SERVE, SET, SPIKE!
In our series on sporting people who play games other than soccer, we feature a group whose top sport is volleyball
TAKE a walk through the quiet Tiong Bahru neighbourhood and you cannot help but marvel at the charm of the rows of pre-war houses, built in art deco style.
By Lim Say Heng
04 July 2007
Everything seems peaceful and calm in the quaint surroundings on a quiet Sunday evening, until you turn the corner.
Suddenly, you hear a shrill yell and a loud thud.
That is when you know that you have reached the home of the Tiong Bahru Community Centre volleyball team, which has been based there for the past seven years.
'The team was formed by Mike Koh, who used to coach volleyball at my former school Queenstown Secondary School,' said Li Jingxian, 24, one of the regulars at the Sunday sessions.
'He also sits on the committee at the community centre. That is why he took the team here to gain more exposure by playing against older players.'
Although Li was not on the volleyball team when he was a student of Queenstown then, he joined the team on Sundays for friendly games when he reached Secondary Four.
'I joined volleyball when I was in primary school, but I was more interested in soccer in secondary school, especially the English Premier League,' Li said.
'But my love for volleyball was reignited in Secondary Four when my school hosted a tournament. Since then, I have been playing here almost every Sunday.'
The team used to take part in inter-constituency competitions until about two years ago, when some of the players left the team.
Nowadays, the team meets for friendly sparring sessions.
Li said: 'Two years ago, Mike left the team because he had other commitments.
'Since then, we have had a difficult time getting enough players to join us for our Sunday games.'
As part of the team's recruitment drive, Li enlisted the help of Zheng Qili, another old boy from Queenstown Secondary School, to spread the word about the team on various online mediums such as Friendster.
They even started a team blog to get more players to join them.
That worked wonders as more people became aware of the team.
'A friend introduced me to this place a few years ago,' said 18-year-old Ng Minfen, a student.
'We used to play together, but she has stopped some time ago because of her work commitments.
'I like to play here because the area is so quiet, although once in a while the neighbours would complain about the noise level at night,' she added.
Alan Wong is another volleyball enthusiast who makes it a point to come down every Sunday.
'I usually play volleyball with my friends on Wednesday evenings at another community centre,' said the 33-year-old delivery man, who was introduced to the team by Ng.
'On Sunday afternoons, I would play beach volleyball at Sentosa before coming here in the evening for another round of court volleyball.'
The players' ages range between 18 and 35.
They would start their sessions at about 5.30pm and finish half an hour before the community centre's 10pm closing time.
To keep scores, the players used cardboards to make their own scorecards.
The players mingle freely with each other while they play the game.
'Usually, we will try to rotate the players around so that everyone gets to know each other,' Li said.
'Otherwise, it would be very boring for us to play in the same team all the time.'
Boredom is never an issue for these volleyball warriors when The New Paper visited them a few weeks ago.
If they were not playing on the court, they were literally having a ball of a time hitting the ball around and laughing at each other.
The easy camaraderie among the team members also shone through as they packed up after their game.
Some helped to keep the nets and poles back into the stores while others cleared the rubbish along the court.
And when all was done, the merry gang took a short walk through the historic neighbourhood to the nearby hawker centre for a hearty dinner together.
'We always welcome those who love to play volleyball to join us,' said Li.
'Not only do they get to play volleyball, they also get to enjoy all the famous dishes at the Tiong Bahru Market after that!'
Interested parties can contact Li Jingxian at 96649959, or visit their blog at www.volleyforglory.blogspot.com.
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