Floorballers unfazed by back-to-back tournaments
World C'ship takes place right after SEA Games, but coach insists they will not hold back in either competition
For a floorballer, playing at a major tournament like the SEA Games or World Floorball Championship (WFC) is the ultimate dream.
However, the scheduling of both these competitions this year may prove to be a nightmare for the Singapore women's team.
The floorball tournament at the SEA Games in Laguna, the Philippines, begins next Monday and concludes on Dec 1, while the WFC in Neuchatel, Switzerland, kicks off on Dec 7 and ends on Dec 15, which works out to slightly over three weeks of competition and travel.
However, coach Louise Khng is convinced her charges will not hold back in either competition.
"No chance my players will be prioritising one over the other," Khng, 37, told The New Paper.
"We will be giving our best in both tournaments and it is hard not to stay focused as our mentality has always been to take it a game at a time."
Singaporeare the defending champions, after they won the gold on home soil in 2015 - the last time floorball was on the Games programme and, as such, expectations are high.
But the former national player dispelled the notion that failure to bring back the gold, as well as the short turnaround before their WFC campaign kicks off, could affect morale and momentum in Switzerland.
"I don't have any concerns about my squad's mental strength, but the challenge will be that of fatigue," she said.
"Whenever we have had to chase a game or keep a lead (during competitions and training camps), my squad have shown that they are able to handle the pressure.
"I believe they are mentally strong to be able to deal with the back-to-back tournaments. However, the great challenge is trying to keep them physically in one piece.
"Floorball is a physically exhausting game. The schedule is taxing as well. We depart for the Philippines this Saturday and have back-to-back matches from Nov 26 to 29. The final day of competition is on Dec 1.
"We fly back to Singapore on Dec 2 before we are back at the airport late on Dec 3. Then we have three consecutive games from Dec 8... And the WFC is at a much higher level of play... It's definitely going to be very demanding physically."
Khng, a lecturer at the Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, has set two objectives for her squad - to reach the SEA Games final and to improve on their 2017 WFC showing, where they finished last out of the 16 teams.
Last Thursday, Khng received a boost when Siti Nurhaliza Khairul Anuar joined the national team training having just returned from club duty in the Czech Republic.
The 20-year-old joined five-time champions SC Tempish Vitkovice in September and has since bagged four goals and four assists in 10 games.
The centre said that her stint with Vitkovice has improved her speed and decision-making, and she hopes to be able to better support her team.
"Over there, we have three court sessions and five gym sessions a week, and a game at the weekend," she said. "Hence, I feel better conditioned for the rigours of back-to-back tournaments."
Khng added: "It is evident she has better game awareness and she is faster... The gelling with the team will take a little bit of time... "
Also defending their gold are the men's team, who are brimming with confidence after a victorious Asia Oceania Floorball Confederation (AOFC) Cup campaign in the Philippines in July.
In five games, Singapore mustered 73 goals, with all 19 outfield players scoring, and conceded just seven. In the final, they destroyed Thailand 17-1, but coach Lim Jin Quan is not getting carried away.
Lim, 27, explained that all but one Thai player who featured in the July competition were from their local league. However, the Thais' SEA Games squad will comprise their overseas-based players.
"We recognise their squad for the Games will be vastly different to the AOFC one, but that does not change how we prepare," said Lim.
"We have always prepared ourselves for strong opponents... The training keeps getting tougher, the idea being that we train as if we are the worst.
"So when we do end up playing better opponents, we will feel that the opponents aren't as tough as our training. So what I do as a coach is to make sure that every training is of a high intensity level."