Discipline, commitment and positive visualisation drive Toh
New-look netball squad begin defence of SEA Games crown on Monday
The New Paper continues the countdown to the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur with a look at the old and new faces in various sports. Today, we feature netballers NURUL BAIZURA and TOH KAI WEI
Three years ago, teenager Toh Kai Wei came across a poster of national netball star Charmaine Soh and told her friends: "That'll be me in five years' time."
If you need proof that positive visualisation works, look no further.
Toh, now 20, is the youngest member of the national netball team who will be defending their SEA Games title, starting with Monday's match against Brunei.
She was a surprise call-up to interim national coach Yeo Mee Hong's provisional squad in June, after impressing in the local Netball Super League.
Toh was a member of the U-21 team when she made her prediction of becoming a poster girl for netball, and was confident she could achieve the ambition.
Still, the lab associate admits it has been a whirlwind two months.
"The call-up was out of the blue," said the goal shooter, with a chuckle.
"Going to the SEA Games was not part of my plans for the year, but now I'm here, I'm excited and nervous at the same time."
Toh, who made her international debut against Barbados in Belfast just two months ago, said the intensity of playing against top opponents was an "eye-opener".
She was quick to add that her senior teammates, such as co-vice captains Nurul Baizura and Charmaine Soh, have been instrumental in helping her find her feet at international level.
Said Toh: "The main thing the seniors have told me is to be patient with my play.
"Baizura (a centre) knows when to tell us to slow down, and control the court.
"And Charmaine (a goal shooter or attacker) will tell me to calm down before I take my shots, when she sees that I'm nervous or anxious."
For Baizura, the role of guiding her younger teammates comes naturally.
The special education teacher, who has amassed 88 caps since making her national debut in 2010, said: "I've never really realised it.
"You just play day in, day out, and then suddenly you realise you are one of the seniors, and that... what you do or say has an impact, especially to the younger or newer ones to the team.
"Anyway, even when I was in school, I was a student counsellor, so I guess that just translated to my game.
"I naturally just want to lead - not to be authoritative - but when I see someone's not on their (best) day, I'll be there and say, 'Come on, I'll back you up'.
"Even in my early days in the national team, I was not overly confident. but I was not timid either."
The national team will face a tough test in KL as veterans Micky Lin, Chen Huifen and Premila Hirubalan had retired after the 2015 SEA Games.
The trio have a combined 328 international caps among them.
But Baizura believes as long as the current squad show "discipline, commitment and responsibility", they can go far.
"I tell the younger players that small things like being punctual for training are very important, because it translates to the things we do on court," she said.
"I cannot lie, juggling work with national team training is tough.
"But sometimes you look at some of your own teammates and you are motivated... like Premila, for example."
She was referring to how Premila, a medical officer at the Singapore General Hospital, used to show up at training after work, despite being granted the day off by the coach.
Added Baizura: "There were times she was on full shift on a Friday and on Saturday, she was here (at training) and you could see she was just there, in a daze.
"The coach would tell her she could have the day off from training, but she would still come... That's the level of commitment we all need to show."
Bukit Kiara National Sports Complex
Vanessa Lee (captain), Charmaine Soh (co-vice captain), Nurul Baizura (co-vice captain), Chen Lili, Kimberly Lim, Melody Teo, Jocelyn Ng, Nur Aqilah Afiqah, Parveen Nair, Shina Teo, Toh Kai Wei, Zhang Ailin
PERFORMANCE AT 2015 SEA GAMES