Sun, sand, and a strong spirit fuel TeamSG beach volleyballers
29 June 2018
By Wong Jeng Teng
The sun can be merciless at times, and running in the sand is no easy feat, but our TeamSG beach volleyballers battle through the elements in their quest to shine in their sport.
Commonwealth Games debutant Ong Wei Yu in action at the recent FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. Photo: Sanketa Anand / SportSG
Most, if not all of them, started out with indoor volleyball as a school co-curricular activity (CCA), and were eventually scouted to try the outdoor version of the sport.
While both indoor and beach volleyball share similar elements, the transition to beach volleyball did present its own set of challenges.
“You have to challenge yourself to defend better, and make sure your attacks are accurate, so it’s actually a different ball game,” said TeamSG beach volleyball athlete and 23-year-old Nanyang Technological University undergraduate Rachel Lau, who has been playing on sand for four years.
Her teammate Mark Shen, who has had three years of experience, added: “One of the main challenges is stamina. For indoor [volleyball], you have six players, and you can have a whole rotation without touching the ball. But for beach volleyball, you have to touch every [alternate] ball.”
Rachel Lau (pictured) after her bout of matches.
With beach volleyball placed in the spotlight due to Singapore hosting one of the stops on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour recently at Siloso Beach, our TeamSG athletes hope more in the country will be exposed to the competitive elements of the game.
“For me, the significance [of the World Tour being held in Singapore] is that I get to play in this prestigious event on home ground. You commit to all these trainings, and I go overseas to compete, but your family and friends don’t really see or understand what you’re training for,” said Rachel, who participated in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Singapore Open with her partner, Vanessa Lim.
Fellow national beach volleyballer Eliza Chong, who partnered up with Commonwealth Games 2018 representative Lau Ee Shan, concurred: “It’s exciting! A lot of your family and friends can come down and watch you. Then, they can be exposed to [competition standards].”
Mark Shen in action at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. Photo: Freddy Chew / SportSG
Acknowledging that Singapore still has a relatively young beach volleyball squad, Mark pointed out that the team did have some way to go before they could consider themselves strong competitors on the international scene.
Thinking back on his first competition, the U21 World Cup Qualifiers, the 21-year-old said: “Standards were very high! We were up against professional players that train five to six days [a week], two times a day. Their training frequency is way above us, so the standard is really different.”
In a regular week, our TeamSG beach volleyballers take part in three gym sessions and six on-court trainings, which they juggle on top of school or work.
Nonetheless, when pitted against tough opponents during competitions such as the World Tour, our national athletes always strive to do their best. After all, regardless of the results, competitions of any kind still contribute towards their growth as athletes.
Eliza Chong in action at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. Photo: Sanketa Anand / SportSG
Eliza revealed: “When we’re training, we always stick to this certain range of players. In training, we won’t be exposed to [different] styles [of play]. [At competitions,] we can actually learn. It’s a bit stressful, but we got nothing to lose!”
Though the Singapore team eventually bowed out of the World Tour during the pool stages, they are optimistic about returning stronger in the future.
“[The nation] is starting to recognise our achievements, [and] that we’re making improvements. We’re getting a lot of opportunities to go for competitions, [even those] previously thought impossible, like the [recent] Commonwealth Games,” said Mark.
Rachel continued: “As we increase the awareness of beach volleyball, more people will support us, and more people will appreciate the sport. I think it just lays a foundation for beach volleyball in the future.”