Bowling: Laying down blueprint for more success

SBF president Jessie Phua with two members of the new leadership: secretary-general Delane Lim (left) and Jason Yeong-Nathan, one of three national head coaches.
SBF president Jessie Phua with two members of the new leadership: secretary-general Delane Lim (left) and Jason Yeong-Nathan, one of three national head coaches. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Leadership renewal, post-career options for bowlers & using technology among changes

Six Asian Games gold medals, 12 SEA Games golds, two AMF World Cup winners and two world champions.

The long list of achievements under long-serving Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF) president Jessie Phua speaks for itself.

But it will not just be more of the same going forward, as the SBF celebrated the 50th jubilee of the Singapore Open, which concluded on Saturday.

While player development remains crucial, the national sports association (NSA) has placed more emphasis on grooming the next generation of coaches and administrators.

Phua, 62, has lamented in the past about the small pool of sports administrators and she has taken matters into her own hands by bringing the likes of vice-president Valerie Teo, 33, and secretary-general Delane Lim, 32, into the fold.

"We need youth at the administrative level so that we can connect with the youngsters we want to engage with. It's a balance with those of us with more experience but we work together," said Phua, who has been at SBF's helm since 2002.

"Our council meetings are never "Yes" meetings. I've always said, if all 11 (other council members) say yes to me, then 11 of you are not needed here."

Teo, Lim and Jason Yeong-Nathan, who is one of three national head coaches and another member of the new leadership, all found the early going difficult but have since settled into their new roles.

Said Teo, a former national bowler and 2006 Asian Games gold medallist: "The transition from being a player to serving on the council was certainly not easy.

"Not a day goes by that I do not miss standing on those lanes, cheering, fighting and going through struggles and good times with my team-mates.

"But now I hope that my passion and love for the sport and experience as a (former) member of the national team will help me to understand things from the players' and coaches' point of view."

She added that compared to her playing days, bowlers nowadays get a lot more space to develop through exposure to overseas competitions, the sharing of expert knowledge between coaches and generous support from sponsors and partners.

Lim, a businessman, views running an NSA "a 100 times more difficult" than running a company.

"You have to deal with the government agencies, the council, the bowlers and only then your staff," he said. "But, in other ways, it's the same. One thing I would like to see happen is helping our players transition into their post-bowling careers.

"Whether they go into coaching or beyond bowling, have we done enough for them to be world-ready employees?"

For the coaches, the challenge lies in keeping abreast of technological advances in a technical sport that has revolved around looking at the numbers and making minute adjustments since its earliest days.

"A lot of the equipment has changed from my playing days: the oiling machines and there are lot more different types of balls. We also have the Computer Aided Tracking System now which allows us to track things like ball speed and angle," said Yeong-Nathan, 34.

Technology even got Phua to revise a longstanding opinion about 2017 Bowler of the Year New Hui Fen, in the form of high-tech glasses that can track eye movement as the player releases the ball.

"Every time I would go crazy and say I don't want this girl on my team because she looks so nonchalant (taking her eyes off the ball). But my coaches promised me that she was dedicated, far from what I thought she was like," Phua said.

"Then we went to SSI (Singapore Sports Institute) and told them we had this dynamo of an emerging bowler who riled us to no end and asked what we could do to overcome this and they came up with the glasses.

"So you know, we are constantly looking for new ways to do things."