JEFRFEY Sim Chin Chye Is a thinking grassroots football leader who always asks: Is the structure of grassroots football in Singapore helping us to produce regional-class players, game changers, intelligent players who are comfortable in possession of the ball when under pressure?
His continual focus is on the structure of the grassroots game particularly focusing on coach education, grassroots clubs and local leagues.
“I believe we need to change culturally; we need to change the environment our kids are brought up playing in,” he says. “Although this is not a straight forward task I’m sure that with the right approach starting at the very root of the game with a strong development ethos we can make changes for the better.
“Let’s educate the new coaches to lead generations into the future and create a new culture within our game. It’s absolutely imperative that this type of fun and freedom is replicated with kids as young as four now beginning their football journey with organised coaching often at a grassroots club.”
He is convinced that nearly every coach wants the best for the kids and takes on the role with the very best intentions. He’s also a very strong believer that the current structure is not fit for purpose and he is of the opinion that the FAS coaching education programmes, grassroots clubs and local leagues need a complete restructure.
EAGLE’S EYE FOR TALENT
Jeffrey is officially the treasurer of S-League Hougang United but managing money is not his solitary forte as he has, in his own words, an “eagle’s eye for talent and operational excellence”.
He has a reputation as a big man of small words but very precise on the nitty-gritties of getting the elementaries of football right, in a professional way.
Those who know Jeffrey sum him up as a “first-class administrator with the uncanny ability to spot the best students of football from a mile away and integrate them into a sustainable system that lets them do what they do best – to play football, while he takes care of the rest”.
His longer-term goal is to bridge the gap between scouting and operational structure, implementing organisation where youths can clearly see football in Singapore as a profession. He explains: “Where they are able to move up through the ranks on merit, and clubs have a substantial scouting pool to draw from.
“You might be in Division One, Two or Three or in the Centres of Excellence (COS) but it’s our job to make sure that every club has a youth development system where promising young players know that they have a progression plan and a future in football.”
Indeed, as his heart and head goes, Jeffrey is a strong advocate of grassroots and sees the value-add merits in going down to the boys and girls, aged six to 12, through school, community and club initiatives.
“The future of Singapore football, or any country in the region, is to solidly invest in the future with a bold long-term policy of starting from the Base of the pyramid,” he says. “The key concept of the grassroots programme must be to bring together as many people as possible through football. The programme advocates exchanges and sharing human values and, of course, promotes the pleasure of practising the marvellous sport.”
For some people, grassroots football is a focus for recreational activities, while for others it is the organised practice of the sport, with training and matches, within a school or club framework.
He agrees that not all young players will become the stars of the future and they do not all have the skills required to become professional players. “So intensive training sessions and complicated tactics are not appropriate,” he adds. “Let them just enjoy the game.”
Jeffrey believes that the essential elements of grassroots football are relationships, team spirit and fun. The concept of learning through play while being guided by a coach-educator is a specific approach designed to reach out to the young and create a process to connect to the future.
The coach-educator, in his view, must be dynamic, uncomplicated, passionate and motivational and must always respect the children’s physical, physiological and psychological characteristics.
Jeffrey’s playing career was cut short when he was in his late 20s because of a serious dislocated ankle and torn ligaments. But that has not diminished his love for football, who continues to hit the ground, at school and social levels to preach the magic of football.
He now specialises in organisational “cleaning up”, meaning in identifying operational gaps and implementing structure for the efficient running of the game.
His wealth of career experience spans operational structures and process, after serving six years with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), 27 years in finance, and five years in the management committee of a local football club, overseeing youth development, operations, coaching and fitness.
The 49-year-old manager in the insurance industry knows his sums right and is convinced he is uniquely suited to safeguarding the care and insurance of footballing professionals.
In a nutshell, he’s a protocol man who wants to see locals back in playing and coaching, and well looked after their playing careers are over.
A regimentalist for precise timing, colleagues at Hougang United say he’s the “first in the dressing room and the first on the pitch, too”.
While his experience lies in behind-the-scenes operational excellence, Jeffrey has an eye for which players want it the most – a key factor in football.
He says: “Before a match, I’m there much earlier to observe which players exit the dressing room first to warm up, and get acquainted with the playing environments and the ball. Those who do that are always the ones who are most serious and committed to their game, and will have the brightest futures.”
Jeffrey, as acknowledged, is a man of few words and club colleagues have described him as “progressive and unflinching, yet affable professional with a great knowledge of players in the market, with the tactical acumen to identify players not just talent, but also discipline and commitment records”.
If he gets a dream-come-true shot to be an Independent Council Member under Bill Ng’s “Game Changers”, the Jalan Besar Stadium headquarters, presently starved of passionate, knowledgeable football-hearted men, will have someone who can bring in a real breath of fresh air.
Especially someone who seriously and sincerely believes in local youth development, succession and development plans for players and coaches alike, and starting from the ground up to visibly effect big change.
Jeffrey, in a few words, is someone who can keep football “roaring to a new era”, as the sparkling campaign-slogan for the “Game Changers” rightly says.
As President-candidate Bill Ng says in simple, short words: “Jeffrey is a straight-cut man. Commitment means result!”
‘Game Changers’ is led by dynamic businessman Bill Ng and the refreshing alternative team of 15 football-hearted personalities will be contesting the FAS elections on April 29 at the SportsHub.