By the SMU School of Accountancy Social Media Team
When Vivien Xia was in Polytechnic, she developed a passion for an unlikely sport – at least in this part of the world. More commonly regarded as a recreational beach activity here, not many even knew that flying a frisbee can turn competitive. For Vivien, her almost accidental entrance to the sport has brought her all the way to Ohio, USA, to compete against teams from around the world.
Today, the SMU student’s love of frisbee continues to drive her as she juggles her roles as an Accountancy undergraduate, a national Ultimate Frisbee player, and the Treasurer of the Ultimate Players Association Singapore (UPAS). Vivien tells us more about how she discovered the sport, the highlights of her competitive career, and how she copes with the challenges of balancing her commitments.
We understand you recently returned from the World Ultimate Club Championships 2022 in Ohio, where you represented Singapore at the frisbee competition. Can you share a bit about your experience representing Singapore?
Prior to the WUCC (World Ultimate Club Championships), I have never participated in an overseas tournament. Throughout the tournament, what blew my mind was how spirited each and every game was. Our sport is self-officiated, and this means that we resolve our own calls on the field without a referee – the most unique and defining element of ultimate frisbee, or ultimate as it has come to be known. Ultimate places high emphasis on something called “Spirit of the Game” which places the responsibility of fair play solely on the athletes themselves. Each player is required to know the rules and make their own calls, without the help of a neutral official, as defined in the rule book. It was truly a joy to see how sportsmanship and spirit of the game were demonstrated at the highest level.
Vivien at one of her weekly national team trainings
I have three major takeaways from this tournament. Firstly, as a player, all aspects of the game matters – physically, technically and mentally. This is because we are up against players from other countries who are of bigger built than us Singaporeans, and the wind in Ohio was stronger than that in Singapore. With regards to mental strength, I learnt that being scared or negative does not bring any benefit to your game and knowing how to filter them out is a great skill to have. In WUCC, games last for 100 minutes, which is quite unlike the 60-minute games played in Singapore. It taught me that it is crucial to always stay in the game, and to not give up despite the huge point difference until the game is over. Lastly and most importantly, despite representing Singapore, I realised that there are still thousands of players out there who are way better than me which makes me hungry for improvement and look forward to becoming a better player.
Besides playing internationally, you are currently in SMU Ultimate Frisbee Club. How did your passion for this uncommon sport come about?
In secondary school, I was in the school band and played the saxophone. When I entered Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), I was keen to try something new – more specifically, a sports CCA. However, most of the CCAs required students to go through trials. When my friend told me that Ultimate Frisbee in NYP didn’t need trials, I signed up immediately, even though the only thing I knew about frisbee back then was that it looked like a plate!
Vivien (front row, 5th from left) and the rest of the Singapore team, after a match in Ohio
Since I did not come from a sports background, I had a really hard time adapting to the physical demands of the game. For instance, stamina is a must-have even down to the last point of the game. Regardless of how tough training got, what kept me going was the culture in NYP Ultimate. I will never forget my coaches’ promise – “If you don’t give up on yourself, we won’t give up on you,” and they followed through. My fellow CCA mates made my life in NYP Ultimate a memorable one as well. Although the beginnings were difficult for me, I became hooked on the satisfaction of the improvements I was making and the challenges of playing this sport.
We understand that you currently serve as Treasurer in the Ultimate Players Association Singapore (UPAS), the sports body responsible for the governance of flying disc sports in Singapore. Can you share with us the responsibilities of this position and how you landed the role?
UPAS was looking for someone with accounting knowledge and I fitted the bill as an accounting student at SMU. As a Treasurer, I am responsible for managing the UPAS’ banking needs – ensuring that transactions are appropriately carried out with supporting documents and properly recorded, to ensure smooth operations, especially as UPAS hosts nationwide tournaments for the various clubs.
Vivien (centre) with her team mates
Amidst all your school commitments, how do you make time to balance your interest in the sport and your service to UPAS?
Balancing all these commitments is especially tough during the exam period, and being disciplined proved to be most important. For example, I tried not to skip gym sessions even with finals around the corner because being inconsistent in the gym does not benefit the hard work I have put in throughout the year, and vice versa.
Vivien in action at a practice session
Personally, there are two simple things I make sure to do at the start of the semester; I record the exam dates and project submission datelines in my calendar. Secondly, I block out time for compulsory and regular commitments such as classes, training days and track sessions. For the rest of my time, I usually only plan one week in advance as changes are very common in university and therefore, it is important to be flexible with my schedule. Doing this also relieves some stress, knowing that I have blocked out time for important and compulsory events. Being flexible also enables me to meet up with my friends once in a while despite my busy schedule.
Lastly, how has SMU and the School of Accountancy supported you in chasing your passion for frisbee?
The subsidy offered by the SMU Office of Student Life and the income from being a Teacher Assistant really helps in relieving some of the financial burden that comes from self-funding the competition.
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