Imparting lifeskills and growing the Netball Community in Singapore and Asia: Charmaine Soh

Team Singapore's most capped netballer and World Netball's brand ambassador for Asia hopes to use her iconic status to develop the game in the community

PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Just as the sun began to peak over the roofs of the surrounding houses, Team Singapore netballer Charmaine Soh arrived at the Kampung Siglap Lifeskills Training & Retreat Centre for a Sunday morning training session with her young proteges.


After starting her students off with a warm-up routine, she laid out floor markers on the court for various drills she would set later on in training.


She founded the Stellar Netball Academy in October 2020, using it as a platform to develop the sport among young girls locally.

“I wanted to give back to the netball fraternity and also to grow netball in Singapore as well as Asia,” said the national athlete.


“Also, I feel kids are really cute and I think netball starts from young — so we have to groom them from around 5 years old.”


However, Charmaine only started playing netball at the age of 13, which she admitted was quite a late start.

PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


In fact, her netball career almost derailed at its infancy when she fractured her wrist in her first training.


According to Charmaine, her mother wanted her to stop playing netball completely, but that only made her more determined to continue.


“I wanted to prove her wrong, I wanted to show her I could do it,” she reminisced.

PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Though her initial enthusiasm for Netball grew out of defiance, after making good friends and coaches, it eventually developed into a pure love for the sport.


Her passion flourished rapidly in her first year of playing the sport as she began to dream of turning it into a career. She recalled how the idea first took root when she saw a calendar from Netball Singapore which contained pictures of the then national team players.


“I thought: hey they look so cool. I wanna be like them,” said Charmaine.

PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


In spite of the scepticism she faced from her teammates regarding her dream, she began to spend much of her spare time training and was eventually scouted into the national team.


Since then, Charmaine has won the SEA games, Asian Netball Championships, became Singapore’s team captain and most capped netballer.


Furthermore in 2021, World Netball appointed Charmaine as the athlete ambassador for Asia.

PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


“When they called me and told me about this position I was really shocked and humbled,” said Charmaine.


Through her appointment, she has had the opportunity to meet international netballers and grow the sport in Asia. Though the pandemic threw a spanner in the works for their cause, Charmaine is optimistic that efforts will be redoubled now that restrictions have been relaxed in many countries.


“Asia has some of the fewest participants in Netball, so I want to get more girls and boys to start playing netball,” she said emphatically.

PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


When asked what young hopefuls can do to follow in her footsteps, Charmaine said while laughing, “People can join my academy.”


“But other than that, if you do want an experience outside school, there are several netball academies in Singapore that you can join to learn from different people,” she added.


After becoming familiar with the sport, tournaments such as the National League or the National Super League become useful avenues for career development. Eventually, the chance to join the national programme may open up, providing chances to play international friendly competitions.

PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


As the coach of the next generation of Singapore netballers, Charmaine has a positive outlook on the future of Singapore sports.


“I’m hoping for a lot, seeing the results from the recent SEA games where we claimed so many medals, I think the future of Singapore sports is very bright,” she said.


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