Having a flippin’ good time keeping fit

Ball of a time… Ah Ma Flippa Ball is a team of women in their 60s and 70s who gather regularly to play a game similar to water polo.

THEY may look like your average neighbourhood Ah Mas (Hokkien for grandmothers). But on Wednesdays at 7am sharp at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, Madam Ngeow Moy Moy, 74, and Madam Tia Ah Kew, 76, don their swimsuits and caps to play a fierce game of flippa ball.

Designed to get children comfortable with the basics of water polo and confident in the water, flippa ball is a modified form of water polo played at the shallow side of a swimming pool. Suitable for people of all ages, it allows players to stand comfortably while playing and scoring goals.

Since hearing about flippa ball from their friends and joining a practice session in 2018, Madam Ngeow and Madam Tia have been hooked on the game.

Madam Tia and Madam Ngeow from Ah Ma Flippa Ball

Friendly competition… Madam Tia (left) and Madam Ngeow have both been regular swimmers at Toa Payoh Swimming Complex since 2006, and joined the flippa ball team together.  

Every morning, Madam Ngeow walks 20 minutes from her home in Jalan Dusun, Balestier to Toa Payoh Swimming Complex. She arrives at 6.30am to swim for half an hour and once the team arrives, it’s time to play ball.

The game starts out slow as the players get warmed up but eventually the adrenaline kicks in. The Ah Mas may be standing in the pool but they are just as aggressive in blocking shots and scoring goals, which results in some big splashes. Everyone looks like they are having a good time.

Ah Ma Flippa Ball members scoring a goal

Serious game… the Ah Mas go all out to score their goals while getting a dose of exercise.

Madam Tia said that she feels healthier, happier and her mind is sharper after playing flippa ball for four years and she loves “tackling for the ball”. Madam Ngeow also feels the game keeps her mind sharp as “there are so many rules to remember”.

Their coach, Mr Ting Kum Luen, 54, is the man who got Ah Ma Flippa Ball rolling. In 2016, he was approached to start a new water activity for regular swimmers which would be free for seniors aged 65 and above.

Coach Ting, as he is known to his students, decided to try out flippa ball but with simplified rules for senior citizens. While he volunteered his teaching skills and time, Sport Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth (MCCY) which oversees the management of local sports facilities, provided the venue.

“The key is to make the game enjoyable for the Ah Mas. Initially when everyone was new to the game, there was some confusion about the rules. However, the team has settled down so well that I am considering whether it is time to add more rules to improve their game,” said Coach Ting.

The chemistry between the coach and his Ah Ma players is evident as the training sessions are peppered with jokes and teasing. Some of the players even have nicknames, like one of the petite players who has lethal scoring arms, Madam Chua Li Cheng, 67.

Referred to as Xiao La Jiao (chilli padi in Chinese) by the team and Coach Ting, she said: “After playing flippa ball, my reflexes are faster; my spatial awareness is much better as well.”

Coach Ting revealed that the team has been invited to play against a new team that has been formed in Ipoh, Malaysia this September. While the players are still considering the invitation, the team is excited that they are making waves overseas. 

If you know of an inspiring senior or an interest group that embraces active ageing and possesses the “I Feel Young” spirit, we would love to feature them on our page too! Drop us a message on Facebook, Instagram or via email
ifeelyoungsg@gmail.com, and tell us why you think we should feature the story.

Article published on 15 August 2022