The big push for netball
A husband-and-wife team started the Singapore Netball Academy to give girls an opportunity to pick up the sport. TNP meets the people involved
Netball is not a big sport at the primary school level.
And while there has been a proliferation of football academies, largely for boys, there has been little for girls.
So earlier this year, Mr Paul De Bruijn and his wife, Madam Saadiah Khamis, set up the Singapore Netball Academy (SGNA) to give young girls an avenue to play the game.
Madam Saadiah said: "I am very passionate about netball and have been coaching and playing the sport for a long time.
"I want to allow everyone to have an avenue to play netball, whether they are good players or not so good.
"There are very few places that offer sports (especially for) girls."
SGNA piloted in September last year and was officially started on Jan 9 this year.
The academy has six different programmes - U8 (under eight years old), U10 (under 10), U12 (under 12), Beginners Programme (11 to 14 years old), Secondary Development Programme (secondary school students), and NETforMUMS (adult female players)
Working with Mr De Bruijn and his wife are U10 and NETforMUMS coach Rose Begum and U16 coach Yeo Mee Hong.
Each term costs $250 and players also have to buy their own SGNA attire for $40.
While they do not have a set venue for trainings, the academy usually uses the Singapore Sports Hub or will link up with schools to use their indoor sports halls.
During their pilot programme, they had 33 sign-ups, but now they have an estimated 100 sign-ups.
SGNA is mainly funded by the fees that players pay each term and does not make a profit.
She wants to be like Charmaine Soh
Sheryl Tan Xing Yee, 11, once saw her cousin playing netball and was instantly drawn to the sport.
She joined CHIJ Kellock Primary School's netball team as a co-curricular activity (CCA) and hopes to make it to the school team, like her cousin. She joined SGNA at the end of last year and has been training hard.
Sheryl says: "I want to be a part of the school team and in the future, the national team."
As a newbie to the sport, she has faced her own set of challenges.
"Sometimes it is hard to work with everyone as we all think differently. But I do enjoy working with my friends and scoring goals," she says.
The Primary 5 student looks up to national player Charmaine Soh.
"Whenever she misses the (shot), she will try to get the ball back and shoot again. I aspire to be like her," says Sheryl.
No pain, no game
Two years ago, Megan Goh watched her first live netball match.
She enjoyed herself so much that after the game, she went online to learn about the sport. She stumbled upon a video of the national team playing and fell in love with the game.
Says the 11-year-old CHIJ Kellock Primary School student: "At first I played casually in school, but then I joined the school team."
Megan has sprained both ankles and a finger, but she says nothing will stop her from playing.
She says: "Though I may get injuries from my training or matches, I will still continue to play as I love netball."
The aspiring national player joined SGNA in October last year.
She trains up to three times a week, with each session lasting two hours.
Megan's mum, Ms Valerie Tan, says: "Megan's skills and confidence have improved, and I have seen her love for netball develop since she joined the academy."
High scores on and off court
Tisha Jeffrey Lee is a Primary 4 St Margaret's Primary School student and scores well, whether she's in the classroom or on the netball court.
"If I don't do well in my studies, my parents won't let me play," says the 10-year-old.
Tisha's dream is to make it to the national team.
"SGNA really challenges me and has been very fun," says Tisha.
The talented player is able to play all positions, but her favourite is goal attack and goal defence.
But at the end of the day, studies come first.
Luckily, she has maintained her grades in school, and her coach is also happy with her performance on the court.
"Tisha has made progress... and is understanding the game a lot better. She is also very passionate when it come to training and always gives her 100 per cent," says her SGNA coach, Madam Saadiah Khamis.
Ahead of her game
Sabrina Nicole Naden, 14, has been a netball player for seven years and aims to be in the national team.
"I dream of wearing the Singapore colours," says the Tanjong Katong Secondary School student.
Sabrina picked up the sport when she was in Primary 1, and made it to the school team by Primary 2.
"I started playing when I was seven, and learnt the basic footwork and count drills then," she says.
She is now a member of her school team and joined SGNA to further hone her skills.
Says Sabrina: "SGNA helps players understand the game situation and what options teammates have to offer.
"Our game improves as a whole."
She undergoes rigorous training, especially during the competition season.
"During competition season, there are two games a week and training can be twice a week.
"I have SGNA training on Sundays too, so that is a total of five days of playing a week," says Sabrina.
Then there is her own personal fitness training.
She runs two or three times a week and also does workouts that focus on strength training. If there's time, she also does pilates.
"The rush that I get from the game, that is what I love most," says Sabrina.
Her parents are extremely supportive of her passion.
Sabrina's mother, Ms Anita Thaver, says: "My husband and I are very proud of Sabrina and how far she has grown.
"She strives very hard, both in her studies and netball... It isn't easy but she manages somehow.That is already very commendable."
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