Covid-19 has not spiked Edwin Ang’s dream of transforming volleyball in Malaysia

In August 2019, Edwin Ang made the biggest decision of his life – he quit as an international school teacher to focus on what he loves the most, volleyball.

Some five months later, he started Grace Volleyball Academy, with most of his clients from Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

In March 2020, Ang was forced to spike his plans after the government imposed the Movement Control Order (MCO) following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Life has not been the same for Ang since, as the sports industry is often the first to shutter, and the last to reopen, judging from the numerous MCOs over the past 15 months.

“It wasn’t easy, really, and it still hasn’t been easy,” admitted Ang, who turns 27 on Oct 15.

“In fact, my wife, who was then my girlfriend, did more than knock my head a couple of times when I told her of my plan to quit as a teacher to open a volleyball academy,” added Ang in jest.

“When the pandemic hit and I was forced to stop operations. It was the lowest point in my life. I even asked myself, ‘was it really worth it?’. I know the battle against Covid19 is going to be a long one, but I also know this will not go on forever.”

To supplement his income, Ang teaches tuition part-time and has also embarked on some part-time courses.

While Ang’s better half, Lim Zhi Ling, 28, was initially skeptical of his venture, she eventually became his number one supporter.

The former colleagues tied the knot in November 2020. Lim still teaches at the same international school.

The word “crazy” is not alien to Ang as he harbours the grand plan of starting Petaling Jaya’s first-ever community league.

Ang is already working on the plan, adding he will be ready to roll it out the minute the National Security Council opens the sports sector and allows for community leagues to take place.

“I’ve been speaking to some futsal operators and have obtained their buy-in. With the current economic climate, people are flexible and open to new ideas, so what we will do is, we will convert existing futsal courts into volleyball courts,” said Ang.

“I’ve identified several locations in Petaling Jaya. Grace Academy is also working closely with the Selangor Volleyball Association, and we’re thankful for that.”

Ang said he can get some 100 athletes –mostly secondary school and university students – to participate in his inaugural league.

Why the name Grace?

“It’s to show that the sport is graceful, the sport is all about respect and teamwork. It’s about putting people first. That’s what Grace means.

“There is a huge volleyball following in the country. Perhaps not as big as football or badminton, but there’s a sizable number of players who are eager to be part of an organised system or league.

“The state associations can only do so much and I’m here to assist them where possible.”

His ultimate goal is to transform the volleyball industry in the country. Malaysia has been struggling to find talents and the national teams have not been able to make an impression, even at the Southeast Asian Games.

But Ang knows it’s no walk in the park.

“I’ve always been met with skepticism, even by family members and friends. I remember speaking to my friend’s dad about my idea of setting up a volleyball academy, and his initial reaction was that sports in Malaysia was a ‘lousy industry’.

“Others have come up to me and said that while my intention is noble, sports is not a money-making industry. This is because Malaysians generally treat sports as a recreational activity. We aren’t really a sporting nation.”

Ang said he was his biggest supporter, followed by his wife and his “ever skeptical, yet extremely supportive parents – Ang Kong Kee, 67, and Sin Chuan Chan, 59.

Any word of advice for those who are “crazy” enough to venture on their own in such trying times?

“You have to be your own biggest supporter in whatever you do. You have to believe in yourself. No one can be your biggest supporter but you,” Ang said.