Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, players like Singapore Slingers forward Delvin Goh (jumping) have had their season suddenly cut short. PHOTO: SUKI SINGH
The professional basketball players took Covid-19 in their stride and continued to train hard off the court.
For a professional athlete, working from home requires more than just setting up a laptop on the dining table. The Singapore Slingers proved to be nimble on their feet as they adapted to training during a pandemic — without their teammates and without a basketball court.
In March last year, when news broke of the 2019/2020 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) being suspended indefinitely, an understandable feeling of disappointment befell the players.
“The team had faced a great deal of adversity with the SEA Games interrupting our pre-season, and injuries to key players during the season had a negative impact on our performance,” says Michael Johnson, General Manager of the Singapore Slingers. So when the league was cancelled just as things were beginning to turn around, it was immensely frustrating for the team.
Dribbling past a tricky obstacle
Players had to adapt to training on their own for a long time before they were allowed to make use of facilities like the OCBC Arena at Singapore Sports Hub. PHOTO: SINGAPORE SLINGERS
With circuit breaker measures in place from April to June last year, the Slingers were unable to train and play competitively. This was a massive change to their usual routines and they had to find ways to keep themselves motivated and fit throughout this turbulent time.
“The coaches did what they could by focusing on what we can do without being on a basketball court,” says Slingers forward Delvin Goh. “Ball-handling drills are one of the best ways to retain your ball sense, so we did what we could with these drills at home.” The players also ensured that they kept their stamina up with at least two to three jogging sessions a week.
Staying physically sharp is one thing, but coping with it mentally was another challenge. Regular calls were a great help for keeping the staff and players in touch.
“We also had weekly Zoom calls with coaches and with Hudl, which supplies our game analytics software and software programme training to improve on this aspect of our game,” says Johnson.
For Goh, being able to play a part in community programmes also helped break the monotony of being stuck at home.
“I was in a video for one of the Singapore Sports Hub programmes where you can follow a workout online at home,” says the 2.02m-tall player. “I think that’s a great initiative, not just for the pandemic, but also for our everyday lives where many people hardly have time to squeeze out time to exercise.”
The team also have a partnership with the ActiveSG Basketball Academy which heavily involves the Slingers.
“They’ve been doing a great job helping to train kids aged five to 14, two to three times a week,” says Johnson.
Once safe distancing measures were eased in June last year and the Singapore Sports Hub facilities were available for use again, training back at the OCBC Arena and Singapore Sports Institute was an exciting homecoming which brought the team back to a sense of normalcy.
Making a comeback
The Slingers are optimistic and raring to go in the year ahead, no matter what new challenge awaits them. PHOTO: SUKI SINGH
Looking ahead, while Covid-19 has been problematic in the world of sports, it has had an unlikely positive effect on the players. They managed to get extra time to work on individual skills which will undoubtedly lead to vast improvements in both individual and team performances in the future, says Johnson.
He adds: “As for our team goals, we expect to compete hard in every game we play and win as many games as possible.”
With the possible resumption of the ABL this year, there are still many questions regarding how it will be run safely. But Johnson believes that no matter what the challenge, the team will be ready.
“There is still so much uncertainty around what we can and cannot do moving forward. What travel restrictions and quarantine situations are still in place, this will dictate what we can do,” says the Slingers general manager. “However, once we are allowed to get back into full team activities, we will prepare as we have in the past. We will get ready for whatever we face, no matter what the competition format is, and be happy just to be back playing.”
Singapore Sports Hub opened on July 26, 2015, and is one of the world’s first fully integrated sports, entertainment and lifestyle destinations which houses the National Stadium, OCBC Arena and more. Let Delvin Goh take you on a tour of its facilities so you can experience everything it has to offer.