The Volleyball Association of Singapore (VAS) has appointed a new national beach volleyball coach, with the aim of growing the sport's talent pool and making a breakthrough at the regional level.
Canadian Dean Martin was handed the reins after arriving in Singapore about a fortnight ago and has set his sights on achieving success on the Asian circuit, in addition to qualifying for the Asian Games next year.
The 30-year-old, engaged on a year-long contract with a provision to extend it for another year, took over from Thai Sonthi Bunrueang, whose contract expired at the end of last year.
Previously based in Toronto, Martin co-founded On2 Volleyball, a beach volleyball training academy in 2014, and was part of the Canadian national team's coaching set-up. He also developed teams that won the Canadian Under-19 and Under-17 trials, qualifying for the FIVB Under-19 beach volleyball world championships.
It is this experience, plus his ability to devise a training programme independently and communicate with the players, that made him stand out in the eyes of the VAS.
HARNESSING THE POTENTIAL
There's a large amount of potential on the athletes' side. It's just about getting the athletes to be more consistent, more conditioned, in a regular training programme.
DEAN MARTIN, the Canadian who has taken over as the national beach volleyball coach.
Despite Singapore's modest contingent of about 500 regular beach volleyball players, Martin said he has been impressed with what he has seen so far.
"There's a large amount of potential on the athletes' side," he told The Straits Times yesterday. "It's just about getting the athletes to be more consistent, more conditioned, in a regular training programme."
He concedes that he faces challenges on several fronts.
For starters, apart from Sentosa, there are only three locations equipped with beach volleyball courts (Bishan, Yio Chu Kang and Kallang) - all of which are also shared with the public.
There is also the issue of scheduling training for a team that is made up of both students and young working adults. He said: "Just managing the schedule to get all the athletes on the same page is probably the biggest challenge."
He plans to hold a national team trial next month in the hopes of injecting the squad with more talent, and is quietly confident of where the national team can go.
He is targeting a second straight appearance at the Under-21 world championships for Singapore. The men's and women's teams failed to make it to the main draw last year after losing their opening matches in the single-elimination format qualifying rounds.
Both the U-21 sides are bound for the Asian championships in Thailand in a month's time, when they will try to qualify for this year's edition of the world event.
Martin is also eyeing a top-six standing in Asia to meet the Singapore National Olympic Council's benchmark of earning the nod to compete at next year's Asian Games in Indonesia.
It is a confidence that has rubbed off on the players.
Said Rachel Lau, 22: "Training has been very productive so far and he's a breath of fresh air.
"He's introduced drills and tactics that we didn't put emphasis on in the past. He helps us feel like it's possible to get some results."
Said Martin: "There's a very deep pool of athletes here who can prove something. They just need a bit of direction with regard to how to do so. We have all the tools - we just have to use them now."