Plans afoot to grow beach volleyball's profile in S'pore

Beach volleyball will debut at Commonwealth Games 2018 in Gold Coast Australia. The Straits Times talks to the Singapore women's team, which qualified for the Games.
National beach volleyball players Serene Ng (left) and Vanessa Lim training at the Singapore Sports Hub even as temperatures hit lows of 22 deg C on Thursday. Six players are competing for two spots on the Commonwealth Games team, should the Singapor
National beach volleyball players Serene Ng (left) and Vanessa Lim training at the Singapore Sports Hub even as temperatures hit lows of 22 deg C on Thursday. Six players are competing for two spots on the Commonwealth Games team, should the Singapore National Olympic Council give the nod.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The mercury dipped to as low as 22 deg C islandwide on Thursday afternoon, with the chill amplified by the constant wind and drizzle.

Six young women, dressed just in swimwear and singlets, braved the elements for about two hours on the sand at the Singapore Sports Hub under the watchful eye and instructions of national beach volleyball coach Dean Martin.

The sextet, aged 17 to 23, are vying for two spots at this year's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia, where it is offered at the quadrennial, multi-sport event for the first time.

The Singapore women's team qualified as the top Commonwealth nation at last year's Asian Volleyball Confederation Beach Tour, although their participation at the April 4-15 Games is still subject to the Singapore National Olympic Council's approval.

Making the cut was not a surprise for Martin, who was appointed last January and later said that qualifying for the Asian Games in Indonesia in August was his target.

He said: "The players worked hard and committed to the training programme; we had a solid programme and the athletes and myself were on the same page."

The arrival of the 31-year-old Canadian, who was part of his national team coaching set-up, brought more structure to the team, said national player Rachel Lau.

National beach volleyball players Serene Ng (left) and Vanessa Lim training at the Singapore Sports Hub even as temperatures hit lows of 22 deg C on Thursday. Six players are competing for two spots on the Commonwealth Games team, should the Singapor
National beach volleyball players Serene Ng (left) and Vanessa Lim training at the Singapore Sports Hub even as temperatures hit lows of 22 deg C on Thursday. Six players are competing for two spots on the Commonwealth Games team, should the Singapore National Olympic Council give the nod. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The 22-year-old added: "Before Dean came, we had a part-time coach and both the men's and women's teams trained together at the same time, so we could be waiting for about five minutes on the court for our turn ."

Now, the two teams, along with the junior squads which are additions under Martin's watch, stagger their sessions.

That is not the only impact the new coach has made.

Gym sessions at the National Youth Sports Institute in Kallang have been added to the mix.

In all, the Commonwealth training squad train about eight times a week, which will be intensified after the final selections next month.

The players also competed in two stops of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour last year in Thailand and Indonesia and faced world-class opponents from Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan.

Those were valuable lessons. "Some of the players were very tall and could easily block the shots, so we had to find other ways to get around that," said the 1.68m Lau.

Martin said the players have improved in areas such as technique, on-court endurance and strategy.

  • 500

  • Regular beach volleyball players in Singapore.

He also revealed that more initiatives are in the pipeline to grow the sport.

There are about 500 regular players here while the Singapore Beach Volleyball National Series, which began in 2016 with 29 teams, grew to 46 last year.

Martin said: "We are aiming to have more youth competitions at the grassroots levels to get the younger ones interested.

"Right now, players start out playing the indoor version and no one really starts by playing the beach version."

Having a team compete at the Commonwealth Games will raise the profile of the game here, as well as Singapore's stature in the sport, said national player Vanessa Lim.

The 20-year-old said: "Other (international) players look down on us because we are quite short, so we want to make a name for ourselves outside and let people know we exist and, hopefully, we can get the support of Singaporeans as well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2018, with the headline 'Plans afoot to grow beach volleyball's profile in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe