Power to the players

By Sherlyn Seah

Last November, Hall of Residence 11 resident Wang Fang Jie was offered a place in Hall of Residence 16 — on the condition that she played for their badminton team.

The practice of “poaching“ sports players from other Halls of Residence remains controversial due to the finite number of places available. PHOTO: KERH POH CHONG

Wang, an Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic (IVP) badminton player for NTU, was initially reluctant to leave behind the friends she had in Hall 11. But after comparing her options, she decided to make the switch.

“In the end I chose Hall 16 because it’s nearer to my classes, the room interior is bigger, and of course because of IHG (Inter-Hall Games),” said Wang, 20.

Switching halls also allowed her to play for a stronger IHG team, together with her IVP mates.

“Almost all the IVP players are in either Hall 3 or 16. So Hall 16’s players are generally stronger than 11’s,” she said.

Over the years, it has become a trend for halls to offer well-performing athletes from competitor halls a hall room, so that these athletes can play for their team instead. This is especially common for the top-ranking halls that face pressure to retain their championship titles.

Recommendation offers are not against hall regulations, but whether it is fair for halls to “poach” residents remains a touchy subject.

Nur Hanisah, a third-year School of Humanities student, was previously approached by several halls to join their teams, but ultimately turned them down to take up leadership roles in her current hall.

“All halls can poach for players if they want to. But it’s unfair when some halls are seen as better than others,” added Hanisah, 21, sports secretary of Hall of Residence 1’s Junior Common Room Committee (JCRC) and hockey captain.

This puts some halls at a losing end, if their good players switch to join other halls, she added.

A sensitive issue

The practice remains controversial because it involves giving places in hall to people from other halls, said Galen Ng, Hall 3’s sports secretary and a second-year School of Humanities student.

Because of this, some current residents might feel that recommendation offers are unfair, competing with incoming athletes and possibly losing their existing rooms to them.

“It’s already challenging to secure a spot for another year, what more now with offers given to players who weren’t even originally from here,” said existing resident Christine Ng, a second-year Nanyang Business School student.

To those concerns, Ng, 22, emphasised the official stance of his hall’s JCRC: “We definitely prioritise our own residents. Only then do we consider those from other halls who would like to come over.”

He added that there is also a limit to the number of people a hall can recommend in from other halls, depending on each year’s hall application numbers. This ensures that it remains fair to other residents.

“With the limit, the chances for current residents (to retain their places) are still high. So I don’t think they would feel unfair about the hall offering outside players to join. If they really wanted to stay in hall they would have contributed, and naturally retain their place.”

Win-win situation

With its reputation as a top-performing sports hall, taking in athletes from other halls is common practice for Hall 16.

This move would benefit both the hall and the transferring athlete, said Hall 16’s sports secretary Ryan Foo.

“If a player feels that he has potential to grow in other halls, I think he deserves that opportunity. And the hall benefits from that too,” said the second-year Civil and Environmental Engineering student.

About 10 per cent of Hall 16’s sportsmen and women are players previously from other halls.

“But every year is different, and not all of our teams have players who were from other halls,” said Foo, 22.

Hall 3’s Ng said that for the players, it is a matter of weighing their choices and choosing the better option — something that should not be seen as unfair.

When second-year School of Humanities student Sim Jia Zhen was offered a place in Hall 6’s softball team, she made the move from Hall 1 to reconnect with her former teammates from pre-university.

“It wasn’t so much about which hall was better,” said Sim, 20. “My past teammates from secondary school and junior college are all in Hall 6, and one of them is the sports secretary.

“I wanted to play with my friends for one last time as one team before we all went for exchange, and I could only do that if I switched halls.”