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EU Alumnus, Surein Sandrasageran, on Managing a National Sports Team

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Surein Sandrasegeran has had a diverse career spanning from serving as a miliary major to working in the healthcare industry. Currently a director at the National University of Singapore’s Mind Science Centre, School of Medicine, ten-pin bowling has always played an important part in his life, with Surein having led his country’s national team.

It is no surprise that Surein loves practicing sports in his free time, but he also enjoys playing the piano and violin. He has lived abroad but is now based in Singapore where he was born and raised. Surein is a polyglot, and since his time at EU, has gained a master of Gerontology and was voted by his peers as top graduate of the Officer Cadet School.

How has your career progressed since completing your studies at EU?

After EU, I served in the Singaporean air force for two years after which I started my first job with a company called the People’s Association, where my role was to organize sporting events for the local community. This position required a lot of stakeholder and project management, dealing with sponsorships and conceptualizing events and programs all around the sporting scene. I left this position and went on to work in the healthcare industry, where I helped shape the landscape of elderly care in Singapore with a primary focus on dementia – a very successful project with over 100 sites around the country that are still running and making a difference to this day.

How did you turn your passion for bowling into a career?

My dad runs his own bowling academy and I’m a qualified coach myself. Every day, seven days a week after office hours, I spent my time at the bowling center coaching kids. This led me to my position as the Technical Director of Singapore Bowling Federation, the national team.

Not to sound like a cliché but bowling is in my blood. My father was in the national team for a short stint. My parents tell stories about me being in a pram at the bowling alley when my dad was bowling. So, I grew up with the sound of bowling pins in my ears.

It’s been a journey, from sport to healthcare, back to sport again. Singapore is a powerhouse when it comes to ten-pin bowling, and I’m very proud to have led the national team.

What do you love about bowling?

It’s ever-changing and there’s no real age limit. It is also very technical, from a layman’s perspective it looks like you’re just throwing a ball down a lane and trying to hit pins but when you get into the technicalities, you learn that there’s oil on the lanes or that the balls have different levels of friction and getting a ball to come in at a particular angle equates to more strikes. It’s interesting because when a ball is thrown, the oil will disperse in different ways so it’s unpredictable. There are so many factors that contribute to the sport that seem so simple on the outside.

What does a typical day for you look like?

I’m at the bowling center most of the time but we have a lot of competitions throughout the year and the team travels all over the world. My job focuses on handling the systems back home including the development of the team, scouting networks and talent identification. We’ve got a huge ecosystem for bowling in Singapore, so we have a lot of private academies that run our national program and the curriculum, but the grading of the programs is done by me and my team.

I have a team of coaches with me and we are constantly upgrading and ensuring that as a country and governing body of the sport, we are always kept up to date.

What would you like to achieve in the bowling community?

Singapore is already on the map in terms of being world-class, but I want to see that continue. For me, the greatest success would be to set up an ecosystem that can self-sustain in which we have new talent coming in year after year and a great pipeline of future champions in the making.

I think the biggest setback for bowling is that it’s currently not in the Olympic Games. On a world level, this is something we are trying to achieve, and it would be a big game changer as you don’t often hear about bowling in the press or the media. There’s a lot of untapped potential for this sport and we need to get people to recognize that it’s very technical and that there’s way more to it in terms of teamwork and engaging the audience.

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

I’ve always seen myself as a team player, but no man is an island. Ever since the military, I have stuck by that famous phrase, as you can achieve greater things together. For me, it’s about inspiring the people I work with to give their best and contribute to the greater good because together I think we can achieve that.

You have had a varied professional background, what would you say have been the transferable skills between working for the military, with the elderly and now in bowling?

I think it even goes back to when I was studying at EU. The degree taught me a lot about critical thinking and I think that was one of the key skills I brought with me when entering the military and has been a part of me ever since.

The experiences that you go through during your studies, including giving presentations, thinking out-of-the-box and cultivating an eagerness to do things well can be carried with you throughout your life. The people I met and the networks I built have made me what I am today.

Are there any specific tips or tricks from your lecturers that have stuck with you?

There was one lecturer who showed us the importance of personal grooming and posture when giving a presentation. It gives you more confidence and you are able to articulate better, this is something that I have always remembered, and it really works!

What advice would you give to EU students looking to pursue a career in sports management?

There are no shortcuts when it comes to education. Trust the curriculum and your lecturers and enjoy the process. All things will happen in due time when you work hard and persist at following your goals.

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