[Student Profile] NUS Sports Scholar – 2012

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“Koh Jian Ying is part of the new incoming batch of Sports Scholars 2012. He took out some time between his trainings and studies to answer a few questions for us.”

1. When did you start playing water polo? How did it all start? Was the coach’s influence crucial in the beginning stages?

I started playing water polo in Secondary 1 when I joined it as a CCA in Raffles Institution. I joined it together with a close friend as we wanted to try something that looked fun. I was an average player till I experienced somewhat of a growth spurt when I was 15 which allowed me to improve my game. The coach’s influence at the beginning was definitely important as it set the foundation which I could build upon. He was also very encouraging whenever I experienced setbacks.

2. Were you a good swimmer when you were younger? I believe the game involves a lot of swimming in addition to water polo skills. What made you choose water polo over swimming?

I did swim with a club in primary school and having a swimming background definitely gives one an advantage in starting water polo which is also why many water polo players were swimmers at some point in time before. Personally, water polo is a much more interesting and engaging sport.

3. What has been the toughest situation or the biggest hurdle you have ever faced in your sporting career? How did you overcome it? Who motivated you?

My toughest hurdle, thus far, was the period when I started to train with the Senior National side. Before that I had only trained with either my JC team or the youth teams. It was a huge struggle to adapt to the intensity and level of play initially, and it didn’t help that before joining the national team, I had spent a year away from water polo due to national service. I was struggling to keep up in every training session during that time but I kept at it as I always had an end goal in mind, which was to break in to the national side. Someone who I am thankful to was the national team manager who constantly encouraged me to keep up with the training whenever I was feeling discouraged.

4. Have you ever had injury-woes in your sporting career?  If you have gone through such a phase, what gave you the confidence to go through the tough time? What advice would you give to people in such situations?

Thus far, I have not had any serious injuries, a situation for which I am thankful. The worst injury I have had was when I broke my nose at the start of this year and couldn’t train for around a month. I believe that for athletes with long term serious injuries, staying involved with the team is the best way to keep one going. During the period when I couldn’t train, I continued to go down for training sessions to observe and keep myself up to date with the team’s development in terms of strategy and other minute details.

5. I am aware that the current NUS water polo team is one of the best teams among Asian universities right now. Have you had a chance to play a game with them already? How do you plan to settle down in the team? 

I have actually played for Team NUS in the 2nd Asian University Games earlier this year where we came in third. As the water polo community in Singapore isn’t very big, most of the players actually already know each other and hence it wasn’t difficult to settle into the NUS team. I also trained with them prior to the Asian University games and am currently training with them for the upcoming Singapore University Games.

6. What do you think is so special in the current team that makes everyone gel together to play as a team and keep winning matches? What’s the secret behind such team bonding?

I believe what keeps everyone together is our common goal of success, be it at the Asian University level or locally. I guess the secret behind such team bonding is simply that everyone in the team has worked hard and sacrificed something for the team in one way or another and such close bonds are also forged through hard training sessions together.

7. How do you manage to balance both studies and practice sessions? Are there any special tricks or secrets that you have up your sleeves?

I believe knowing how to prioritize is the most important factor in time allocation. One just has to know how to sacrifice certain things. For now, my schedule is pretty hectic as I have trainings on weekdays at 7 pm and on Saturday mornings, thus on school days I try to finish whatever work I have before I leave for training.

8. How do you feel being one of the Sports Scholars in NUS? Was it tough to get in? Were you aiming to get into NUS even in your high school days?

I am honoured to be one of the recipients of the NUS sports scholarship. I believe there were many equally worthy student-athletes in NUS. I have always wanted to study locally, thus NUS has always been my first choice.

9. Which is the most exotic place playing water polo has taken you?

I went to Saudi Arabia in 2011 for the FINA world development championships. That is by far the most exotic place I have been to, although I am hoping to top that experience when I travel with the National team to Dubai at the end of the year for the Asian Championships.

10. If you weren’t playing Water Polo where would you be doing? Did you have any other childhood dreams before you started the game?

If I weren’t playing water polo, I would probably be playing some other sport as I love the excitement and adrenaline that comes with playing sports. I didn’t really have any sporting dreams before I started playing water polo, but after I started I have always wanted to break into the national side and go to at least one South East Asian games. However, now that I have achieved that goal, I have set higher expectations for myself and the next step for me is to play in the Asian games.