by Wong Jeng Teng
Boasting plenty of experience working with elite basketball players, former national team coach Neo Beng Siang decided to accept the role of principal at the ActiveSG Basketball Academy in hopes of taking the local scene to greater heights.
The Academy, open to boys and girls aged five to 14, is vastly different from any of Coach Neo’s previous undertakings, across his two decades of coaching basketball.
Currently the head coach of the nation’s only team competing in the ASEAN Basketball League, the Singapore Slingers, Neo recently retired as the national team coach as he wanted to spend more time with his family.
However, when ActiveSG approached him to assist in launching the academy, he could not resist the opportunity to give back to the Singapore basketball scene and guide the next generation.
“It’s very challenging for me because I hadn’t really coached kids before,” he admitted, citing the recent Singapore leg of the Jr. NBA programme, a youth basketball initiative conducted in joint partnership between Sport Singapore and the North American professional basketball league, as an experience that convinced him to eventually take up the role with ActiveSG.
“In my mind, I’m trying to help Singapore basketball, as these [from five to 14 years old] are the ages where you can really help them, guide them through [the skills], step by step. We need to improve when we’re young, especially [our] fundamentals,” Neo said.
Given that children have shorter attention spans and require a firm hand when learning, the Slingers head coach found the need to change his usual approach.
“You really need to be patient, to guide them through what they need to do, and after that you can let them have fun,” he said, recalling times when he’s had to deal with the temperaments of younger players.
As the principal of the ActiveSG Basketball Academy, Neo has been working with his team over the past few months to refine the training curriculum for the participants.
Under the programme, children can look forward to learning ball handling, passing skills, footwork, and shooting techniques, amongst other on-court skills.
Additionally, Coach Neo emphasized the importance of incorporating fun into the training sessions, for the younger ones in particular, so they will discover a love for the game at their own pace.
At ages eight to 10, more drills are then incorporated to build a stronger foundation, while the older players, aged 11 to 14, will be challenged by more advanced training to sharpen their techniques.
Having picked up basketball as a child himself, Neo also hopes his curriculum will impart the right attitudes and behaviour to the young participants of his academy, and that they’ll be able to experience the thrill of the game.
“The adrenaline in basketball is special, regardless of whether you are a player or a coach, on or off the court,” he shared.
“I hope that by sharing my experiences, the younger generation can develop and sustain their passion for the sport they love through this academy,” Neo concluded.
The ActiveSG Basketball Academy is open for registration, with its 2017 season tipping off on 25 February 2017. Sign up here.