With the topic of Mental Health & Well-being gaining attention and sparking conversations about the pivotal role that Mental Wellness plays in enabling individuals to function at their best, Singapore Pickleball Association (SPA) has kickstarted a new Mental Wellness charter to encourage individuals to embark on an active journey towards bettering their Mental health and well-being. Together, we seek to raise awareness about the life-changing benefits of integrating Pickleball into our lives by showcasing the authentic perspectives of Pickleballers in Singapore.
Boon Chia, preparing to serve during a game. (Credit: Michelle Chang)
Meet Boon Chia, also known as BC, whose name is no stranger to the Pickleball community here. Despite being recognised for the many national and international titles he has under his belt, Boon Chia's journey is more than a mere chronicle of matches won. Having represented Malaysia at international championships as a table tennis athlete for over a decade, the father of two has had his fair share of some of the biggest ups and downs of a high-performance sportsman. Beyond the medals and fame, Boon Chia views his career as an exercise in self-discovery and character development, where he channels his sporting competitiveness not just to defeat his opponents but to conquer his weaknesses and limitations. Every match he plays is an opportunity to harness the lessons learned on the court to sculpt a character fortified with resilience, humility, and patience both on and off the court.
A very young Boon Chia standing with his collection of medals and trophies. He was once the top player for Kedah and was in the top 10 ranking in the whole of Malaysia despite his youth. (Credit: Boon Chia)
Focusing on the things that truly matter
Given his busy schedule that leaves him time for a session or two a week of Pickleball, many have wondered how the 38-year-old has been able to stay ahead of the rising standard of competition. Considering the precision in his calculated shots and technical finesse, it is only natural to assume that he spends countless hours weekly hitting about at the court. However, Boon Chia strongly believes that "it is how you spend your time that matters" more than the volume of hours you spend playing the sport.
"For me, it's 80% drilling and 20% match play. I don't have as much time as others to spend playing Pickleball, so I must be clear on what I want to work on every time I'm there. If it's two hours of Pickleball, then I'll just be very focused on what I need to do for that time."
Competitiveness, to him, is the drive to continually improve as an individual. Though the pressures of remaining undefeated in his game will constantly be there, it is the excitement of "always having something new to learn" which has kept him going. More importantly, this has been the only thing he can control and what he chooses to focus on.
Nonetheless, this notion of focusing on what truly matters came about much earlier in his life when he and his wife, Vinccy, had to spend a significant part of their 10-year courtship long-distance. Each of them faced a unique set of challenges that resulted in them needing to be in separate places for the most part, making their courtship unconventional.
"We were sure of each other lah, but there were times when it got quite difficult. When we had misunderstandings, we could only talk over the phone which didn't always help. That's why we needed to make sure we both knew what we were working towards in the long run and to keep focusing on those goals. We also didn't compare our relationship to other people and did what we needed to do so that we could eventually be together in Singapore."
Their efforts paid off as they tied the knot in 2013, started a family and bought their first home recently. Therefore, he applies this same attitude when faced with challenges on and off the court by being clear about his goals, focusing on factors within his control and filtering out distractions.
All smiles as they celebrate their oldest daughter's birthday. (Credits: Boon Chia)
Looking out for one another goes a long way
Despite their best efforts to build a future together on their own, Boon Chia admits that there were many times when he and his wife had to rely on the kindness of others to get through each day. When he first arrived in Singapore, he barely had any money left and could not afford to pay for rent and his meals. He spent the “first six months eating $2.20 caifan (economical rice)” for lunch and dinner every day while sourcing for a job while putting up in a fellow Malaysian friend’s living room temporarily. Thankfully, he was soon able to secure a favourable job offer and could finally buy his friend an appreciation meal before renting a place of his own.
Even though Boon Chia was very much on his own, he eventually made friends with his neighbours and colleagues, who played a pivotal part in helping him to assimilate into the community. They would game together online, play “a lot of Basketball” at their neighbourhood courts after working hours and keep a lookout for one another. When his former Department Head discovered Pickleball after sourcing for an alternative sport to Badminton, this opened up an opportunity for him and his current Men’s Doubles partner, Chee Seng (also known as CS), to get acquainted. Since then, both of them have gone on to win multiple medals in and out of Singapore and have remained undefeated locally since 2018.
Boon Chia, left, executing a backhanded jump smash during their match in the recent Asia Pickleball Games alongside his partner, Chee Seng, right. (Credit: Lim Ee Kiong)
“Money was very tight and we (him and his wife) were on our own, not taking any money from our parents. My friend was very kind to let me stay with his family rent-free while I looked for a job. When my wife came over, we were lucky to have a very close group of friends who gave us advice and help. The type of friends you have are very important and you should help each other.”
Life is all about making the right choices
While Boon Chia may be physically apart from his parents, they have never ceased to assure him of their love and support and would regularly check in on him and his family. What has spurred him on for these past years of living overseas was a piece of advice from his father right before his departure, which he hopes to instil in his children.
“Handling life issues can be very stressful. Different stages have different challenges so that also means different expectations. Before I left Malaysia, my father only had one advice for me and that was to be clear about how to exercise (use) my freedom and independence. To judge for myself what is good and not so good before deciding what to do.”
Grab your limited edition SPA Pickleball paddle to get started on your towards better Mental health & well-being here: https://launchpad.metaviva.io/collection-detail/6475dbac3b77500001d720d2/