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"Stress is individualised." - John Ng (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.

In the heart of the bustling pickleball community is a man whose presence has become synonymous with the sport. Amongst the laughter, camaraderie, and competitive spirit, he stands as a pillar of enthusiasm and skill, drawing admiration from players young and old. With his infectious smile and unwavering passion for the game, he is a familiar face on the courts, always ready to referee a thrilling match, advise on rules & regulations, and offer encouragement to fellow players. He exudes a sense of sportsmanship and inclusivity, welcoming newcomers with open arms and fostering a warm and inviting atmosphere. In the pickleball circle, he is not just another player; he is a source of inspiration, camaraderie, and the essence of the spirit that makes this community so special.

Before arriving in Singapore, John had spent most of his growing-up years in Sydney, Australia. From a young age, he was immersed in a world where sports held a special place in the hearts of the nation. Whether it was the crack of a cricket bat, the thundering cheers of a rugby match, or the agility of Australian Rules Football players, John was captivated by the energy and passion that surrounded sports. As he grew, his love for sports blossomed, and he eagerly embraced every opportunity to participate in various athletic endeavours.

“In Australia, we played sports more than we studied. It was sports first, studies second!”

Even after graduating from university and beginning his career, John never gave up on maintaining an active lifestyle and continued playing rugby, cricket, and tennis after work hours as a good stress reliever. Sports had become a lifestyle for him and also an outlet for him to disconnect from the stresses of his career.

New country, new sport, new beginnings

In 2002, John received a promising job opportunity that opened the door to new opportunities in Singapore. Together with his wife, who received a job offer at the Australian High Commission, they took a leap of faith and ventured to this vibrant city with a mix of excitement and anticipation. That decision proved to be good as they fell in love with the country and decided to establish their roots here.

A very rare photo of John and his wife, Genie, as a young couple (Credits: John Ng)

Given the downpours of rain, creating a challenge for sports enthusiasts eager to engage in outdoor activities, the Macau-born sports enthusiast and his friends found it tough to keep up with their regular tennis sessions. However, their sporting plans were no longer dampened as one of them discovered the game of Pickleball as a great alternative to tennis which could be played indoors, making it weather-proof.

“It was a Wednesday morning in October 2017, which was supposed to be a regular tennis session for us. But it was raining. My tennis friend, Ricky Tan, then suggested that we try a game called Pickleball since it could be played indoors. I had no idea what Pickleball was, but there was no harm in trying. So, he took me to a local community club and introduced me to it. Since that day, I have never looked back.”

From being an ordinary man who stumbled upon Pickleball to developing a passion for it, the 74-year-old dived deep into the fast-paced and exhilarating sport, dedicating hours to honing his skills and socialising with fellow Pickleballers. Over time, John began competing in local and overseas tournaments, bagging home medals in many outings with different doubles partners.

However, John highlights that his involvement in the sport goes beyond being a competitive player. The ability to maintain control over his body and mind is of utmost importance to him, especially after his retirement in 2010.

“The healthier we are, the more benefits we can offer to our family, friends and community. None of us wants to be a burden to society or to our families. We want to be able to eat at the dining table without dropping food on the floor and brush our own teeth. These are things we often take for granted.”

You must never stop growing

Even when he is not playing, John is seen actively volunteering his time and expertise as a referee in local SPA tournaments and guiding newer referees and linesmen during matches and games. In addition, his recent appointment as a rules advisor for the Asia Federation of Pickleball requires him to tap into his connections with the USAP rules and referee committee being the only USAP-trained referee in Singapore, to answer enquiries on rules interpretation.

Erupting with laughter during one of his Pickleball matches (Credits: John Ng)

“Getting to know people around the world has given me a broader perspective of procedures and processes to keep up to date with. Personally, I would always choose to work with someone better than me and it teaches me how to do things more efficiently.”

Despite accomplishing most of his life goals since his early twenties, he strongly believes there is never truly a time when we can say we have learned everything needed. Considering how our era is dominated by technology and the vast wealth of information available at our fingertips, it is essential to recognise the value of stepping out to experience life for ourselves. While the internet offers a treasure trove of knowledge and insights, it can never fully replace the authenticity of firsthand experiences.

“We have so much information. Youngsters today know a lot more than youngsters back in my day. So each person needs to be more focused on their inner nature. Don’t be too driven by the external world of technology and cooped up in your sheltered world. That’s not living. Go out there and live. Like I always say, ‘Don’t try, don’t know!’

Alongside his fellow SPA referees who volunteered at the recent Public Service Fun Pickleball Challenge (Credits: John Ng)

"Stress is individualised".

Nonetheless, he is quick to acknowledge that in putting ourselves out there to broaden our horizons, the overabundance of information can be overwhelming. Coupled with the daily stresses of managing work, relationships and personal life, many of us may find ourselves experiencing burnout and confusion over making sense of it all. While it is easy to spiral into negativity and eventually become inward-looking, John always reminds himself and others to look at the bigger picture and beyond what one can only see.

"The most important thing is not to suffer alone. Don't be ashamed to recognise that you need help and then find help. When we are narrowly focused on our own lives, we miss out on many nice and beautiful things around us. Appreciate the people around you now and have coffee with them. Life is like a roll of toilet paper. It gets faster as you get to the end. So make each piece count."

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


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