The Extraordinary Ironman of SG Basketball: Yong Yuen Cheng

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Most people in their 40s will not even come close to what Yong Yuen Cheng is doing in his life. The first time Yong attended a session of SG Basketball Academy training, his tanned and lean muscular physique caught our eye. Standing 176cm tall and 67kg, Yong appeared to be the complete sportsman. Looking at him, you would immediately have the word “athlete” come to mind. He introduced himself as a 40+ year old at that time. This was in 2015.

 

At that time, Yong mentioned that he was completely new to the sport of basketball, and one could tell by how unfamiliar the ball appeared in his hands.  He could hardly dribble the ball at that time, not to mention pass or shoot. When he first had his hand at dribbling drills, he would fumble the ball and could often be seen chasing after the loose ball.

 

A school teacher by occupation, Yong was also a basketball rookie at the age of 44, when most basketballers would have already ‘retired’ due to age, injury and/or other commitments in life. Even casual ballers would have mostly quit the game by 40. This alone would be impressive to anyone who understands the intensity of the game. Here, was a man who was up to a challenge in life.

 

You could see that there was no stopping this avid sportsman. Often sporting a haversack with a badminton racket sticking out of it, Yong would be doing multiple sports in a day, more than what most people would even do in a week. When you don’t see Yong at training on a Sunday, it is probably because he was busy participating in a marathon or race that weekend! And if you are on a car enroute to SG Basketball’s facility at Turf City, you might see Yong making his way to the court on foot. All these to him, was part and parcel of his training.

 

Today, Yong is 47 years of age and in his third year of training at SG Basketball Academy. He is by far our most senior trainee, but he regularly trains alongside the youths during sessions, outrunning them in drills and showing his development as a player over the years. Coaches who have seen Yong since Day 1 would share with you how much Yong has grown for the time he spent here. To us, Yong is the ultimate display of the spirit of learning, and the dictionary definition of “活到老学到老” (continual learning from youth to old age).

 

 

We had a great conversation with Yong about his journey in basketball and life, and would like to share with you some of the interesting moments here.

 

Editor: When did you first start playing basketball?

Yong: I started from zero basketball knowledge when I joined SG Basketball in 2015. My background is in kayaking, dragon boat and running. I also watched and followed soccer much more than basketball. Hence, whatever i learnt about basketball, I learnt them from SG Basketball Academy.

 

 

Editor: When did you first start playing basketball?

Yong: I started from zero basketball knowledge when I joined SG Basketball in 2015. My background is in kayaking, dragon boat and running. I also watched and followed soccer much more than basketball. Hence, whatever i learnt about basketball, I learnt them from SG Basketball Academy.

 

E: What motivated you to try out basketball in the first place?

Y: I switched from teaching Physics to teaching PE in 2014 and needed to learn various sports with basketball being 1 of them. After a few years of learning and training under SG Basketball, my skills are still able to match many of my PE colleagues.

 

E: What are some of the skills you have learnt from SG Basketball?

Y: I learnt valuable skills like passing, 2-ball dribbling, crossover dribbling, layups, shooting and tactics like screening, pick-&-roll, box-out, etc.

 I tried to join some groups on meetup for games but I think they’re too competitive. Once a while, I played 3v3 with my colleagues and students as well as basketball shooting games like Bullet.

 

E: Any memorable words or special moments from basketball?

Y: No specific words or moments, but for me, it was my gradual improvement in picking up skills that seemed impossible to me initially like 2-ball dribbling, crossover, pick-&-roll.

 

E: What do you think of the coaching style of the coaches in SG Basketball?

Y: Excellent. Coaches are patient, focused and effective in their teaching.

 

E: What is your favorite part of the game?

Y: I enjoy the scrimmages most, as it was about putting the technical, tactical and physical training to a real test.

E: I understand that apart from basketball, you do a lot of running, especially long distance. And I read about your amazing accomplishments in marathon races, namely your two Singapore Book of Records entries for longest ultra-marathon (a staggering 218km!) and fastest male ultra-marathon runner. Can you share more about these with us?

 

Y: Yes, I used to do many marathons. The most significant ones included the NTU 218km run in Singapore and an SG50 run.

The NTU run is called 2010 NTU Run Round Singapore 218km Run and the SG50 run is called Go50: A Nation in Motion (it is 2500km over 50 days, i.e. everyday run 50km for 50 consecutive days).

I am an ultra-marathon runner. That is why my speed isn’t good. Recently I tried to cut down on long distance running to try to improve on my speed so that I can improve on various games.

Being a PE teacher, I am required to teach as many sports as possible. Though I don’t play basketball regularly, it is one of the sports which I’m more confident of teaching, thanks to SG Basketball's training,  Others are badminton, tennis, soccer, and swimming.

 

E: I also heard that you switched from teaching Physics to PE in 2014. Why the change?

Y: It was my passion in sports that fueled the change. My main CCA in my school days were canoeing and dragon boat. I am also the canoeing teacher IC  in my school all these years but I wanted to take a step further to fully focus on sports and physical training.

 

E: Yong, thanks for your time in doing this interview with us. I think you have led a truly amazing and fulfilling life, doing many things that others have probably thought of doing but never did. Finally, can you share with us your philosophy in life?

Y: I believe that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary feats

 With determination and hard work, one's weaknesses and limitations can be overcome.

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Allysa Lidya Bintang was first inspired to play basketball in May 2017 after she heard an announcement over the PA system about her school senior girls’ team winning the national championship. Motivated by her seniors’ team success, Lidya went to try out in the school team selection and made the cut. She is now captain of the junior girls’ team in Kranji Primary School.

At 10 years old, Lidya’s aptitude for the game is clearly visible and her athleticism and skill are well beyond her age. Coupled with an eager attitude to learn and an indomitable fighting spirit, Lidya is a strong leader for her team. Her most memorable moment in basketball was when her team defeated Fernvale Primary and reached the National 4th place ranking. She is confident that her team will win the championship next year.

For Lidya, teamwork is most crucial factor in basketball, as she believes that without it, one cannot achieve anything. She has big goals in basketball for the upcoming year and she joined SG Basketball Academy to help her reach these. Lidya hopes that she will learn new skills at SG Basketball and how to cooperate with new teammates from different backgrounds at training.

Her training with SG Basketball paid off when Lidya recently led her SG Basketball Girls’ Team to the championship title at the GetActive! Singapore 3-on-3 tournament organized by ActiveSG under Sport Singapore. This was her first championship win representing SG Basketball Academy since joining.

When asked about his thoughts on this young player, Coach Victor Tan has this to share about her, “Lidya immediately stood out among her peers when she first joined the school team, with her speed and aggression. Her positive attitude to training endears her to the teachers and teammates. If she can master her basics and continue to strive for excellence, the sky is the limit for this talented girl.”

 

With this, we spoke to Lidya about her basketball journey thus far and here are some interesting bites from our conversation.

Editor: What is your impression of your first basketball coach?
Lidya: He is funny but serious. I recalled an incident where one of my teammates saw a dead bug on the court and she was making a fuss about it. Coach in all seriousness, asked her to remove the bug (which she eventually did) and everyone had a good laugh about it.

E: I understand that you experienced a low point in basketball during the school competition this year. Can you share more about it?
L: After we lost the game against Bedok Green, Coach Victor did not ride back with the bus, which he usually did. The girls cried because we felt ‘abandoned.’ After that, Coach missed two training sessions and we were all very upset.

However, he made his return in our match against Fernvale and we were all fired up and wanted to win the game for him. We won the match and both our Senior and Junior Girls’ teams achieved the Zone championship. He is a very encouraging coach and we really appreciated his guidance.

E: What is your current basketball goal?
L: My goal is to get the Senior Girls’ MVP in 2019 and help lead my team to the National title.

APSM