When people think of rugby, they usually think of aggressive shoulder-padded men tackling each other. But for the captain of SMU Rugby, Thaddeus Soh, what thrills him the most about the sport is the pressure of split-second decision-making.

Thaddeus’ tanned skin and strong build gives away over a decade of rugby training. He trains with an external club, has represented Singapore on several occasions, and started training with SMU Rugby even before his school term began. His other love is judo, for which he once came in third during the national games with barely any training. He shares with SMU Snapshots the formula behind his success.

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Thaddeus Soh, SMU Rugby captain

Love what you do

“Don’t think too much and feel too little,” Thaddeus urges. He believes that people spend too much time thinking and talking about thinking, that they think through their entire lives and fail to acknowledge their emotions.

“You really have to feel something in order to be passionate about anything, instead of doing something just for the sake of doing it. That’s what drives me.”

In his first year at SMU, Thaddeus joined the SMU Sports Union (SSU) as deputy event director and managed SMU Sports Camp 2016. Even before enrolling, he had made up his mind to find something outside of academia that would enrich his experience as a student. As it turned out, work didn’t really feel like work at all with his fun-loving SSU team, and he calls it “the best decision [he has] ever made after joining SMU.”

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Thaddeus attempting a tackle at the University 7s

As team captain of SMU Rugby, Thaddeus believes that enjoyment is key to playing good rugby and bumping up training attendance. If one truly enjoys the game, more effort will be dedicated to training, which ultimately improves performance. Every time that Thaddeus steps onto the field, he reminds himself to enjoy the game above all else.

“Putting a team together is difficult, especially when everyone has their own priorities. It is our job as leaders to create an environment which is safe and instils a sense of belonging. We have to establish a culture that makes them want to come for training and be a part of the team.”

Build your character

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Thaddeus making a run for it at the Singapore Rugby Championship League

Perhaps it is this passion that makes SMU Rugby excel out on the field. The team came in a close second during the Singapore University Games (SUniG) last year, missing the champion title by just a few kicks. But besides a love for the game and having the core skills, Thaddeus says that in order to be a good rugby player, one needs to become a better person.

“That’s [being a better person] something that the All Blacks live by. Their mantra is ‘better people make better All blacks’. They really place emphasis on a culture that focuses on individual character and personal leadership. They have to carry themselves a certain way and treat each other a certain way. Once you have that, communication becomes open.”

Thaddeus is thankful for his SMU Rugby coach who cares for the team like a father figure; beyond the rugby field to their overall well-being. This culture influences the rest of the team to show the same concern for each other, in their own personal ways and through the mentorship system where senior players help to guide newer members along.

Pull your own weight (and more)

This strength of character proves its value in the team’s high performance and also translates to daily life. For his recent summer internship, Thaddeus spent time on the ground coordinating operational needs at the 2017 Ultra Music Festival. When asked if lessons from rugby can be applied to life off the field, Thaddeus is quick to highlight the value of good team dynamics.

“If you’ve finished your work and notice that others are still working on theirs, go and offer help. You could be tired, but everyone is just as tired. You’re part of the same team after all, and everyone is happy when work is completed faster.”

Rugby has also taught Thaddeus discipline and perseverance. His goal of being better than the person he was yesterday pushes him to constantly give his 100%. He shares that rugby has laid his foundation in terms of discipline and character, and has moulded him to become the person that he is today. He acknowledges that it is the tough times that have shaped him the most.

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Going for goal at the University 7s

“When I went to the army, I imagined that it was going to be tough. But everything I went through during army was nothing compared to my rugby days. Rugby trained me both physically and mentally. In rugby, you’re pushed beyond your limits. You vomit, pass out, and then get back to training. It’s definitely taught me to persevere.”

In spite of the harshness of rugby training, Thaddeus is thankful for the experiences that make him the person that he is today. He has no big regrets, and is happy to keep looking forward.

“I just always want to be better, and work towards a better me. If I keep reminiscing on how things could have been done differently, I’ll always be looking in the past. I’m happy with the person that I am today, and look forward to what lies ahead.”