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"Pickleball brings the whole family together." - Derrick & Jean (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.

A family affair

While sports had been a cornerstone of the Koh family, there was never really a time when they were equally involved in the same sport. Derrick had spent decades playing volleyball and badminton, Jean was passionate about cycling and joined a few cycling clubs for Friday Chill Ride, Sunday Round Island and overseas rides while Frank, their only child, was involved in a myriad of sports. Though Derrick had been introduced to Pickleball 10 years ago, it was just 2 years ago that Jean and Frank decided to try it out.

Derrick: “Me, my sister, and brother started (Pickleball) first. Whenever we had a family gathering, we talked about it. Jean, being next to me, saw us talking so happily about the sport and started asking me if she could join one day to try it out.”
Jean: “When covid hit…there were many restrictions on group gatherings. Gradually, I also stopped cycling. I decided to rope my son after his BMT and we decided to try Pickleball together.”

From once a week of Pickleball, they began playing it more frequently, averaging over four sessions a week. What used to be soccer screening nights between father and son have now been replaced with Pickleball screening nights where the whole family would gather to watch overseas Pickleball tournaments while analysing the match plays together.

Starting from ground zero

Unlike Derrick, who had a racquet sports background which provided him with some fundamentals for Pickleball, Jean’s lack of racquet sport experience meant she had to start from the basics. Through Derrick’s introduction to fellow Pickleball teammate, Tommy Lim, Jean steadily grasped key game concepts like footwork, techniques and strategies under Tommy’s patient tutelage.

Jean, in the middle, with Frank, third from the left, during last year's Year End Smash (West zone) event. (Credits: Jean Yu)

While starting a brand new sport from scratch in her 50s did seem like a challenge at times, the 58-year-old found the experience to have been very fulfilling and rewarding. Aside from experiencing an improvement in her self-efficacy, the community she has found through Pickleball has been pivotal in keeping her and her family involved in the sport. Regardless of how tiring each day at the office can be, she always had something to look forward to that allowed her to end the day on a good note.

"Social bonding is crucial for longevity and through engaging in Pickleball at least 4 times a week, spending quality time with family and friends is one of the most important ways to protect our brain from cognitive decline. Pickleball not only trains my body but my mind as well. After a day of work, taking time out to socialise helps in my mental well-being, instead of just staying at home. I love playing with different groups of like-minded individuals as it helps me to stay fit and healthy, and alleviate stress and anxiety too. Personally, I find the tik-top sound very therapeutic.”

Moreover, as she prepares to transition into retirement, Jean plans to take up Pickleball more seriously by dedicating more time to practice during her retirement years with fellow enthusiasts to drill and learn new skills together. Aside from planning for one’s financial retirement, she believes it is equally important for individuals to plan to continue keeping their minds active and engaged.

“Studies have shown that an active and integrated social life in the later part of one’s life might protect them from having dementia. Besides Pickleball, I would also hope to use my time (during retirement) to learn a new instrument as I have always wanted to learn to play the guitar and jam with some friends!”

Derrick, third from the right, and Jean, second from the right, posing with some of their Team Petir Pickleball friends.

Becoming a second family

“This is a very family-friendly game and appeals to people of all ages and as such, it excites me to introduce it to my family. In the past few years of playing pickleball more seriously, I have found the pickleball players around me to be pretty friendly and after playing once or twice, you get to know everyone and everyone knows you.”

Such a familial culture has been one of the main reasons why Derrick has been an active member of the local Pickleball community. He cites it as a vital aspect of the sport that makes it welcoming and believes that each member of the community should strive to preserve it to allow the sport to grow. Beyond training and competitions, the 59-year-old can also be seen volunteering his time as a referee or linesman at nearly every single local tournament. As he puts it, offering his time in such a capacity is “the least he can do” to show his appreciation for what the association has been doing to organise more competition opportunities every month given their resources.

Derrick, on the extreme right, posing for a picture with fellow volunteers during the recent Novice Championships. (Credits: Singapore Pickleball Association)

“Personally, I have benefitted a lot from Pickleball and the association’s efforts to organise nationwide events monthly. With such kind of scale that is involved, manpower would certainly be an issue so I thought that I should help out and volunteer. Since I am slowing down in my work, I figured that with more free time, I should volunteer more to promote the sport and the pickleball association.”

We are all in this together!

Having been working parents, Derrick and Jean have admitted that carving out quality time as a family has not always been easy. Given the pace of work life and other challenges that they face in their personal lives, they have had to be "very intentional" in setting time aside to bond as one unit. What has helped the couple to develop and maintain a strong relationship with Frank is their shared philosophy that “family should always be their priority.”

Derrick: “I am very particular about family. It is always the first thing in my life. Even without playing Pickleball, I also put in a lot of time and effort to bring the family together for activities. It is just nice that Pickleball is now in the picture and that the whole family is interested in it. I guess Pickleball brings the whole family together.”
Jean: “Research has shown that a strong parent and child relationship is essential for a child’s well-being and behaviour. However, finding time to bond amidst our hectic lives is not always easy but it only means that we have to be more intentional than ever to make it happen. With Pickleball, three of us can talk about the same things together and help each other improve.”

As their son transits into adulthood, with more responsibilities to handle, the couple has found it even more so to carve out quality time with him to maintain the parent-child relationship they have developed over the past decades. Nonetheless, they believe that giving Frank adequate space and autonomy to figure life out enables him to grow in his independence and self-sufficiency as he matures into an adult. This involves leaving room for open communication between them for opinions and ideas to be exchanged. In return, as parents, both of them have agreed to be as supportive as they can to empower Frank to accomplish his goals.

“If everything is a no, then we cannot expect him to keep sharing with us. Always understand before giving no as an answer.”

Acceptance is the first step.

About how Pickleball has improved their mental well-being, Derrick has one word: Acceptance. For him, Pickleball has reinforced the importance of accepting our present situation before knowing how to move forward. It has been a lesson that Derrick has emphasised to Frank as he steps into adulthood and must learn how to deal with setbacks and failures. He hopes Frank will learn these good values through sports and have them act as his beacon as he navigates in life.

Derrick, extreme right, with Frank, second from the right, during one of their tournaments as a father-son doubles pair. (Credits: Jean Yu)

“In Pickleball competitions, you either win or lose but it does not matter. But it is important to have good sportsmanship because it not only makes competitive play more enjoyable for everyone. Besides, sports are symbolic of life. It can help to develop essential life skills to have the fortitude, resilience and more importantly, the ability to identify one’s strengths and weaknesses to achieve a positive mental well-being."

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


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