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"Believe in yourself." - Elaine Yong (Mental Wellness through Pickleball)

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

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.

Love at first sight?

Elaine’s journey as a veteran Pickleballer started while she was watching television and an advertisement featuring the sport came on. With an interest in knowing more about the sport, she quickly noted down the phone number that was shown on screen which led her to give Singapore Pickleball Association a call to enquire more about it. Shortly after, Elaine found herself showing up at the courts nearby “at least 3 times a week” and began falling in love with Pickleball. That was 27 years ago.

Before Pickleball, the 70-year-old was a national bowler and had a relatively successful career and even represented Singapore at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. Nonetheless, the highlight of her career was when she became Singapore’s first female bowler to bowl a perfect game in a 1995 National tournament which landed her a cash prize of $50,000. Yet, none of these proved to be enough to keep her in the sport as Elaine eventually retired from competitive bowling to focus on building up her Pickleball career.

“My husband actually made a lot of noise because I was nearly at the peak of my career...But because racquet sports is so different from bowling, I gave up bowling to concentrate on Pickleball.” Despite her husband’s initial disapproval, he eventually got behind her decision and supported her as Elaine begin her career as a competitive Pickleball athlete.

A 1995 article featuring Elaine's accomplishment as Singapore's first-ever female to bowl a perfect game. (Courtesy of Elaine)

“I love this game. If not I wouldn’t have survived for 27 years!”

In no time, alongside her doubles partner, Elaine started bringing home gold medals in almost every local competition that she would go for. As she describes, their partnership was “very good” as they shared a strong bond of friendship that made them a formidable pair for 7 years until her partner’s injuries forced her out of the sport.

“We partnered very well. We would win 9 out of 10 games that we played and we never blamed each other when we lost. Even when people tried to break us apart by putting one of us down, we will just keep quiet and ignore. So it’s very sad that she cannot play anymore.”

Nonetheless, Elaine would eventually find herself having to take a break from competitive Pickleball when her husband’s job required him to travel for a while. It was a no-brainer for her to happily tag along as they found themselves living in over 9 different countries during that chapter of their lives. Given that Pickleball had yet to grow in popularity in those countries, Elaine’s career in the sport came to a pause.

Elaine, with her doubles partner, during the 1996 edition of Pesta Sukan. (Courtesy of Elaine)

However, her passion for the sport never once diminished as she would use every return trip to Singapore as a chance to stay in touch with Pickleball, no matter how short they were. When their travelling days were over, Pickleball became the cornerstone of her life again as the proud mother of two daughters wasted no time picking up from where she left off.

With the exponential growth of Pickleball globally, Elaine finally had her chance to venture abroad for tournaments with other Singaporean Pickleballers. In her recent outing to the Asian Pickleball Open 2023 competition in Phuket, she bagged home 5 silver medals in all the events that she signed up for, beating players nearly five decades younger than her. Age proved not to be the limiting factor but an asset as she credits years of intentional practice and game experience that have pushed her to continue improving her play.

A summary of some of the medals that Elaine had won over her 2022 season. (Courtesy of Elaine)

The secret to her success

When asked about her recipe for success, the veteran lets us in on four things that she focuses on:

“3 S & 1 M. Number 1, you must have the skills. Technique. Number 2, you must have the stamina. Fitness to last the game. Number 3 is strategy to know how to play the game and knowing your partners and opponents too. The last one is Mental. The most important.”

This is no wonder why she’s always on the lookout for the newest YouTube videos that would help her to improve her game along with foods and habits that would keep her body at its healthiest state.

She credits “Tumeric and supplements” as a great way to reduce inflammation in one’s joints along with helping one to recover well enough to continue pushing beyond their limits.

It all starts with the mind

For Elaine, the biggest driving factor of her ability to stay hungry and passionate in her pursuits stems from having a “strong mental” capacity to sustain her passion. In her earlier days as a bowler, her husband and then-coach had focused a lot on helping her develop a high-performance mentality. As Elaine describes it, it was his mental training that empowered her to be so laser-focused on her goals and execution while helping her to deal with failure and setbacks with the right mindset.

To her, taking care of one’s mental health & well-being starts with cultivating the right attitude in tackling life’s challenges. Playing competitive Pickleball has enabled her to experience the typical highs and lows of every player and provided her with the opportunity to practice patience and consistency while staying passionate and driven.

“You must be willing to lose. Otherwise you start becoming scared and then you eventually want to give up...Lose nevermind. Believe in yourself, speak good words to yourself and enjoy every stroke...Don’t blame others but ask yourself what is the problem, how you can solve it, and what lesson you can learn from it.”

Life is short, don’t be so particular.

If there is one thing that this woman of steel has learned is that life is short and unpredictable. She shares that just as one’s plight can change overnight, there is always a reason to hope for the best regardless of how bleak one’s situation might presently seem.

“Just go with it. Don’t keep thinking about bad things and believe in yourself. You must think that every problem can be solved. We can win and lose. Most importantly is that you must know why you lose and where you need to improve. Don’t take it too hard and just try your best.”

Grab your limited edition SPA Pickleball paddle to get started on your towards better Mental health & well-being here:


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