1. Tell us more about yourself and your volleyball life.
I started playing volleyball at the age of 13 when I was in The Chinese High School (now Hwa Chong Institution). I played badminton in primary school so I had no idea what volleyball is about other than it is being a girls’ sport (there was this Japanese serial on TV called 排球女将) that involves “swim shorts” and lots of jumping near a net barrier.
I was given the opportunity to join the National squad in 1992 at the age of 17 and trained under Coach Shen Keqin in preparation for the 17th SEA Games. The team trained 6 sessions across 5 days each week for more than a year. It was ABSOLUTELY brutal! I admit there were many times when I felt like giving up as I was in first year of schoolwork and I hardly had time for “teenager stuff”. Life was literally volleyball, gym and school. I knew that my parents were extremely worried about how I was going to cope with my “A” levels exams but they never tried stopping or discourage me. I am immensely grateful for their support. On hindsight, the national team experience really embedded values of perseverance, resilience and teamwork in me (as cliche as it may sound!). I was with the national squad from 1992 to 1996, played in the 1993 and 1995 SEA Games. And I was fortunate to be part of the historic men’s bronze medal team in the 1993 edition of the games. I remember the late-Tiow Kar used to say “I played in so many SEA Games and finally got a medal and you only played your first and got the same!”.
Played for Hwa Chong Volleyball Alumni since I was in Secondary 4, and decided to stop competitive volleyball at the age of 32-33 due to injuries, work, and family commitments. In 2017, at the age of 42, I decided to get myself back in shape and started playing competitively again, and I do wonder (at times) when my knees will surrender.
Met my wife of 15 years through volleyball when we both played for Nanyang Technological University (NTU). She was a middle blocked turned setter (due to a shoulder injury), and a proud Cedarian and Victorian! Our three kids all play volleyball in school, the oldest girl is in Primary 6 and two boys in Primary 5 and 3. Since young, we insisted that they play team sports and volleyball is a natural choice for us as a family. We believe that the kids will pick up valuable life skills through team sports which we both benefited so much from. We are glad that they are all loving volleyball and I hope they keep that passion and hopefully have the privilege to represent the nation at some stage!
2. What are you doing to contribute to volleyball in Singapore?
I have been volunteering at Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) as a coach (together with a few other alumni) since 2016 and also part of the executive committee for Hwa Chong Volleyball Alumni (HCVBA), an interest group under the umbrella of the Hwa Chong Alumni Association. As a coach, I am supporting the “A” division volleyball programme for the HCI boys. As an EXCO member for HCVBA, we organise alumni club teams to participate in local/overseas volleyball tournaments and contributing to the overall volleyball ecosystem in Singapore.
I was approached to join the Association in 2018. In all honesty I was skeptical at first, as the Association did not have a good reputation within the fraternity and that is evident with the lack of progress or development of the game in Singapore. After much consideration, I took a leap of faith and decided that it is time for me to “pay-it-forward” to the sport that has been such a major part of my life. In Aug 2018, I joined the Council as Vice President (High Performance), I will like to take this opporunity to thank Kok Leong (VAS Treasurer) for helping to manage the beach volleyball side of things while I focus on the indoor side of High Performance.
There is also this misconception that Council members are paid appointments! We are volunteers and are doing this as we want to see volleyball doing well locally and internationally. However, being a volunteer is NOT an excuse not to put in our 100%! If you want to pick the responsibilities, be ready to give your 100%, only more, no less.
3. What will you do to encourage more volleyballers to contribute in their own ways to give back to the sport?
I will encourage them to keep playing and make volleyball part of their life instead of just a CCA in school. I noticed some promising players who played National Schools dropped off from the scene after graduation, which is a shame. On the part of the Council, we are working hard to create a more vibrant scene and creating more opportunities for players, both when they are still in school and after they graduate. A few years back, I ruptured my Achilles tendon, fixed it, rehabilitated and am still playing at age 44 – so what is your excuse?
I also hope to see coaches and officials continuing to keep abreast of coaching techniques and development in the rules of the game respectively. Coaches and officials are key pillars of overall development of volleyball and I feel that we, as a fraternity do not celebrate their contributions enough. We need more coaches and officials as we grow the sport.
Over the years, I appreciate that many within the fraternity are frustrated with the lack of progress and development in Singapore Volleyball. I am one of those to be honest. Whilst we collectively work on making progress, I hope that those who really care about the sport to be patient and to be aligned in our vision and programmes to develop and progress Singapore Volleyball. We are all on the same side so don’t be an armchair critic, turn them into actions and make tangible differences, If you are keen to contribute, feel free to approach me or any of the Council members.