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"It’s about knowing how to pick yourself up" - Tommy & Jia Hui (Mental Wellness through Pickleball)

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.

Pickleball only became a shared activity for the Lim family when their 80-year-old neighbour decided to introduce them to it. Before that, badminton was their game, and they would spend hours each week hitting about at the nearby outdoor courts along Petir Road. Their newfound love for Pickleball grew to encompass a community of passionate Pickleballers who train hard to participate in local and overseas tournaments.

For Tommy, starting this sport proved to be no issue given his background in badminton which has equipped him with the basic footwork and movements to work with. Nonetheless, what gives him the most satisfaction from his involvement in Pickleball is the memories he builds and shares with his family through their time training and playing the sport together. Ever since his Petir group has amassed more interested individuals, the 51-year-old has found himself busy with his new role of coaching newer players with an interest to know more about the sport.

“What got me, and many others, involved in Pickleball is how easy it is to pick up the sport. As I also had racquet sports experience (from badminton), it helped as I was picking up Pickleball. But what brings me the most joy is when I can play Pickleball with my family and my big group of friends. I feel very happy and satisfied to be able to share the sport with others.”

Tommy, during one of his Pickleball competitions (Credits: Jia Hui)

Giving back to the sport

Aside from coaching and competing, Tommy can often be seen volunteering as a referee or linesman at SPA tournaments and events. As to why he would bother spending his weekends volunteering on such a regular basis, he shared that the motivation to do so comes purely from his desire to see fair play and good sportsmanship embodied in these matches.

“This is truly a thankless job. To become a certified referee, we have to first read through hundred of pages of rules, go for a course and pass it. But, to me, it is very meaningful. Being a player myself, I strongly believe that every player deserves to have fair play during competitions. This requires integrity and good judgement calls from referees because, without sportsmanship and fair play, Pickleball will not thrive. This is what motivated me to step forward to volunteer as a referee.”

Having competed himself, Tommy’s personal experiences as a player led him to hold a conviction that fair play and sportsmanship uphold the true essence of sports. They preserve the spirit of friendly competition, where athletes engage in challenging contests while maintaining mutual respect and sportsmanlike behaviour. This spirit contributes to the enjoyment and entertainment of both participants and spectators, making Pickleball a positive and enriching experience for all involved. Therefore, he also hopes for more like-minded players to step up and volunteer their time as referees.

Resilience goes a long way

For the youngest member of the Lim family, resilience has been the biggest thing she has developed from her years in Pickleball. Upon falling in love with the sport, Jia Hui would spend hours frequently on the court training and sparring with her parents and friends from a youth group she volunteers with. Beneath the camaraderie she has formed with her like-minded peers through playing and competing together, the biggest takeaway for her has been developing resilience.

Jia Hui, on the right, with her fellow Pickleball group mate at one of their games. (Credits: Jia Hui)

“I get flustered and impatient with myself when I strive to perform or when I expect a lot from myself. When I’m training with my dad and other teammates, it builds resilience within me as it trains me to hold back my impulses and to wait for the right opportunities.”

Her Pickleball journey has proven vital in training her to exercise restraint and composure over her impulses and emotions. The resilience that she has developed on the court has also translated to her personal life where she has found herself having to face up to specific shortcomings and working on bettering each of them. While the frustration of being unable to get things right on the first few tries left her disappointed and stressed at herself, it has instilled in her patience and acceptance that changes do not happen overnight.

“It has been a very enriching journey for me. Throughout this year, there were many points in life where I felt so stressed out by work, school and in my personal life. Pickleball has not only been a getaway for me because I’m also forced to face my shortcomings in the game, but more importantly, it has taught me to pick myself up and to become stronger and more resilient.”

Rising together as a team

However, as she believes, none of her growth would have taken place without the genuine support of her community of family and friends. Being a youth group leader herself, the 24-year-old stresses the importance of having a support system of people you can trust and feel safe to be vulnerable with. While many might perceive vulnerability as a weakness, Jia Hui believes it is a way for individuals to acknowledge their struggles and then take the appropriate steps to deal with them. She shares that on an individual level, having the vulnerability to acknowledge what has been bugging her and identifying areas that she needs help with instead of resisting assistance and shutting herself off from others has been pivotal in her overcoming these issues.

“Having good Mental Health & Wellness doesn’t mean being happy and 100% fine all the time. It’s about knowing how to pick yourself up, seek help when needed and be vulnerable enough to fall back on the people you trust. Being able to take care of yourself and let others take care of you is something I’m still learning because it takes time and the right circumstances for these lessons to be realised. Being able to go through ups and downs and always coming through with important takeaways and insights on moving forward.”

Helping yourself first is not selfish

Despite being a proponent of learning to fall back on one’s network of trusted and reliable people, the soon-to-be educator cautions us about the potential dangers of overbearing others’ burdens. As a person who often desires to be there for others, she has had to learn the importance of prioritising her needs before knowing how to help others in need.

Jia Hui, extreme left, with her father Tommy, extreme right, together with their teammates at the 241 Bukit Batok courts. (Credits: Jia Hui)

“Speak to people who are older and wiser to get different perspectives on issues and struggles.”

Having been through that experience, how she now measures her mental health as her ability to still be there for others regardless of what she may be going through in life. While she believes that every individual’s difficulties in life are meant to teach them key lessons and hence cannot be avoided, they should never take it all upon themselves and always take things at their own pace.

Alluding to this point of embracing the challenging times that life throws at us, and the ability to manage one’s emotions during those chapter, Tommy would often tell people this:

“Life is like a game of Pickleball. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. But we must know how to overcome it and move on with life.”

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


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