I contemplated quitting high school when I was 14, as I was without much interest for my studies. I would have, if not for my interest in sports. I was a school and district representative in basketball and Taekwondo, and almost made it to the state level if not for my injuries. I was actively competing until 2005, the year of my SPM examinations, in which I underwent two operations on my right knee due to an injury suffered at a Taekwondo competition. As a result, my ‘career’ in competitive sports ended prematurely, and I stayed home for four months in preparation for SPM, as it was inconvenient for me to attend school.
While waiting for my SPM results, I undertook several administrative jobs ranging from data entry to telemarketing. My stint ended as soon as it began, for I discovered that the office environment only limited me. During this time span, I started exploring paths I could pursue, one of which was Sports Science. However, there were not many private institutions offering such courses back then.
Sports Psychology was another option, but it was only available for students pursuing postgraduate studies after completing an undergraduate degree in Psychology. I found that Psychology also offers a wide career prospect in Advertising and Human Resource, to name a few, besides dealing with mental illness.
Having received my SPM results, I discovered that TAR College was offering Sports & Exercise Science as a pioneer course, and opted for it while placing Social Science as my second choice. Ultimately, I was offered Social Science with a major in Counselling instead. Nevertheless, I decided to enroll into TAR College’s Diploma in Social Science (Counselling) programme for two reasons.
Firstly, I wanted to transfer credits to The University of South Australia under their special 2+1 collaboration, where I could graduate with a degree in Psychology within three years. Secondly, I only needed to commit myself to two years in the Diploma programme if I found myself at odds with the course.
To my surprise, I enjoyed studying at college. I took pleasure from the free and intellectual discussions, gradually observing my surroundings with a wider perspective. During the second semester of my first year, I was hired as a Student Assistant in the college’s gym co-curricular programme, having passed the same co-curricular test earlier. My task was similar to a Fitness Instructor; I coached students in cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training. I truly enjoyed what I was doing and was glad for such an unexpected opportunity.
Thereafter, I started inquiring about careers in the fitness industry and uncovered some bright prospects. As such, I pursued an internationally recognised certification as a fitness trainer for a year with the prestigious International Sports Sciences Association. I continued working with the college as a Student Assistant-cum-Fitness Instructor for almost two years, after which I completed my diploma programme in 2008.
As part of my undergraduate programme, I did a weekly practicum at the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit of UKM Medical Centre for seven weeks, and immediately decided to scratch a career in Clinical or Counselling Psychology off my options.
After completing my diploma, I worked as a Personal Trainer with a renowned fitness centre in the South East Asian region. As I reflected on whether to pursue a degree in Psychology or Sports Science, I met a senior trainer in the fitness centre who graduated from University Malaya in Sports Science, with almost 14 years of experience in the industry.
He encouraged me to pursue a degree in Psychology instead. The reason was simple: the prospects for Sports Science in Malaysia are limited, while fitness certifications from US-based organisations such as the International Sports Sciences Association gained higher standing.
With that said, after a month at the fitness centre, I decided to enroll into UCSI University’s Degree in Psychology programme due to internship opportunities extended by the university. Personally, I find that internship opportunities are important to further explore our areas of interest besides gaining valuable work experience.
Today, I am a Psychology student, a freelance Certified Fitness Trainer with the International Sports Sciences Association and National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association, and an event photographer. Looking ahead, I aspire to intern with the Sports Science Department of the National Sports Institute to determine if Sports Science is indeed the path for me. As I embark on this journey, my initial goal may ultimately vary as I tread upon this vast open field, overflowing with endless opportunities.
Lee Kang Xian better known as Jason Lee to his peers, is a Diploma in Social Science (Counselling) graduate from TAR College and a freelance Certified Fitness Trainer accredited by the International Sports Sciences Association and National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association. He is currently pursuing a major in Psychology at UCSI University.
Note: The above entry was written in 2010 for What’s After SPM?, published in 2011. This non-for-profit book project is a collaboration between Leaderonomics and a team of young Malaysians. Click here for details on the project and authors.
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