The national keglers walked on to the Singapore Bowling @ Rifle Range bowling alley decked out in Pokemon onesies last night but, with world champions and major Games gold medallists among them, they are not known for clowning around on the lanes.
One key factor behind the Singapore Bowling Federation's (SBF) success on the international stage is its centres of excellence (COE) programme, which has steadily supplied talents like 2015 World Open winner Joey Yeo and Singapore Nationals champion Jomond Chia.
At last night's COE Day where more than 300 bowlers, parents and coaches marked the 10th anniversary of the scheme, SBF president Jessie Phua revealed that the next wave of national development squad (NDS) players will be farmed out to COE academies in the next two to three years.
To do so, the SBF will develop its Level 4 and 5 coaching certification programmes to equip these private coaches with the necessary skill sets such as sports psychology, nutrition, communication, as well as equipment and lane knowledge.
At the event where the SBF's commercial arm also launched the fully automated Chef-In-Box Vend Cafe, Phua told The Straits Times: "After 10 years, it is a good time for a review, move to the next step, and up the ante.
"We want to relinquish the training of aspiring bowlers back to the industry so Singapore Bowling can focus on the national training squad, those who are ready for major Games and the world stage.
"We want to raise the bar for everyone so we can focus on winning medals, as we leave it to the community, with guided assistance, to focus on the development part."
In 2008, SBF partnered the Singapore Sports School for its first COE. Since then, it has launched 10 more with private academies. Now, more than 200 bowlers participate in the annual skills assessment for NDS selection.
Phua shared that the reason for creating the COE programme was so that coaches from different academies could teach a common curriculum to their bowlers.
She added: "Whenever we had new bowlers in our national team, they would come from different schools and had been taught different philosophies. Year after year, we had to go back to zero and get them to relearn.
"So, we wanted to engage the private coaches, sell our curriculum to them so that by the time the athletes come in, they hit the ground running.
"Doing this, we also help to raise the bar for coaches in terms of technical knowledge and industry engagement, so it is a very good level-up for everyone in the ecosystem.
"If the industry is ready to step up to this challenge and advancement, it is a wonderful place to be in because then we have a fantastic group we can tap on, and recruit for our team of national coaches."
One of the first private operators to sign a COE academy endorsement agreement with the SBF in 2012 was Strike Academy, whose co-founder Don Chan credited the COE programme for uniting a fragmented community.
He said: "In the early years, some coaches felt they needed to think of their own interest. When athletes were taken away from them for the national team, they might have felt that their livelihood was affected.
"So it is good the SBF was able to structure something for everybody and engage the whole community. It was then up to us to adapt to this structure and achieve greater things moving in the same right direction together."