Founding lady of Singapore netball Tan Yoon Yin dies aged 94
Her ambition to set up a netball association over six decades ago was met with scepticism, but Tan Yoon Yin did not let that deter her.
In 1962, her efforts came to fruition and she became the founder and first president of the Singapore Women’s Netball Association, now known as Netball Singapore, thus laying the foundation for the growth of the sport.
A devoted and gutsy figure who was an inspiration to many in the netball fraternity is what the 94-year-old, who died on Tuesday, is fondly remembered for.
Former Netball Singapore president Jessica Tan, who was saddened by Yoon Yin’s passing, recalled how she remained an ardent supporter of Singapore netball even after stepping down.
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, who served as the association’s chief from 2012 until September, said: “She used to come for our games, rain or shine she would turn up.
“I still remember there was one year it was raining so heavily, she came all drenched and she and Mr Tan (her husband) used to come even though she had difficulty, she walked much slower because of her age and all that, she came to all our games and just cheered us on. She was just an inspiration to all our girls.
“She laid a very solid foundation for us and in my role as president, I took a lot of guidance from her in the values of how she led Netball Singapore and how she wanted to make sure there was a platform for our girls to play, to excel, and form friendships.”
Yoon Yin, who was a physical education teacher, was driven to set up the netball association after noticing sports were not popular among the young, especially school girls and women.
The lack of proper rules and training facilities for netball and hockey also served as an impetus for Yoon Yin, who played both sports at the national level, to change the status quo.
Setting up the netball association in 1962 was just the first step. She used her own money to buy manuals on how to coach netball teams and umpire matches, even starting an umpiring course.
To keep the association afloat, Yoon Yin and her players baked cakes and biscuits which they sold to people who came to watch their matches.
She pushed for netball to be recognised as an extra-curricular activities in the Ministry of Education’s physical education curriculum and was honoured by the ministry in 2014.
She also contributed to local hockey, taking up various positions in the Singapore Women’s Hockey Association for many years, and was inducted into Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame in 2016.
Former Netball Singapore executive director Judy Kong remembers Yoon Yin, whom she first met in 1965 as a trainee teacher at the Teachers’ Training College, for her conviction.
She said: “When Mrs Tan and a group of like-minded ladies decided to register the association, it took a lot of guts and gumption at the point in time, as not many families wanted their daughters to play sport.
“It took a lot of determination to get things going and for that, it promoted the sport, schools were playing the sport, girls were playing the sport. For the successors, they built upon what they had started and netball has grown from strength to strength.”
While former national captain Jean Ng did not have many in-depth interactions with Yoon Yin, she recalled how the latter would take an interest in getting to know the players on the team.
Ng, 45, who played from 1999 to 2012, said: “What struck me was that keen interest in the team itself – who were the players, how did we enjoy the trainings and games and how we felt about the tournament. It wasn’t about the winning or losing but she was interested in us as individuals.”
Paying tribute to Yoon Yin, Ng added: “When I first started playing, the national team didn’t have as many opportunities to play international teams or compete in international competitions. Things have changed a lot since. But I knew that even having a national team and the facilities that we had in Kallang to train was off the back of Mrs Tan’s efforts to establish netball in Singapore.”
In a Facebook post, Netball Singapore paid tribute to Yoon Yin, saying: “We honour Mrs Tan Yoon Yin for her unwavering commitment to empowering women through netball and for fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie within our netball family. Her impact on the sport will forever be cherished.”