A school where Floorball grew

Pasir Ris picked sport to slim pupils down, now its alumni gun for golds

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IT WAS a sport initially introduced to Pasir Ris Primary School (PRPS) in 1999 for its overweight pupils to slim down.

Now at these SEA Games, five of the school's alumni will be among the Singapore's floorball national teams as they target both men's and women's golds at stake this month.

Their former physical education teacher, Shahizan Ahmad, is also the team manager of the men's team.

"The overweight students really enjoyed floorball, and the news spread across the student population," said the 45-year-old, now a teacher at Damai Primary School.

"So with my principal's blessing we opened the sport to the rest of the school in 2000."

The five former Pasir Ris Primary pupils in the national teams - Amshar Amin, Glendon Phua, Akmal Shaharudin, Sharifah Badriyah and Ong Hui Hui - also credit Shahizan for kick-starting their floorball journey.

"Mr Shahizan introduced floorball to me in Primary 4 when I was in his PE class," Sharifah, 20, recalled. "He seemed quite intimidating, but was actually friendly and knew how to get us to enjoy the sport. He gave me a floorball stick and sold me another one of his own at a very low price."

Talents from other sports were also roped in. Ong, for instance, was a former hockey player, but switched sports when Shahizan approached her to form the school's first batch of players when she was in Primary 5. "I did not want to play any other sport ever since," said the 26-year-old.

Floorball soon grew in popularity in the school. Said Phua, 25: "In PRPS, if you were in the floorball team, you were somebody. The floorball culture there was very strong. We really loved the sport."

With the efforts of Shahizan and his colleagues, floorball was officially recognised as a Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) in 2007. Pupils who played floorball could then use the sport to accrue CCA points and apply for Direct School Admission (DSA) to a secondary school.

For Akmal, 19, the official recognition of floorball as a CCA went a long way for him, as he was enrolled in Victoria School (VS) through its DSA programme.

He said: "I was a playful boy, but I changed and developed as a player during my four years in VS. Without Mr Shahizan and my other coaches, I would not have become the player I am today."

A demonstration sport in the 2013 Naypyitaw SEA Games, this will be the debut of floorball as an official sport at the biennial Games.

While Singapore will be seen as favourites in both the men's and women's competitions, local floorball stalwart Jill Quek - who has previously played professionally in Europe - cautions against complacency.

"Our opponents are training really hard, so it is important that we are not complacent. I really believe we have an edge over them due to the experience we have," said Quek, 37.

The veteran has also played an inspirational role to some of the younger players in the squad. In a demonstration game organised by Shahizan back in Pasir Ris Primary, Quek's skills left a lasting impression on Phua.

"I remember seeing Jill play," he recalled. "I was just a small kid then and thought to myself that one day, I can become a national player. I remember Jill telling us if we trained hard we could make it one day.

"Hopefully we can inspire the next generation to love floorball just like what Jill did for us. We should make Singapore floorball something even better than what we have done so far."

As for the coming SEA Games, the players are eager to put up a good performance.

"We are training very hard because we don't know what to expect from the other teams," said Akmal. "We hope that the support from Singaporeans will give us the extra edge."

wslok@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Toh Ting Wei

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