Aloysius Yapp chose the less travelled path to play pool professionally at age 16

Only 16, but all set on his pool dreams

When Aloysius Yapp calmly and flawlessly clears the pool tables without missing a shot, he looks nothing like the 16-year-old St Patrick’s Secondary student that he is, the one who professes to not being able to keep awake in class and struggles with his school subjects.

The tall and large-built teenager is a pool fanatic who owns a pool table at home that he can practice at for 16 to 17 hours a day. He is also on the national men’s pool team and has halted school for a year to focus on playing professionally.

Aloysius said his fervour for the game started when he was eight years old. He was flipping through television channels one day when he came across a game of pool and was immediately drawn to the many colourful balls.

“I told my mother I wanted to try it, and she was very supportive and found me a coach, Paul Pang, from The Q Shop, a local billiard place.”

That the legal age to enter a pool shop in Singapore is sixteen did not deter Aloysius who regularly started hanging out there since several years ago and waited until people left before he played.

“My dad also didn’t approve of my playing pool at first because he thought I’d mix with bad company at these places,” he said, “but my mum knows that I am not that kind.”

He recounted incidents where he was offered cigarettes by people from gangs but simply politely declined.

“These people treat me nice and I treat them nice, but I mostly ignore them until they speak to me. I never initiate.”

“My dad accepted my love for pool quite reluctantly after a while,” he added, but he passed away several years ago.

But his father’s death spurred him to train harder at the game. Said Aloysius, “He wanted me to be the best in what I want to do, so I’m trying to do that now.”

And it is satisfying, he said, to be able to do what he wants – to play professionally.

This year, he has taken part in two world tournaments – the 2012 World Pool Team Championship in Beijing, and the 2012 World 9-Ball Championship in Qatar. Although he did not win anything, he got to rub shoulders with top Singaporean cuesport players like Toh Lian Han who won bronze in 2009’s Sea Games’ 9-Ball doubles.

Yet, he sometimes also feels very alone in his ambition, he said.

“My schoolmates are all studying for a living, and my pool mates are playing for the sake of playing. I’m the only one who wants to go pro. It can get very lonely,” he admitted.

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STORY OF HOW LIM POH HAN STOOD OUT & BE DIFFERENT

“Tchouk, tchoukball? You choke the ball inside ah?”, Lim Poh Han pointed to his throat as he described his first reaction when he heard of the sport four years ago.

Later on, it would be this new and unique sport that helped in transforming this ex-gangster’s life.

The 17-year-old vice-captain of Team Mustang was one of over 200 participants at the tchoukball competition of W.A.D! Games, held at the indoor stadium hall of Raffles Institution on 14 July 2012. His team was 2nd runner-up in the under-18(men) category.

In the past, he had a string of discipline problems. “I used to be a gangster. I would smoke, drink, break into the school,” Poh Han said. He even stole cash cards and laptops.

In 2009, he was referred to Youth Guidance Outreach Services (YGOS), a youth services organisation. That is where he picked up the sport of tchoukball and dropped some of his bad habits.

“After playing tchoukball, I became less arrogant. I decided to smoke less because of the sport, because we wanted to train for the nationals.” He also drinks “a lot less” these days, especially after he saw how his performance dropped sharply when he went drinking before a tchoukball game in March this year.

Having played the sport for four years, he finds that playing tchoukball helps him to control his anger and become more disciplined. His family has also seen the change in him. Not everyone thought he would change though.

When asked how he would complete the sentence “Who says I can’t be a ________?” (seen on the T-shirts of the volunteers at WAD! Games), he admits that people have said discouraging words to him before, telling him that he cannot change for the better.

“Some of my friends said that it was too late to change. I want to prove them wrong. I don’t want to let them have the wrong impression.”

While waiting to enter ITE, he now works part-time at Settler’s Café and as a tchoukball coach at Assumption Pathway School.

He may well continue working as a tchoukball coach for a long time.

“I will play tchoukball until the day I cannot play.”

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“No Shortage of volunteers, what’s missing is engagement”

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— NVPC Chief Executive Laurence Lien

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