Lausanne, Switzerland, May 22, 2020 – Kingsley Tay launched his athletic quest in volleyball but is now hoping to go one step further by earning Singapore its first medal in beach volleyball.
In 2017, Tay was ready to throw in the towel after his national team did not qualify for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, but destiny had its own way of paving a new path for him when the beach volleyball national team coach saw his potential.
“Volleyball was one of my favourite childhood pastimes with my siblings when it was first introduced to us by my eldest sister,” Tay said. “That was also the time when I represented my elementary school in field hockey and soccer for both zonal and national competitions.”
“I was given the opportunity to be part of the beach volleyball team in 2018. Prior to that I was in the Singapore men’s volleyball team and competed at the 2015 SEA Games. The national team disbanded in 2017 after failing to qualify for the SEA Games. I contemplated stopping playing competitive volleyball for good, until I was scouted by the head coach of the beach volleyball team. Fortunately things took off from there and I am still grateful for it.”
The 25-year-old found his true calling in beach volleyball and his experience is teaching him about the sport, but also about life.
“I definitely prefer beach volleyball. Now that I have experienced both, I realise that beach volleyball requires one to be more well-rounded. Since beach volleyball has only two players as opposed to having six players on the court with volleyball, there is no specialised position and both players have to cover a bigger area on the court,” he said.
“There are also no coaches and substitutions during actual matches which means that we have to constantly think on our feet in all situations. Having only two players also makes communication key to be on the same page with my partner.
“When I was representing my high school in volleyball in national competitions, I was someone who got nervous easily. It always got the best of me. The nervousness would turn into fear once I started making mistakes which cost the team points. I was also afraid of becoming a burden to the team and being the cause of lost matches because of my performance. The turning point came when I decided to see past the outcome of the match and just live in the moment to focus on every play. With that shift in perception, I got control of the situation. Mistakes are inevitable but I realised the importance of moving on from them. I was able to enjoy the process instead.
“Being adaptable and versatile because of the environmental factors involved in the game like the sun, sand and wind plays a huge role in beach volleyball. That is the beauty of the sport and it is not something we can easily simulate during our daily practice. Hence it is important to overcome the uncertainty and always be prepared for the unpredictable. We are constantly challenged to think out of the box and devise ways of making the best out of every situation.
“I’m an undergraduate at Singapore University of Technology and Design, majoring in Engineering Systems Design or Data Analytics. I’ve always been an active person and try to engage in other forms of physical activity during my free time, like cycling and swimming. I also love spending time with my family and hanging out with friends.
“I would say I’m a driven person. I enjoy the process of putting in the work and improving my craft to achieve both the short- and long-term goals I set for myself, no matter how challenging it is. That intrinsic motivation and mindset not only helps me in my sporting endeavours but in life as well, especially when faced with adversity.”
For the past two years, Tay has been competing with partner Mark Shen in regional, continental and FIVB World Tour events, and once partnered with Trevis Tan at the Asian Championship in 2019. With their consistent participation in events, Tay and his partner’s hard work has been paying off.
“The first competition I participated in was the AVC Beach Tour Samila Open in April 2018 with my current partner Mark Shen. We had to play in the qualifiers because I didn’t have any FIVB points. We managed to make it out of the qualification round by winning against Chinese Taipei and that was our very first victory playing together. Even though we did not manage to make it out of pool play, it was quite an achievement for us especially as I was new to the sport and our partnership had just started.
“The most memorable beach volleyball tournament had to be the AVC Beach Tour Samila Open in April 2019. Mark was hospitalised after our match against Australia in pool play because his whole body was cramping up due to severe dehydration. We had to forfeit our match the next day even though we made it out of pool play. It was extremely memorable for me because I stayed in the hospital with him for two nights sleeping on the couch of the wardroom.
“My first FIVB World Tour experience was the FIVB 2-star event in Jinjiang, China. The event was well organised with zero hiccups. I recall it being my first experience playing in such a windy environment and I had such a hard time adapting. We had some close fights but didn’t make it out of pool play.
“The latest FIVB World Tour I played at was the FIVB 1-star event in Boracay, Philippines. It’s one of the most beautiful places I ever competed in. Mark and I have grown a lot stronger and developed a greater understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. We have begun to capitalise on our strength a lot more and had a few big wins at the beginning of the competition. We almost made it to the quarterfinals but fell short against the Austrians in a hard-fought three-set match. It was a great learning experience nonetheless.
“The most interesting World Tour experience was the FIVB 2-star event in Singapore. I was able to witness the preparation process leading up to the event. It was no easy feat as many people had to work tirelessly behind the scenes to make the event happen. It’s great to be able to witness the process as that enabled me to appreciate FIVB and AVC events even more.”
Last year in December, the Singaporean pair claimed its best ever finish in any beach volleyball tournament. Tay is as determined as ever to give his nation its first ever medal in the discipline and to reach his bigger goal of representing his country at the Olympic Games.
“We were the first Singapore beach volleyball team to compete at the SEA Games, so it was a huge feat for us. Before participating in the Games, we had to fulfil the internal condition set by the Singapore Olympic Council which was to rank third among the SEA Games countries. Hence, we were traveling and competing at most of the FIVB and AVC competitions in Asia leading up to SEA Games 2019.
We finished fourth and lost to the Philippines in the bronze medal match. We gave our all but things didn’t turn out the way we would have liked. Since then we’ve been training hard and looking forward to the SEA Games 2021.
“I’m still considered new to the sport with only three years of experience. My major highlight to date is the fourth-place finish at the 2019 SEA Games and I’m aiming to reach even greater heights in the future!
“I learned the importance of perspective in sport. I used to play the sport with so much fear and anxiety and wasn’t able to enjoy the game. Now I came to realise what truly matters is my perception of the situation and not allow negativity take over.
“We usually have five to six regular ball training sessions and three to four gym training sessions per week. My long-term goal is to be able to play the sport professionally and medal at the Asian Games. My dream is to represent Singapore at the Olympics.
“I will be graduating from university in two years and am unsure of how things will unfold from there. Most of us are students and given monthly stipends to compete at the moment, which is unsustainable in the long run. I’ll be working hard towards getting the first medal for Singapore’s beach volleyball in either the FIVB World Tour events or the SEA Games before moving on to the next phase in life.”
Success begins with the right mindset and Tay’s determination may just lead Singapore to a bright future in the sport.
“I plan to support events and clinics organised by Volleyball Association Singapore (VAS). I’m also thinking about joining the coaching committee after retiring.
“In Singapore, there is no beach volleyball development yet at the school level because there are no national school games. Everyone who is part of the system will be introduced to volleyball first. They can decide if they want to switch to beach volleyball at a much later age between 16 to 18 years old.
“The various programmes organised by VAS include the Learn to Play programme which focuses on volleyball. It is in collaboration with ActiveSG Volleyball Academy for 6-12 year olds in the form of school engagement and school holiday programmes. We also have youth development programmes for volleyball and beach volleyball, which combine school teams that compete in the ASEAN School Games for volleyball, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. Then we have the national team programme in all the open categories, regional and world competitions for both volleyball and beach volleyball.
“I want the best for the sport and I am fully aware that I won’t be competing forever. These programmes are essential in grooming younger talents and motivating them to be able to represent the country one day. It is important for athletes like us to promote, create awareness and inspire more people to be part of the programme for the betterment of the sport.”
Tay believes that beach volleyball has great potential in Singapore and his contribution to it will surely go a long way.
“Beach volleyball has great potential. Our current accomplishment thus far was achieved without a proper development system in schools. Volleyball is the third most played team sport in Singapore. We can make progress if we devise a system that introduces the sport to more people and start grooming them at a young age. However, the greatest challenge we have now is the accessibility to the beach volleyball courts. Singapore has two places with well-maintained beach volleyball courts island wide.
“Beach volleyball is gaining popularity. We have an increasing number of teams participating in our local tournament – the National Beach Series – that is organised three times a year. We also help grow this culture in Singapore by conducting beach volleyball classes and promoting the sport via social media.”