By Cheryl Lim
For most halls, the last season of the Inter-Hall Recreational Games (IHRG) was just like any other.
But, the newer halls are still struggling to find their feet, with Tamarind Hall setting out to prepare for their entrance next season, and the North Hill cluster trying to tackle a lack of interest in recreational games.
At the three North Hill halls (Banyan, Tanjong, and Binjai Hall) and Tamarind Hall, simply organising training sessions to attract residents has proven challenging due to the absence of senior players to guide new players, difficulties arranging training sessions to accommodate all interested residents and lack of equipment.
Recreational games played in the IHRG include Boggle, darts, carrom, international chess, Chinese chess, weiqi, Othello, Scrabble, snooker and bridge.
Tamarind Hall was excluded from the recently concluded IHRG as the tournament budget was allocated before they had a team ready, and its addition would have over-complicated the process. This hurt the morale of the fledgling recreational games team.
Said Tamarind Hall Recreational Secretary Cheng Yuan Deng: “If there was the possibility of participating in IHRG, I’m pretty sure a lot more would be willing to join. Numerous residents actually gave feedback that (being excluded from IHRG and IHG) effectively killed their motivation to take part in recreational and sports activities.”
With just eight players, Tamarind Hall’s darts team is the biggest among its recreational games teams, and is one of just two recreational games with a training schedule in place, the other being Othello.
“We are still gathering information on the equipment to buy. For certain games like carrom, specific sets (of equipment) have to be purchased to meet competition requirements,” said Cheng.
To spark greater enthusiasm and foster camaraderie among residents, Tamarind Hall’s Junior Common Room Committee (JCRC) has turned to holding inter-block games to publicise hall activities.
However, some residents still feel that more can be done.
“I feel the Tamarind Hall Telegram group is how people get information when they are not already involved,” said Tamarind Hall resident Amanda Tock, a first-year student from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
“Maybe they should set up booths because not everyone is in the Telegram group.”
The organisers of the IHRG, the Hall Olympiad Committee, have since confirmed that Tamarind Hall will be included in the next IHRG season.
In the same boat
As Tamarind Hall looks forward to their inaugural appearance in the next IHRG season, the North Hill cluster reflects on their lacklustre performance this season.
With a total of 15 players, Banyan Hall competed in four out of the 10 recreational games available — Othello, Scrabble, carrom and Boggle. Binjai Hall took part in five while Tanjong Hall took part in six recreational games.
Tanjong Hall ended the IHRG season at the bottom of the table, while Binjai Hall tied with Banyan Hall for second-last place.
Recruitment for recreational games was a recurring obstacle among the three halls during the IHRG.
Tanjong Hall Recreational Secretary Anmol Mathur, 21, felt that the North Hill cluster halls were “in the same boat” when it came to recruiting players.
“The main issue is, ultimately, that we are a new hall,” said the first-year student from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
“We had to (choose) captains from the freshmen itself; even the captains didn’t even know how IHRG works.”
Binjai Hall, who had the added responsibility of co-chairing for IHRG along with Hall 13 and Hall 14, faced similar issues.
Players’ attitudes towards recreational games were also a challenge during IHRG.
Banyan Hall Recreational Secretary Ng Jian Cheng, 23, said: “Many residents are interested in recreational games as a form of leisure rather than competition.”
“As IHRG took place during the holidays, many of our players were overseas, resulting in a walkover for some games this season.”
Binjai’s Recreational Secretary Jonathan Soh added that there seemed to be more initial interest for sports as compared to recreational games, estimating that sports had double the sign-up rates of recreational games for his hall.
Singapore Chess Federation (SCF) Vice-President Mr John Wong feels that interest in recreational games like chess should be cultivated from a young age.
He told the Nanyang Chronicle: “The decline of interest (in chess) doesn’t start at age 18, it actually starts way back, from around age 14. Participation from U-14 to U-18 has declined considerably over the last five years.”
“My premise is that when it comes to participation of recreational games in the hall, you already have a small pool to begin with.”
Mr Wong feels this is also true for some other sports that the University’s halls consider as recreational games. Unlike SCF, which is affiliated with organisations such as the Singapore Sports Council, sports like darts, with no such backing, face declining interest among Singaporeans.
The North Hill situation is familiar to that of the four-year-old Crescent Hall’s. Commonly referred to as the “scholar hall”, even in their third year of participating in IHRG, Crescent Hall’s JCRC still observes low IHRG participation rates, with many residents reluctant to add recreational games to their list of extracurricular commitments.
Crescent Hall Recreational Secretary Tan Shao Jie expressed concern over the greater ease of getting a hall room, due to the building of additional halls, coupled with the new policy of two-year guaranteed hall stays for freshmen.
“I think over the years, it might get worse,” said Tan, a second-year student from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
“I think for some of (the residents), not participating in hall activities is not a problem because they just need a place to stay, they don’t really have an attachment to (the) hall.”
Amid participation woes, the North Hill halls maintain a positive outlook on their futures regarding recreational games, treating the recent IHRG as a learning experience.
Despite finishing second from the bottom, Binjai Hall’s recreational games players did draw some positive takeaways from the experience, and hope that this can draw in more residents. The hall managed to get within 0.5 points of qualifying for the quarter-finals in Chinese chess, after earning four wins, three losses and a draw against Pioneer Hall.
Tanjong Hall and Banyan Hall also foresee improvement in future IHRG seasons as their players gain exposure.
“It was a good chance to get advice from other halls on how their sessions are run internally,” said Ng.
“I feel that it’s a good start that there are players who are willing to represent Banyan Hall to take part even though they are not confident in their ability to compete.”