Aiming high, squashing obstacles
09 May 2018
By Nicolette Mok
TeamSG Squash Player Sneha Sivakumar is armed and ready to overcome challenges in her pursuit of all-round excellence.
Sneha Sivakumar made the news back in 2012, when she was named as one of Singapore’s three youths selected to join the prestigious McDonalds’ Champions of Play programme. Then a junior player on the squash national team, Sneha joined tennis player Clare Cheng and fencer Lau Ywen, both now notable names in sporting circles, as budding journalists at the London Olympics.
Sneha (pictured) during the 2017 SEA Games in KL. Photo: Knight Ong / SportSG
Perhaps it was this early exposure to excellence that has inspired her to aim high. In recent years, Sneha has been making waves in the squash scene, first as one of Singapore’s top juniors, then as a triple medallist at last year’s SEA Games.
Armed with focus, discipline, and a strong support system, she has made it her goal to excel both in her studies at Raffles Institution (Junior College) and on the squash court.
The all-rounder shared her love for a challenge – the reason why squash appealed to her in the first place: “Squash is a complete mind and body sport. It’s mental, physical, tactical; you have to anticipate what the opponent’s going to do next, be physically fit to last [in] long matches, and have good technique to execute the shots!”
Photo: Huang Xiao Long / SportSG
Adding how she learnt to stay on top of these challenges, she remarked: “When I started out, winning and losing mattered a lot to me. But over the years, I realised that every match is for me to learn and grow. It’s more about how I play my game and learn from it. There’ll always be another match and I’ll have to keep moving on [and] staying focused.”
Indeed, an important factor that contributed to Sneha’s success was the focus she placed on her goals, as well as her willingness to make sacrifices. Currently training six days a week in preparation for the Court Tech Women’s PSA Classic 2018 and Squashgym International Squash Classic 2018, she has to juggle her sport with an intensive workload from school.
Speaking about a typical day, she said: “Compared to secondary school, Junior College is much more tiring; the lessons are very intense! I finish school at about 2-3pm every day, and my training sessions are at 6pm. I will usually go to the Singapore Sport Institute to nap or get some work done, then head for training.”
“Squash doesn’t complement my academic load, so it’s difficult to find time to study. Managing and maximising my time is important. When it comes to my social life and actually having a life, I have to make sacrifices,” she continued.
Our TeamSG Squash team at the 2017 SEA Games. Photo: Timothy Leong
Nevertheless, she acknowledges the importance of emotional support from loved ones, which helps get her into “the right frame of mind” as she continues to study and train. She tries to make the most of her time with parents and friends, such as having long and meaningful conversations with her parents whenever they spend time together.
Her squash “family”, from coaches to teammates, also continues to be instrumental to her development, and she cites them as a major contributing factor to her SEA Games success in Kuala Lumpur last year, during which she transitioned from the junior to senior playing field.
“During the SEA Games, I was the youngest, and I had my older teammates there to guide me tactically – how to deal with different players, how to deal with blocking,” she shared.
Our TeamSG Squash Women's Team won Silver at the 2017 SEA Games. (L to R) Pamela Chua, Au Yeong Wai Yhann, Sneha Sivakumar and Mao Shi Hui. Photo: Cheah Cheng Poh / SportSG
Naturally, she hopes to give back to her sport in her own way too. Apart from her plans to coach part-time after her A Levels, she eventually hopes to make it to university all while excelling at squash, showing others that it is possible to shine in sport and succeed academically.
She expressed: “I hope to contribute as much as I can to [change perspectives], to show the juniors that it’s possible to do well both academically and in sports. You don’t have to give up one or the other. Many people have the perception that if you pursue a sport too seriously your studies are going to suffer. I want to show them that this isn’t the case.”
Sneha will be playing next in the Court Tech Women’s PSA Classic 2018 (22-27 May) and the Squashgym International Squash Classic 2018 (5-10 June), so do “Like” our TeamSG Facebook page for the latest updates!