountered so far has been the COVID pandemic. It disrupted training, matches and tournaments for a long period of time, forcing us to train through Zoom calls or in small group sizes.
The pandemic disrupted a crucial time in my football development, and I struggled to remain motivated when sessions quickly became repetitive with no sign of a return to regular matches and trainings.
However, I tried to remain optimistic and use the period as a chance to work individually on my fitness and technical skills. Once we returned to larger group sizes, I was much more confident on the ball which helped me greatly once we started playing matches again.
How have GESS/your teachers/classmates helped you in your sport pursuit or when you need to balance time between studying and training?
My teachers have been very understanding when it comes to missing school for overseas tournaments. They have helped me catch up on schoolwork that I missed or offer extensions for assignments. Many of my teachers have also been very supportive and have asked me questions about football trips overseas or the results of tournaments and games. My friends from school have come to watch several of my matches and have been incredibly supportive of my footballing pursuit.
To any young person who is thinking of pursuing their sport/passion, what is your word of encouragement?
I would encourage anyone to pursue their passion for sport, especially young girls who are playing in a male-dominated sport. The biggest fulfilment in life comes from doing what you love and are passionate about. Although the path may be challenging, the feeling of accomplishment and achievement that you get from a sport makes all the hard work worth it.
My biggest piece of advice that I follow to this day would be to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Throughout my footballing journey, I have pushed myself to do things that I was very nervous to do. For example, playing in a men’s league for the first time or travelling overseas by myself to play on a team of players I had never met. However, I have grown the most as a footballer by constantly pushing myself to the next level and the next challenge. If I had never had the courage to step outside of my comfort zone, I would not be where I am now.
Follow Madison’s football journey at her Instagram account @maditelmer_football.