By Alex Wan
Singapore Squash has over the recent months beefed up our coaching structure with a good mix of former squash stars of our own and neighbouring Malaysia. With the appointments of three full-time coaches and a physical trainer, Singapore’s coaching team is now a party of five.
Yap Kok Four, a former Malaysian international who was previously engaged as a part-time consultant, has joined the team on a full-time basis as the National Head Coach. He is joined by local legend Zainal Abidin as the High Performance Coach and former national champion Mohamed Rizal Kadir as the National Coach. The trio join 32-year old Vivian Rhamanan, a multiple gold medallist at the SEA Games and a four-time national champion.
Kok Four, a native of Ipoh, Perak was a key member of the Malaysian team at the 1998 Commonwealth Games held in Kuala Lumpur, where squash made its debut in the Games. He and former Singapore national coach Sandra Wu paired up and made the quarter-finals in the mixed doubles event.
Kok Four had a highest world ranking of 107 and was previously part of the Malaysian coaching camp between 2006 to 2009 as the High Performance Officer. Prior to that, he was also the Selangor state junior coach in 2002-2004 where amongst his charges were current Malaysian number two and world number 45 Ivan Yuen.
The 45-year old feels his biggest asset coming to head the coaching setup is his connections with the squash fraternity in the region and globally, and he hopes to get more people involved in coaching as a whole.
“I am hoping to revive the training structure in Singapore where all juniors will have an opportunity to join our training programme and get more exposure to competitive squash, particularly on the international scene. It is also my vision to bring back a major event in Singapore and put us back on the squash map.
”While it is still a challenge to compete given the pandemic, we are hoping that in the coming two years, we would be able to compete in the World Junior and Senior Team events and aim for a better finish than the last. It is a shame we will not have squash in the next two SEA Games, so regionally, the SEA Cup would be our main event where we are aiming to be finalists in the individual and team events, and winning the jumbo doubles”, Kok Four added when asked what his plans were in his role.
Zainal Abidin perhaps needs no introduction on the island. He is by far, the most decorated squash player the nation has produced and boasts a highest world ranking of 43. He played a pivotal role in the Singapore team back in the 80s where they were consistently finishing within the top 10 at the World Team Championships.
The 62-year old is also an 11-time national champion and has won the East Asian Squash Individual championships nine times. More recently, he has twice finished third at the World Masters events in 2009 and 2012.
Zainal has been coaching for over 30 years and was formerly the national coach for Singapore previously. Additionally, he has also guided neighbouring countries Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.
When asked what he thought of Kok Four and Rizal joining the coaching setup, the man was full of praise:
“With Kok Four and Rizal joining, the training setup is now more structured and we are able to attend to our charges more effectively. Kok Four does the planning, Vivian and Rizal executes the programme, while I hone their skills and provide input on their performances. We all work together closely very well, and we ensure that their performances are monitored. We share these information and have them addressed immediately so they do not slack behind.”
The third addition to the setup is Mohamed Rizal Kadir, a four-time national champion. The 42-year old had a career-high world ranking of 208 and was a member of the Singapore team at the World Men’s Team Championships in 2007.
The air steward, who took time off to pursue this coaching opportunity, strongly believes that if you want to achieve your destination , you must be determined to achieve it. To achieve that, you have to dedicate your time. Along the way, if you fall , remember to be disciplined to get back on track. With such a mindset, we can expect Rizal to be pushing our young charges to their limits.
“Although I have retired (from competitive squash) for almost 15 years, I strongly believe my experience and knowledge of the game will help the current generation. I expect my young players to treat each and every minute of their training with discipline, determination and dedication.
“I always emphasise on having a strong basic game that will help you whenever you are in trouble in a match. Thus, the foundation is very important for young players in my opinion”, Rizal said when asked what we can expect from him as a coach.
The team is made complete with by Wong Junjie as the Strength & Conditioning Coach. He is tasked to getting our players much stronger and fitter, two elements that are of utmost importance in today’s game. If you have been following our social media accounts, you would have seen in our Instagram and Facebook stories the many vigorous and some would add, torturous regimes. Well, that is all Coach JJ’s handiwork.