The sports renaissance has begun.
On the night of the 2015 Sports Banquet, Mr. Mueller, Director of Health, PE and Sports, made a declaration that few had expected: he stated that Taipei American School’s athletics program would experience a “sports renaissance.” When asked to recall his impression of that night, Victor Chang (11) says, “Although he seemed like he meant all business, I admittedly had some doubts in my head,” and rightfully so.
TAS is traditionally the underdog when it comes to IASAS sports. Alex Dong (11) says, “I think we’re in the middle of the pack. We’re not always the worst, but we’re not always the best.” The mere existence of #WhyNotUs, a hashtag created by the boys’ basketball team after they won the gold medal at home in 2015, is a reminder that the school is not generally considered one of the favorites to win at IASAS. Other than its known dominance in girls badminton with thirteen consecutive championships, TAS is the dark-horse for most other sports. However, it is time for students to change that mindset.
This “sports renaissance” did not immediately bear fruit. In 2015-16, the year after Mr. Mueller’s bold declaration, TAS mustered a paltry eight IASAS medals, a drop from the ten medals compiled the year before. However, after the first two seasons of this school year alone, TAS has already compiled an impressive seven medals. With girls badminton aiming for their fourteenth straight gold medal, both golf teams looking for repeat championships, and the track and field teams with a strong chance of placing after their combined Pre-IASAS gold medal win, the school looks likely to smash last year’s medals total.
In the 2016-17 school year, TAS sports teams have risen dramatically across the board in IASAS standings. Boys’ cross country and girls’ volleyball, soccer, and touch rugby all boosted their positions from 2015-16, with particular improvement shown by the girls cross country and basketball teams, who both went from fourth place to IASAS championships. Meanwhile, the boys volleyball team won a repeat championship at home, and both boys rugby and basketball teams won bronze medals for the second consecutive year.
The development in TAS athletics is evident, but it is important to recognize the major changes in the athletics program to allow for this growth. Since Mr. Mueller’s arrival in mid-2014, he has reinvigorated the athletics program with a new attitude and programs. “We specifically designed the athletics program to positively impact student athletes by creating offerings that would foster a competitive environment,” says Mr. Mueller. The Middle School Competitive teams, introduced in 2013, provide this type of environment for younger TAS students–competing for spots on these selective teams prepares them for Upper School and IASAS competition. Athletics Director Ms. Kawamoto adds that: “This would not be able to happen without the resources that we have. We are now able to provide our teams with more competitive opportunities to include participating in a full spectrum of IASAS exchanges. Providing our teams with a variety of competitive experiences helps.”
Although it appears as though the school’s improvement has only started this year, Mr. Mueller believes that its foundations were already laid back in 2015. “The commitment and hard work of our students and coaches paved the way for the recent successes in our athletic program. Resource allocation from our Board, Superintendent, and enthusiastic parent community will continue to be essential for sustained growth and development.” says Mr. Mueller.
The athletics directors are confident that TAS’s success will continue. “Interest and participation in sports change with each class. It is all cyclical, but with the foundation of our competitive programs [beginning in the MS] and the continued focus on effort and energy from our students, we are poised to maximize our progress.” says Ms. Kawamoto.