THEY MILLED around, some packing their bags, others taking sips of water in between sentences.
“Give me the ball,” came a shout from somewhere in the huddle. A ball flew through the air, and soon the entire group was back on court, passing and shooting hoops.
Twenty-three students from Dunearn Secondary School were poised to leave the National Stadium after undergoing a basketball clinic hosted by members of the Singapore Slingers, but the moment word got out that their bus was delayed, the teenagers dashed back onto the court.
They could not get enough, and it was easy to see why.
This was Sept 15, two days before the Singapore Sports Hub’s first Community Play Day at the National Stadium, and a basketball court was set up under the stadium’s iconic dome, along with two small football pitches, and a zone for Zumba sessions.
The Community Play Day will feature football, free sports try-outs, fitness workouts, competitions, and activities for kids, and organisers were still in the process of setting up and testing their sound systems, but that did not matter to the students.
“This is my first time at the National Stadium, and I walked in and just said wow. It felt like the air-conditioning was on, and I like playing under shelter when it’s so cool – it is a really special experience to be able to play here,” said 13-year-old secondary one student Diyana.
The first thing Finuliar Mark Jerome noticed was the random red and white pattern of the seats around the stadium, but it did not take long for the basketball court to grab his attention.
“I saw the basketball court immediately after that, and it looked so polished, just made want to play on it,” he said, of the surface that was moved across from the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the home of the Slingers.
“It’s a privilege to play on this court, and especially inside this stadium,” he added.
But it was not just fun and games.
The students were put through their paces by Ng Han Bin, even punished for being too lax out on court.
The Slingers’ shooting guard almost never picked up the sport – he has only one functioning kidney after the other failed when he was just three years old – but preserved to work his way up into the national basketball team. And the value of hard work and discipline are things Ng wants to impart through basketball.
“Helping kids is a big part of my life,” said the devout Christian.
“Basketball has helped me get to where I am, and I think basketball – and other sports too of course –is really about values, and if I can see that kids start to understand the beauty of hard training, and how this can be applied to other parts of their life, then I think I’ve done my job.”
And Ng would have been pleased to hear the thoughts shared by Jerome.
“When we were punished, we were punished together, so to succeed, we have to do things together too – it’s all for one, and one for all,” said the 14-year-old.
“I want to excel with my team, and I hope everybody puts in effort during training, when my teammates cheat it really makes me angry.”
Jerome’s mature side quickly faded when asked about his experience with the Slingers.
“I’ve seen the Slingers on television before, but (Han Bin) was so tall in real life! I was hoping (Slingers centre) Justin Howard was here, then he can carry me up and I can dunk,” said Jerome.
“I definitely want to come back to this stadium again.”
The experience of basketball under the dome was special for the kids, but they were not the only ones who will take something home with them.
“It’s a really interesting experience to get to train in such a grand setting,” said Ng.
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing that I believe I will remember even 10 years down the road, and I think the kids will too.”