Netball Coach, Inst. of Phys. Ed (Bangkok)

Yap Suo Kuen, 2002, 5Sc7

I work with athletes at the Institute of Physical Education in Bangkok, Thailand.  :D   Here, I help athletes of all levels improve upon their skills. Coaching is like building a house from the ground up. There are many different types of materials to use, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. I have to know my players, their strengths and their weaknesses, the levels they are currently at, and develop unique exercises for each player to improve differently.

From afar, it may seem easy, but improving a player’s performance requires a lot of work, up-to-date knowledge and patience. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love.


Click here to read about my journey.

My Journey

Only smart students can study in science stream,
this is what I thought in secondary school.  :roll:

I studied in 5Sc7. The reason I chose the science stream was because I was “kiasu”. My two elder sisters studied in the science stream and I wanted to be known as a smart student, just like them (what a silly thought). However, my true love was playing netball. I was hardly in class because of trainings and competitions. I didn’t even take the SPM trials because I was representing Malaysia at the Sri Malaysia-Singapore friendly match. I was lucky though, because I managed to get decent results.

Deep down in my , I studied not because I wanted to be an excellent student, but because I knew that was the only way I could continue playing netball. My father objected to my enthusiasm for sports because he was afraid that I would neglect my studies and waste my future.

At that time, I only knew one thing: NO STUDY = NO NETBALL;
and that kept me going in class.

After SPM, I went to F6 and grew to enjoy Biology. Again, I continued training and competing.  (That’s me in the picture!)

Thanks to my teachers and classmates, I did well. After STPM, I did everything to convince my father to let me pursue my interests. I found info about what I would learn with a sports science degree, future jobs and benefits of such courses.

Fortunately, concern for health and wellness was growing and my father finally agreed. On the other hand, I faced discouragement from my teachers, coaches and seniors. They all preferred that I apply for an education degree, but my results were not good enough. Additionally, I knew I had no interest in teaching.

I was very happy to receive my 1st choice – degree of Sports Science in UM. I majored in Exercise Physiology (Bio & Chem related) and minored in Coaching (psychology). Again, I was often absent due to competitions; at times I was even absent for a total of 2 months per semester. I am extremely grateful to my teachers and friends who helped me with the course work that I missed. :D

This time in college, my results were really good
because I was learning about what I loved – sports.

However, I knew that sports wasn’t going to last forever; performance declines with age and injuries and financial instability are also other factors to consider (not all sports are as popular as badminton). This made me study even harder, because the degree certificate was worth more than anything in the world. I trained hard, studied hard, and loved what I did. Eventually, I received a government sport scholarship (Biasiswa Sukan Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi*) in my 3rd year and 4th year.

A career in sports is not easy. After graduating, I worked in a sports clinic for 2 months but had to quit for competitions. While training, I had a severe ankle injury and had to undergo surgery. Rehabilitation was incredibly difficult, painful and long (6 months). Because I couldn’t stay active post-surgery, I took a job as an officer of the Sports Unit, Dept of Student Affair in UTAR PJ. I quit after 4 months because I disliked the paperwork and meetings so much! :-?

After being jobless for a few months, I found a job as a netball coach at the Institute of Physical Education Bangkok in Thailand.This job has been extremely challenging but fulfilling. I used to think I was an adaptable person, because I traveled so much for competitions, but it was really difficult when I first started living in Thailand. I had never been away from home for so long, and I missed my family. In that foreign land, I was homesick for 2 months. In addition, I had a hard time communicating because English was not the main language. I forced myself to learn simple Thai and also forced my students to learn simple English.

The beginning was especially difficult because I was new to coaching too. I had to figure out how to adapt common coaching principles and theories learnt in university to each level of player (beginners vs. elites). I had to do a lot of research on different exercises used to develop various components that make a player strong, e.g. speed, strength, agility, posture etc. From afar, it may seem easy, but coaching requires a lot of work andand patience. Slowly, I have grown to adapt. I enjoy working with the kids, and love my job. It has been a long journey, and I am glad this path has temporarily brought me through Thailand. I am planning to return to Malaysia for the long term future.

To the young students today, I say this… Nobody knows their destiny, and destiny can be changed depending on the path you choose. Many students end up following their parents’ advice blindly, especially if they did badly in SPM / STPM, or because they have no idea what they want or can do. I would strongly encourage students to study what they are interested in, because interest = passion. Initially, you may not be able to get a nice job, but who knows what you can achieve in the end? You could end up as a specialist in your field of interest and may even ‘break people’s spectacles’ by earning more they thought and gaining a good reputation. Today, I chat with many juniors who are worried about university choices; some are interested in pursuing masters or PhD’s in sports science – true specialists. My advice is always the same. :)

If you can, if the situation allows, follow your heart…
you never know what you can become…



Suo Kuen

Leave a Reply