Jurong Spring Kids Club
– Modern Kampong Kids playing Pickleball
One fine afternoon, I got a call from pickleball enthusiast Mr Jeffery Kuok, to start a Kids Programme with his Jurong Spring Pickleball Kids Club. Today, just 2 months later, I felt compelled to write this article to share this wonderful experience.
Jeffery heads the Jurong Spring Community Pickleball Interest Group, unlike other groups that are tied to Community Clubs, this group endearingly centres round two games court squared by Blocks 520, 521 and 522, Jurong West. Most of the players are residents living just a stone’s throw from these courts - I witnessed Uncle Joe peeping out of his window, waving to us and minutes later he appeared next to us at the courts; my first encounter with little Ziqing was when she was wearing her pink Crocs admitting to me that she was still in her PJs. Another time she came down with a piece of bread still in her mouth.
If I am to describe the scene, it will be “kampong”, plain and simple. There is a very quaint feel here - the kids are the usual noisy and mischievous, yet friendly and encouraging to each other; the parents are very nurturing, understanding and friendly, you can feel their smiles behind the masks. The atmosphere is also welcoming and very comfortable, and I’m very proud to say, for some weirdest reason, Pickleball is at the centre of it.
In Sep 2020, it was approved for SPA to paint on the yellow Non-Volley Lines on the games court, and from that day on, these courts were livened up with more Pickleball games than ever. The deal was that Jeffery is to promote Pickleball to the residents, and did Jeffery do it with relish. Imagine, walking past a court full of players playing a strange racquet game, looking like they are having fun, sounding like they are having fun, and it does look fun. Pickleball is an easy sport to promote to any onlooker with a live demonstration going on. While many of us will happily accommodate any “walk-in sales”, Jeffery took the full “roadshow salesman” role very seriously. I stood with Jeffery at the benches when Jeffery suddenly pointed and said, “Look at that lady there, with the kid, already looking at us for 20 mins, if I approach them, they will surely join, based on my experience, confirm, more than 95%”. To-date, Jurong Spring Community IG has more than 120 members and more than half are new beginners he recruited. Kudos to Jeffery.
If the Courts are the hardware, the kids have to be the software. Jeffery’s conversation starter with me on this idea was a story describing this kid that was very interested in Pickleball. Even though the group started with only adults playing, he told me of a kid who was really hoping to join in. Jeffery described seeing him appear at the courts dutifully changed into his sports attire and shoes, holding his paddle and waiting patiently at the bench for free slots to join. If there isn’t, he will observe the adults. As I got to know the kids and parents better, I had my suspicion of who this kid is, so I confirmed it with Jeffery, and “interviewed” his mom. The kid is none other than the very deserving Captain of the Kids Club, Koh Wun Jin. When asked what made him want to try Pickleball, Wun Jin said, “Basically one day, my sister (Wun Qi) wanted to play badminton with Zichen, Ziqing and me, so we went down and saw Uncle Joe and Zichen said this exactly, " Uncle, last time you said you will let me play”. So that's how I started.”
When we decided to start the programme, Jeffery garnered 10 kids, just like that. How did this happen? Was it the geography of the courts? Was it the plain sight when the players play? Was it Jeffery’s roadshow sales tactics? Was it the cool evenings that consistently accompany this space? Was it the welcoming adult players to have kids play with them? I think it was really all of the above.