For the past two decades, Mr. Donald has been an active professional Hockey player. He represented the Indian University National Team, U-18 Indian Hockey National Team. After his playing career he took a new path as an FIH (International Hockey Federation) Level 3 licensed coach, educator and since 2016, he has been coaching for the Vietnam Hockey National Team, accompanying them to the 2016 World Hockey League held in Singapore. Along with that, he has been teaching Physical Education (PE) in India for 3 years and then in Vietnam for 7 years and counting. At SNA Marianapolis International School, Mr. Donald teaches Health and Physical Education classes for grades 8-10 and serves as the Director of the Athletic Program, organizing and coordinating multiple sports teams, after-school clubs, and interschool sports tournaments.
“Mens Sana, In Corpore Sana” is a Latin quote that translates into “Sound Mind and Sound Body.” It is one of our school’s aims to prime students for a healthy mentality to accomplish academic heights, and we do so with the aid of integrating physical and overall wellness into our curriculum. One of the brains behind our wellness teaching is Mr. Donald White, who has been with us since the first year of school.
The Immense Benefits in Athletics
Mr. Donald has a clear expectation to bring out the best in students as they partake in school sports activities and interschool tournaments. Cultural exchange and socializing are the first benefits students can reap as they mingle with friends, players from various grade levels, schools, and backgrounds – a golden opportunity for students to experience valuable transferrable skills, including teamwork, motivation, commitment and handling pressure that is different from their usual environment.
The second gain is the experience of professional knowledge about sports and games. To start off, students are exposed to training in PE classes, co-curricular activities (CCA) for almost six to nine hours a week. Moreover, when selected student athletes participate in an official tournament or friendly games, they come out of their comfort zone in practice to get a taste of the serious, competitive, and challenging sports atmosphere. Mr. Donald maintains a high standard, and students undergo a practice session like a professional sportsplayer. Once an Olympian said ‘’ I worked for 4 years to run 9 seconds and we work for 2 or 3 months and expect a change, it’s not going to happen.” As students have first-hand experience with professional competitions, they understand that in all disciplines, excellence demands grit, determination, and commitment.
Yet above all, the most valuable lesson for students is sportsmanship. As they compete with one another, they either earn victories or face defeats. Either way, these times train them to be more resilient and strong-minded, both cherishing the win and learning to cope with the loss.
After all, it is all about putting in the hard work to rise to challenges and accomplish new heights, which rings true not only in students’ athletic life but also academic and personal development.
The Physical – Mental – Socio-Emotional Dynamic
In relation to the academic program, PE classes and activities prove themselves indispensable. In Mr. Donald’s observation, students nowadays are glued to their screens. Outdoor activities have ironically become a thing you have to ask for students to take part in, despite the obvious advantages they offer. The PE program takes that into account and covers three inseparable aspects: physical, mental, and social wellness. Teachers will not limit their topics to only physical movements or kinesthetic skills but also mental states and self-awareness. Mr. Donald explains the rationale behind this “Mens Sana, In Corpore Sana” dynamic, “A strong health secures you a proper foundation to develop mental wellness which, in turn, allows you to foster social-emotional relationships.”
“It’s a blessing that many parents have come to this awareness and are just waiting for the right person to take up the challenge to deliver a proper PE program for their children,” Mr. Donald shares, “And it is my pleasure to be one of those people at SNA Marianapolis to guide students to strike a proper balance between sports and academics.”
Mindset Teaching and Contemporary Coaching Philosophies
In fulfilling that, Mr. Donald bases his teaching and coaching on the ground of mindset and awareness. He comments, “I try to stay away from book-based knowledge when it comes to fitness. Instead, I call for students to look to their bodies for answers since our body never lies.” He realizes that many students have overlooked this inherent ability of their brains to solve all problems in life and instead turned to the comfort of smart devices. His tactics to cope with this overreliance is having students “think for themselves” in questions such as “what kind of food will nourish your body” or “how to choose good vegetables from the market.” Rather than having the teachers feed answers and knowledge into students’ minds, this “show, don’t tell” strategy fully embodies the school’s student-centered teaching philosophy.
Such proactiveness is also reflected in the “contemporary coaching” philosophy that Mr. Donald always turns to. It outlines the coach’s role in providing guidance based on students’ prior knowledge and already-possessed skills. Instead of handholding from beginning to end, the coach will offer checkpoints for every stage, leaving space for students’ autonomous growth. He sums it up as a “give and take” process where the coach gives instruction and students provide feedback. It surely is different from the outdated one-sided coaching where students merely act as an empty tank waiting to be filled with instructions.
An Ambitious Vision
Within the very early years of its establishment, SNA Marianapolis and its PE team have made every effort to create our official football team. It is a great pride as we, a 2-year-old football team, were able to compete with schools of much grander history and experience.
Alongside the growth of the school’s team, Mr. Donald’s burning ambition is to coach student players into professional players that will represent not only the school and the Dong Nai community but also the nation in worldwide games. He is very hopeful for the future, “Our students have so much potential to accomplish amazing things with their skills in sports and their accumulated English competency.”
Mr. Donald’s current position provides him with multiple vantage points to oversee and coordinate such ambitions. It boils down to not only students’ participation but also the faculty’s devotion. “We have many teachers that are professional and passionate sportspersons,” Mr. Donald shares one of the school’s blessings, “Connecting with people is the foundation.” As such, he expresses his gratitude towards his trusted PE team and fellow teacher coaches for their restless collaboration to enrich the school’s PE and CCA programs.
The selection process of student players is also exciting. As students are coached in PE classes, CCAs, and house games, they are also watched and selected by the coaches to join the school’s elite teams. In these teams, students receive special training that primes them for the top-level challenge – the professional student tournaments. One such tournament that Mr. Donald and his team are gearing up for is the SISAC (Saigon International Schools Athletic Conference), which encompasses all types of sports. It is in these competitive games that our student players get to be seen, recognized, and selected on-site by top coaches and referees. Students can earn themselves a chance to play for the regional games or even end up in the national team this way.
It would be unfortunate if parents and students did not realize that sports accomplishment is an asset in students’ academic pathways. That is because recognized players stand a high chance of receiving sports scholarships to pursue a college degree all over the world. This was what Mr. Donald landed himself in back when he was a U18 Hockey player, “It’s the best of both worlds. I got to continue playing professionally for the university’s team while receiving funding to complete an academic degree at the end of my university time.” Apparently, “grades are not the only path towards getting college scholarships,” he shares.
With that, there is every reason why the PE and Athletic program is the vital cog in the SNA Marianapolis wheel, upholding students’ physical, mental, and socio-emotional wellness altogether. Among such efforts, Mr. Donald White deserves hearty applause for his relentless contribution to students’ and the school’s success.
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