The Basketball Journey: University of Street-Ball

A Basketball Journey – University of Street Basketball


The basketball journey for our little journeyman was filled not just with school, it has alot of learning from the streets as well. Our little journeyman (Clifford), played at the basketball court near his house more than anywhere else. It is till now, his holy ground. He would lie on it on days he feel lost, and recover from all that is around.

When he started playing ball at the court (BLK714), he made lots of friends, fellow basketball enthusiast. One of them became his childhood mate, and undoubtedly his best friend till now. He also met alot of gangsters and people who wanted to sway him to the gang. But there was plenty of gentleman who would teach and guide him. All of them play a big part in his perspective of basketball and value of life.


There were times when the game at the courts will be interrupted by gang fights of like 20 over people. And everyone will have to dock behind the blocks or run back home. It was a frightful scene for a young 11 year old. Clifford never really felt comfortable with it, but he still made friends with those who would play basketball there.

Being a boy with immensely thick skin, Clifford always ask to join the older boys and adults in their 5 v 5 games. Most of the time, they are kind enough to allow it, but they would never, I mean never, pass the ball to him (Considering the age difference 11 v 30). The level of skill, ability and physical size are vastly different. Clifford learnt basketball the hard way on the streets. He got beat down alot by them. He had to earn his right to play with the rest. He had to play harder defense, just to be able to steal the ball. That is his only chance to touch the ball in the game, unless some really nice gentleman were to pass him the ball out of kindness. Clifford knew these, but he just love the challenge of competing with older boys.


On a humid and hot Friday night, Clifford got the chance to play with a group of regular players at the court. There was a new guy who came that day. Clifford and the dude played in the same team. On one of the play, their team got the rebound, Clifford dash off ahead for a fast break. The dude threw a long pass. Clifford ran with all his might while eye-hawking at the ball, but the  dude just had a thunderous pass, it flew 4 metres away from where Clifford was. The dude, hurled a variety of vulgarities at Clifford, calling him slow and shit for not catching the ball. In our world now, that would probably receive stomp worthy news, but in those days they have to earn it. So Clifford put his head down, and was more determined to become better player. Challenge is what he felt.


“Bang” Straight to the chest and groin. Clifford fell under the rim. Wincing in pain from the knock from the opposing player. He stood up, and much like the same boy who wanted to play so badly in his first real match, Clifford trudge back into the game, shrugging the pain off temporarily. Moments ago, Clifford had just defended the same opponent aggressively, as the way he knew, which apprently wasnt “right” on that court. The payback, was an elbow to the chest and knee to the groin, by a running 30 year old body laying up towards the rim. This lesson brought Clifford to tears when he walked back home after the games. He felt a deep sense of misery, like he was being bullied. He told his mum about the incident when he went back. Mummy being protective told Clifford, dont go play with them then, stick to playing with your peers and friends. Well, we need not tell you what was Clifford’s reply. Challenge accepted, he continued.


Throughout the years playing in the streets, Clifford seen many friends went from being a talented star player to joining the gang, and abandoning their dream of basketball. He also saw how some average chap on the court stayed with the game for 20 years, being supported by those gentleman who Clifford call as Basketball Social Worker. Decent people who work in the market or in the factory, who loves the game as much as they hope to help kids stay off the gangs. These are the stories that will stay with Clifford through his journey in the game and in life.

The young boy time in the hood, was well spent. He truely attended the University of the Streets from those time, though not fully involve.

And in these episode, Clifford brought with him the kind of determination and positive attitude that will define his basketball game in secondary school and junior college.









The Bball Journey: Young Love for the Game

The Basketball Journey – Young Love for the Game

One bright sunny day on a Saturday afternoon, a young boy sat in front of the television and watched “SLAMDUNK” the animated series. A vigor and drive vibrated in him, he stood up and imitated the moves made by the players in the show. And the journey of basketball began……


He started by getting his first ball, a spalding rubber ball. Low quality in other eyes, but a holy grail to him. He brought the ball to the basketball court below his block, and played everyday for the whole summer holidays. He love every minute of it. Clifford was his name.

Then this Clifford’s brother’s friends, who are school team level players, taught him some important tips on defensive stance and hard work. He took it in, and begin to practice at home by himself, watching videos and screening of NBA players workout. He went to watch tournament games at the stadium nearby with his dad. Clifford love for the game grew over time. He quit his original CCA (Co-Curricular Activity), and went full fledge into basketball club. In his first taste of a real match, in a friendly game against Pandan Primary School on National Day in 2003, he sprain three of his finger in the first 5sec of the game. (HAHAHAHAHAHA) But his love for the game, told him, its ok keep going. He played the remaining time of the game with 3 sprain finger, quietly hiding it from the coach and parents, because he wants to play on. And the journey of endurance began……


For the remaining time in primary school, Clifford trained hard at home everyday, doing 100 crossover, 100 around the body, 100 pass to the wall in the small little balcony at home. He imagine and “played” basketball at home with tissue box and crushed paper. His will to play was relentless (But study he did, so mummy didnt have issue, except when he knocks over the alter items, which I guess Bodhisatva was pretty forgiving of him because of his will).

Then in the fall of 2003, the young boy experienced his first taste of defeat, the kind that brings people to tears. It was an inter-class competition. Being the one so passionate and involve in the game, and also a little bossy, Clifford told his team mates how to play, and asked them to come back to play defense. Being young and un-trained, his classmates walked back to defend. The young boy was left alone to play defense. He did his best, blocked shots and defended multiple position. The result, unsurprisingly, was a lost for them in the first round. Clifford walked off the court upset. He cried, because his teammates didnt want to listen to him, and he didnt know how to motivate them. He cried, because of the loss. It hit him very hard. He reflected. And the journey of failure began……


The following year, Clifford had a chance to play in the inter-school tournament for the school basketball team. He got his first jersey of his life, the no.4. And that number stayed with him throughout his life. They won 2 and lost 3 games, and got kicked out in the first round. Clifford wasnt happy with the result and effort. He felt that he was not good enough, and so he started to train harder, learn better. The reflection became deeper. He started to think how the game is played as a coach and leader. And the journey of coaching began……


The early years of basketball, brought the boy learning and meaning the classroom and other endeavours couldnt give. He love the game. And so he journey on with these elements into his next phase.

BVR: Together

“Ringers on 3. 1,2,3…. Ringers”. With the end of the final team cheer of the year. We end Ringers 2016 basketball training season. And prepare for 2017 training season. It has been a pleasure coaching and training with this bunch of amazing players. They show me what true sportsmanship and resilience means. They also show me what sports truely means, in fun and enjoyment, thats where true learning happens. When a player is self-motivated, anything is possible.  I have a few personal words for the players, at the end of training.

To N (the senior captain), being the pioneer batch of players who came in last year, you have shown great leadership for everyone, always watching out for everyone, even though you wanted to play and fool around very much. You have sacrifice your desire, to be a better leader for the team. Thank you N.

To B (the diligent one), you have been the most attentive player of all. Almost everytime attention is required to signal readiness, you are the first one to step up. Your diligence is absolutely amazing. I salute you for that B. Thank you B.


To H (the strong), I always remember the training, when you bruise your leg, but stood bravely, and continue to train with the team, even though i asked you if you want to rest. Your endurance for pain is amazing for a young 9 year old. Not only that, you are like the co-leader of the team, regardless whether you are appointed the leader. That is true leadership. It is in your blood. Thank you H for inspiring myself and the team.

To L (the perfectionist), being one of the youngest in the team is not easy. But a drive for perfection always makes you show so much emotions. When your physical body is ready, coupled with the drive, you will realise your full potential. Your potential for leadership is one of the highest around, because you have a high standard, to will drive and inspire the team in future. Your are BVR’s future Point Guard. Thank you L.

To J (the wizard), you are the one who has grown the most inside throughout the whole year. From a quiet and passive player, to one who would express your displeasure and make decision for the team. Your tenure as the captain for the team, really made a big difference for you. You are also one with high standard, not willing to share your thoughts until you get everyone attention. Your awareness level is very high. I hope to hear you express even more in future. Thank you J

To T (the talent), as the youngest player in the team, you have shown great physical potential to be the best player in the team. Your ability to constantly handle the ball hitting your face, and not wimp or whine really shows your impressive character. I am always amaze at your physical skill level. You will do well in any sports because of the natural gift of physical talent, but most importantly the great character. Thank you T.

To A (the bubbly), one who has never shown anger or aggression, throughout the whole year. You are the bubbly and giggly player in the team. Always looking to cheer and make fun of any situation. Your presence help to mellow some tense conflict among the team many times. You are also the best and most consistent shooter in the team. Its always a joy to see you score, the face of accomplishment is like no other. Thank you A.

To Z (the deer), as the physically tallest and longest player in the team you are more apt then the rest in carrying out lots of the physical skills being imparted. But whats more impressive is your beautiful character. You always express your emotions in a kind and un-aggressive way. Even when it is utterly frustrating. Im in awe of that inner process that goes through you. Shows alot about your character. Thank you Z.


Dsixth: Fathom the Pea

This week’s 6 impossible things to believe in


Fathom the Pea

  1. A wall of curtain that pull open to reveal our dream image everytime

  1. A talking rabbit

  1. A snake that will slither into a nasty person’s mind to teach them a lesson

  1. Number that dont count as number, only sense as a forward and backward line

  1. A hugging bird, that would fly to a person who needs

  1. A delivery catapult, that sends packages to others, via sling shot. 


Let loose, give it a shot

Send your 6 impossibles to us via our facebook pages (Forest School Singapore or Coach Darren) or email us at

Dsixth: Lift that Mountain

This week’s 6 impossible things to believe in


Lift that Mountain

  1. Coloured-Pokadot Elephant

  2. Paper that rolls itself out when in need

  3. Toy Bridge that becomes a real bridge when crossing river

  4. Multi Coloured Flame that appears for those in need

  5. Lifting a mountain

  6. Tunnel like the earthworn

Let loose, give it a shot

Send your 6 impossibles to us via our facebook pages (Forest School Singapore or Coach Darren) or email us at

A Forest Poem : Together

Let magical, mystical, creative, illogical and fun insert carry you to a sleepy dreamy state. Enjoy.

Table and Benches to work on

“Munching on the food in my mouth,
I rattle on with the beautiful thought swirling in my mind
The happy moments of smiles and laughter
That would be possible when I’m with my love ones

Then reality strikes, I look into my empty lunch box,
I wonder, where am I
Why do we go through such varied path in life
That would almost be impossible to share those smiles and laughter

The last mouth of food still crunching through my teeth,
I realize, the connection of the point to the point.
The meaning behind our differences
That would be the most important element to our existence

Journey Together”

– Darren Quek (Sep 2016)

The poem tells into the observation and reflection of the day to day of the poet. His understanding develops from connecting the different realization before the enlightenment. And in the Forest journey, it has to be together, for that is the most important part that will define the Forest Schools in our lands.

10 things to do in Singapore in Forest School style

With the growing awareness of forest school and its style of learning in Singapore, Coach Darren’s Forest School Singapore present to you, a list of the little things we could do in Singapore, that allow us a glimpse into the forest school methodology of learning and experience.


1. Climb a steep hill (Find one you are comfortable, that you know you will not roll down upon tumbling. Tips: Fall forward at all times during the climb, Sit down if you lose balance during the descent)


2. Carve some wood sticks with a sheath (Sheath is basically a knife. The therapeutic feeling of having little wood pieces shave off the sticks, like losing the pressures of life from a long day. The blister at the end of it, gives so much pride as human)


3. Build a den using just the material around you (You may wonder whether this require Bear Grylls survival skill, but honestly, it isnt so complex. All you need to do, is be creative, think out of the box, and try. The first attempt definitely looks more like a den for cats then human. But make sure you have fun.)


4. Explore a park unrestricted (Warning – Will be judged for going into the un-trek path. Now the trick here, is to watch for path within the forest, that look like it has been walked on, usually those are safer to explore compared to the adventurous routes that require my magic machete)


5. Throw stones you pick up as you walk (The sensation from this action is pretty therapeutic, feels like we are letting go of the burden in life, while moving forward with some Hmph and Pump. I found out about this from imitating my children in the woods, especially the hyper kids. Love them)


6. Jump into puddles of water and mud (“The mud is dirty”…. This line, gotta change. We are  in the world now, that our keyboard has more germs and bacteria then the toilet. So for mud to be dirty, I dont think so. Mud and puddles of water along the greens, are there usually for less than a day, Singapore is so Hot… AHHHH, water “boil” off so easily, there is no chance for stagnant water in the greens, enjoy the splash and craziness in it)


7. Come to a decision together, without a single person feeling compromise (Sounds easy, but this is probably one of the toughest thing to do, because of the last part, WITHOUT A SINGLE PERSON FEELING COMPROMISE. Most group decision, happen by compromising the group of people who doesn’t has as much power, but to make a consensual decision with no compromise is how we empathize and understand others concern)


8. Start a campfire with just the items around you. (Maybe with some matches at most, the sensation of staring into the fire that you start, with the help of mother nature, makes one feel alive.)


9. Stalk an animal to observe how they behave (Instead of social media stalking, why not go around the neighborhood following a cat or some monitor lizard, reliving childhood once more. Oh you can also revise your hunter instincts, for what purpose however depends on you =)


10. Sit in a circle. Listen and Share your thoughts, without putting any shared thoughts down. (This is not a group therapy session, but a sincere sharing of thoughts, feelings, without Judgement, tough as it sounds, it actually just require one brute to discipline and hold down, the fast mouth who are quick to judge, give it a shot, find someone to role play the brute, and have a go =)

The Story: Birth of the Education Dream

Forest School


Im an avid lover of the forest school ideology. But to fully comprehend the beauty and impact of forest school. One has to look beyond the tip of the iceberg… and dwell deep into the philosophy and purpose of the form of education.

My experience in the humanitarian and education field taught me that education only serves its true purpose when it helps the people of the land live on their land. In Vietnam, India and the agricultural places around the world, what is math and science to them. It utterly serve no purpose as compared with farming techniques and ability to start fire to keep warm and ward off the animals at night. So for the longest time I’ve been searching for an ideology to fits all environment and humanity. Thats when I bump into Atsuko Yamamoto, she introduced me to the education of forest school. She told me the school begin in Japan largely because of the high pressured school education system over there, people started to go into the woods, and learn from the environment through play and exploration, children engage more in depth with their spiritual self. Their mind became more aware, physically more adaptable. I was amazed at how it worked and the development of the children in this school drew me closer. Up till now, I still have the Japanese Forest Kindergarten manual she gave me. But I dont understand Japanese scripts. Hahaha.

So this kick start my journey to explore and research in depth what forest school is about.

I found out that it begin in the 1950s by an swedish ex-military soldier. He started bringing children to learn from the woodlands. It grew over time into a kindergarten and school. And right now there are so many forest school in the world, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, UK, Japan, Korea, USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines.

I wonder then what makes forest school tick. At first I was lile everyone, thinking that it requires children to be outdoor in the woodlands, and teaching academic subject through the environmental resources etc. Then I start to realise its deeper then that.

I join Atsuko and her family to trek the forest in Singapore, and saw how resilient her children were, even when they fall and mud themselves. The exploratory instinct, and fearless attitude. I was amazed. Even her 3 year old could do it.

I decided in 2016, to take a trip to UK to attend Archimedes Forest School Education Practitioner Level 3 Training, to 1) Certify myself, 2) Really understand further what is forest school.

And in that learning journey, I realise forest school, is basically a ideology that fits all environment no matter how tough or mundane it is. It doesnt even have to be in the forest. We can be at the space below an apartment block, and still do a “forest school”. The link went as far as a school in the war zone.

That is when it striked me.

My dream has always been about going to war zone to save children from the violence and destruction. But my experience in humanitarian work in India, Vietnam made me jaded, and question, these high moral code of education we subscribe to. So what if I save a child from poverty and child slavery, they still revert to it, because thats their environment. So what if I bring a child away from their community of violence, I didnt help them truely.

But in forest school education, there is this beauty of exploration and survival all put together into one. Where this philosophy can transcend all environment, no matter its mundaneness or devastation.

Because in “Forest School” education, 1) Learners lead the curriculum. 2) The environment provides 50% of the curriculum. 3) Learners learnt the necessary knowledge, skills and wisdom to tackle their environment. And in this whole process, they gain a competency that will validate their own self worth on earth. (Go start a fire on your own without any artificial/purchased resource, you will experience that survival competency)

So to put it in the most relatable sense, Forest School is the learning ways we apply and adopt before the idea of education (a governmental and control term was coin).

May be this style is what really makes someone postitive in life. It may be the style that keeps a being saint even when they fail and falter. Because they know they can survive regardless of the environment.

My journey took me to UK, Philippines, Australia, Japan and more to come. I found more connection with nature, the trees and the creatures. I trust them. And they have proven all the time to be protector to those who truely love them.

Maybe mankind needs more insanity from our ivoric tower behaviour to move us closer to our final destination, survival, living and death. This journey we all take.

And right now, is a start for this platform where learners and children can all embark on this path together as a community to be the human that is a part of our environment.

I aim to expand this philosophy across the southern hemisphere in 15 years. I dont know what is the true outcome. But I know i chose to live a life of dreams and aspiration. One man cant change the world, but I can try. =)


Darren Quek (aka Coach Darren)


Forest School Training – Snowy Sentiments

Two weeks ago, Coach Darren LLP sent Coach Darren to Sheffield, UK to attend Archimedes Forest School Education’s, Forest School Practitioner Training Open Award Level 3, it is a recognise practitioner certification to practice and lead forest school session in UK. In this, Forest School Training Series, we catch a glimpse of the activities and experience, that Coach Darren had, during the 5 days training.

Coach Darren – Snowy Sentiments

On the 2nd day of the course, myself and 4 of my classmates who stayed over in the log cabin, woke up to get ready for class at 9.00am. I settled into class, and started reading on the portfolio that was given for all of us, to prepare ourselves to be great forest school practitioner.


The morning begins with a reflection for everyone, our instructor told us to go around the woods at the back of the log cabin, pick up stuff we like from the ground, and build ourselves something to represent our reflection for Day 1. It can be our feelings, our thoughts, what we learn, what we do, or what this journey means to me… Anything. As long as it comes from ourselves. Many of us shared about the things we learnt, some of us decide to share about our feelings (sentimental here), some of us share about our vision and journey. I shared about the feeling of journeying there from SG, feeling lonely, but embraced within the forest school community there, and feeling home. And how that will energise my journey back to Asia to start the Forest School Movement.


Then we went on to learn about tools and the forest school methodology, experience in a weather, that kind of look like its going to snow again. The wind was blowing a little hard, the chills begin to kick in. So we move ourselves into a hut, and continue our learning and sharing. Everyone chip in with our perspective and experience with children and the woods. It felt so right.

Shaky camera caused by the wind (And yes my shivering arm)

We made our way back to the classroom to warm ourselves up and do lunch, before we head out once more to learn how to tie knots that hold under tension and releases easily, as well as a pulley kind of knot that holds well for pitching up tents in between 2 trees. We find ourselves tying knots and pitching tents in the snow gradually, this time the snow came down a lot, we even had a small bout of snow “ball” fight. Hahaha. It was crazy cool and absolutely amazing for me at the moment.

We capped the day off with our one last tool, the billhook. We learnt to split wood using that tool and a hard wood to knock on the top of the blade. We had quite a good bit of laugh and fun there, trying out the billhook, splitting our wood. My group laugh a little too much, cos we ended up the last of the lot to end the day.



The class ended, and we kind of kick back and relax (those few of us who stayed over in the cabin), while the rest braved the weather to return home. The weather can really sap lots of energy out of everyone. A good cup of tea can really warm up the spirit and mind in those weather. After dinner (Tea – in Manchester lingo), we kind of hangout a little while together, getting to know each other, haha. But there are some tinge of silence and slow warming up there from everyone. But I still feel home =) It was warm (Though snowing)


Coming up …… DAY 3