Squash: SEA Games-bound players hit by coaching woes

A 2017 photo shows Timothy Arnold (left) and Allan Soyza.
A 2017 photo shows Timothy Arnold (left) and Allan Soyza.ST FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE - The national squash players' preparations for the SEA Games have hit a roadblock with two coaches resigning just two months before the Nov 30-Dec 11 Games in the Philippines.

Technical director Allan Soyza and national senior coach Timothy Arnold, who have each been with the Singapore Squash Rackets Association (SSRA) for at least two years, have quit and will leave before the SEA Games.

At the last edition of the Games in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore's squash players won three gold medals. They clinched the men's and women's jumbo doubles, and a historic title in the men's team to end a 22-year drought.

Soyza told The Straits Times that he resigned for personal reasons while Arnold is leaving the SSRA for another job opportunity.

Their impending departures saw some national athletes voicing their displeasure at the SSRA's annual general meeting on Wednesday night at the Camden Medical Centre, where Patrick Thio succeeded Woffles Wu as the association's president.

Brendon Tan, who was speaking on behalf of some of the SEA Games-bound players, told the management committee that the players had been "feeling discontent with the disruptions".

The 21-year-old, who is not competing at the SEA Games, also asked the MC about their future plans.

Joannah Yue, an MC member who heads the coaching sub-committee, said national squash player Vivian Rhamanan would take charge of the SEA Games team and that sparring partners have been approached to help the players with their preparations. Yue, a former national squash player added that the SEA Games are "obviously one of the most immediate concerns right now".

But Timothy Leong, a silver medallist at the 2017 SEA Games, is concerned that a new coach may not be able to fit in as quickly and work with the players.

"I felt (Soyza and Arnold) were able to adapt from coaching in Malaysia to Singapore, where the lifestyle and mentality towards sport are different and they were able to adapt to that," said the 23-year-old.

"So to know that they are leaving is in a way quite disheartening for us because we don't know what caused them to ... it's just a bit sad."

While Tan said that there could have been a difference in opinion between the two coaches and the new MC, newly-appointed president Thio said that some of the issues "are a bit sensitive" and he perferred not to air them in public.

He added: "The coaches have decided to resign and when they gave us word of their plans, we made preparations to reach out to our contacts in the region and some of them are coming in on short notice as trainers."

Arnold, a former professional player, said he would continue to work with national players Sneha Sivakumar and Au Yeong Wai Yhann as their assigned coach under the sports excellence) scholarship. The 34-year-old Malaysian will be working for a private entity and has told SSRA that he is open to working with the national sports association.

His compatriot Soyza, Malaysia's former national men's coach and director of coaching, acknowledged his departure would be "a little bit disruptive" to the team. He added: "That's the democratic process of things, we just have to work with whatever has been dealt. I know the players are professional enough to carry on training and doing their best.

"I think the progress has been fantastic... we've grown in depth and strength and can do reasonably well at the SEA Games. I just hope the players take this as motivation to show everybody what they can do."