We chat with Tan Kang Yi about what she’s learnt from her journey: “It requires a lot of sacrifice and self-discipline…always celebrate the small wins!” Plus how her mum and dad (an ex-state-level player) have encouraged her passion.
FIBA basketball player Tan Kang Yi, 21, fell in love with the sport at 9 years old. Her dad, who was a state-level player in Malaysia, encouraged her to follow her passion for the sport. Kang Yi first represented Singapore in the National Youth Team at 17, and is now a student-athlete at Nanyang Technological University, working towards becoming a professional player. She will be representing Singapore at the upcoming FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup (29 March to 2 April 2023). We chat with Kang Yi and her parents about how she balanced her classes and training as a teen and the life lessons that the sport has taught. There is so much emphasis on academics in Singapore, however, Kang Yi’s parents share how they have supported her choice to pursue basketball as a career. They believe that all parents should support their children in pursuing interests when they are young saying “believe they are capable… instead of immediately controlling what they can or cannot do!”
How did your journey with basketball begin?
I was introduced to basketball in primary school at the age of 9. I fell in love with the sport then!
What do you love most about playing basketball?
I love the intensity of the game and the teamwork required to excel. I also love having to make split-second decisions while communicating with my teammates – it keeps me hooked onto the game!
If you’re not on the basketball court or in university, how do you unwind and spend your free time?
I have learnt over the years that deliberately spending time alone is therapeutic as it allows for self-reflection. I usually spend my free time either going to a museum or taking a walk alone. When I’m home, I watch dramas or documentaries.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I start my day at 9am with two hours of individual training before having brunch before heading off to school. After classes, I usually grab a quick bite before heading to evening training with the team, which usually lasts for around three hours. I have dinner around 10:30pm, take in my daily protein smoothie to promote recovery, and then wash up. Then, I work on my basketball reflections and schoolwork. I usually head to bed after midnight, but it can depend on my workload.
When you were a teenager playing for Team Singapore, how did you juggle school and sports?
I first represented Singapore in the National Youth Team at 17, during my first year of junior college. I did my best to manage my schedule to prioritise both school and training, finding pockets of time in between training and school to complete my work and rest. To keep myself motivated, I actually recall watching international FIBA Women’s matches online!
What skills have you acquired from playing basketball that translates into your daily life?
Communication is key in a team sport! Particularly for basketball, we need to communicate between teammates and also with our coaches. This has taught me how to act on constructive feedback and view things from different perspectives. Translating this into daily life, I feel it keeps me open-minded, receptive to feedback, and allows me to keep learning and growing.
What advice would you give to those who are interested in pursuing sports professionally?
It requires a lot of sacrifice and self-discipline – but when you achieve your goals, it’s so fulfilling. One thing to remember is to always celebrate the small wins!
Kang Yi’s Parents: Cheong Yew Sze & Tan Lim Hi
When did you know that Kang Yi had what it takes to pursue basketball professionally?
We knew that it was a possibility when she joined Jumpshot last year, and had a meeting with her coach.
How did you react when Kang Yi first mentioned her interest in training to be a professional basketball player?
We were excited that Kang Yi had found her passion in sports, but were quite aware of the rigour involved in professional competition. However, we believe that once she puts her mind to something, she can achieve it!
How do you support her when she hits a mental or physical block?
Dad: As an ex-basketball player myself, I support Kang Yi by reviewing her clips, sharing basketball tips to encourage her, and proposing different methods of approaching a problem.
Mum: I encourage her to do her best and enjoy the game, offering a listening ear for any problems she has. Occasionally, I give her massages to help in her recovery.
Do you have other kids? How did you juggle supporting Kang Yi and her siblings when she was competing for Team Singapore?
Yes, we have two adult sons who are very understanding. It also helps that our family is tight-knit and very supportive of each other. As parents, we want our children to be happy and enjoy pursuing their interests, so we encourage them to engage in other activities or interests beyond academics. We do our best to provide for each child so they can pursue their dreams!
In Singapore, there is so much emphasis on academics, and sports is often left behind as something you do for fun. Before Kang Yi became a professional basketball player, did you face any backlash from friends or relatives about allowing her to pursue sports?
Fortunately, all our relatives are supportive of her choice. We also believe that athletes should focus on their sporting dreams when they are young and in their prime!
What advice would you give to parents of kids who are interested in pursuing sports?
Dad: Support your child in pursuing and enjoying their interests when they are young! While achieving academic excellence at university is ideal, this can be done when your child is older. If they really love a sport and are talented, I believe they should prioritise achieving sporting excellence early.
Mum: My advice is to trust and offer support to your child, and to believe they are capable. Be a reliable listening ear, and communicate your feelings and concerns instead of immediately controlling what they can or cannot do!
Thanks so much for speaking with us and all the best in your upcoming FIBA game Tan Kang Yi!