Athlete in Focus: Mike Koh

Article by: Matt Sicat

As second season begins to gain intensity, Bearcats are excited to see how this year’s rugby team – which is mostly comprised of new faces – will fare at IASAS. Last year, boys rugby made history by winning the bronze medal at IASAS; the team hopes to do just as well this year.  At the heart of the team is junior, Mike Koh, a star player and All-Tournament recipient last year for his outstanding performance, Mike hopes to lead the team for another shot at a medal.

It’s hard to imagine that Mike only started playing rugby in the 8th grade after he and his friends tried out for the Under-14 Philippine National Team. Despite making the team, Mike remains humble, saying it was “an honor to be selected and represent the Philippines”. Playing rugby in middle school gave Mike the skills that he needed to play IASAS rugby the following year as a freshman the following year, a rarity at ISM. Regardless, Mike found playing with upperclassmen to be quite the challenge by noting that “everyone was just bigger, stronger, and more skilled than (he) was.”

During the off-season, Mike trained hard with the other rugby boys, who lifted weights and worked to improve their fitness levels. “It was important to be at the highest possible level [of skill and fitness] if I wanted to improve,” he expresses. The hard work paid off, and the following year, Mike was awarded All-Tournament and helped the ISM rugby boys make history.

As one of the more experienced players on the field, Mike continually stresses the role of teamwork and leadership. “Playing prop (a more defensive position), you don’t score many tries or get many assists. But you have the responsibility of defending the ball and maintaining possession, which is crucial to winning games,” Mike says.

Since there are only five returning players from last year’s team, Mike sees himself as one of the team’s acting leaders. Mike articulates “Because there are so few of us returning, a lot of us have taken up the role of leaders – we help [newer players] get involved and up to speed with what we’re doing – we try and make things as clear as possible.”

More than anything, Mike loves the game of rugby. “The intensity and energy I feel on the field is greater than anything else I’ve experienced,” he says. “My favorite part about rugby would probably be tackling other people – it’s one of the things that make it so fun,” he said, chuckling.

While only time will tell if history can be made again, Mike and the rest of the rugby boys are tingling with excitement, ready to play on the ISB field. IASAS rugby could not come sooner.