Meet Stradford Tay, an SMU alumnus who’s been playing table tennis through the years, from his primary school days all the way to leading his company table tennis team in Ernst & Young (EY) today.

During his time as an undergrad in SMU, he was captain and president of SMU Table Tennis, and represented the university in many national competitions. Graduating in 2013 from the School of Information Systems, Stradford is currently working in IT Audit, advising and helping clients to strengthen and improve their internal information technology systems and processes. As busy as he is at work, he always finds time to pursue his passion for table tennis.

Stradford shares with us about how he combines his roles as a consultant and table tennis coach at EY everyday.


Stradford (far right) with his table tennis teammates at EY

I started playing table tennis at the age of nine when I was in Primary 3. I’ve been playing actively since, through my secondary school, polytechnic and SMU days. Today, I’m playing for, and coaching, the table tennis team for my firm Ernst & Young!

What do I enjoy most about table tennis? The speed of the sport, of course. I love the variation and intensity of the game as well. From the outside, it looks like a game of speed, but there are so many different spins and types of technique that players use. Using a different technique changes the entire game. The many variations and intensity of the game is why I’ve chosen to play table tennis for the past 15 to 20 years.


Stradford (left) is actively competing in table tennis, even after graduation. The Singapore Copytron Table Tennis League Championship 2016 is one of several tournaments in the local scene.

Today, I’m the captain and coach for the table tennis team in EY. I’m able to do both because I was recently certified as a coach by the International Table Tennis Federation. In fact, EY’s sports & recreation club came in to subsidise the cost for this, as they support their employees who are actively involved in representing the company in sports. We compete regularly with other accounting firms in the annual ISCA Games. I really enjoy that I’m able to integrate sports with my professional life.

Looking back at my time in the SMU Table Tennis team, what I enjoy most is the people. Leading the club, whether as a captain or president, it’s about bringing different people together as a team, to train together, get to each other and compete. To me, building up a great team spirit is the most important. It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose. What’s most important is that we’ve put in our best effort at the competition as a team.

One of my most memorable experiences with the club wasn’t at a competition actually— it was at Sports Camp! We organised a table tennis challenge for the participants. Each station had a mini-challenge. These were simple things, like hitting the table tennis ball into a cup, serving in a certain way etc. The best part was the team coming together, brainstorming different challenges and eventually preparing and executing it for the participants.


Many students may think that work-life balance is about ending work at six and then having the time to do your own stuff. To me, work-life balance is more than that. Playing table tennis in EY is really about integrating both aspects of life, both that I enjoy and look forward to. You meet different people from the organisation that you wouldn’t have met normally, all because you share a common sport and hobby. It’s a great way to meet up, stay fit and unwind after a day at work.

Have a positive attitude in everything you do. It’s something I’ve picked up through table tennis and this has definitely benefited me in my professional life.

You have to be positive, disciplined and focused in order to do better in sports. Likewise, it brings you up to track in your professional career as well. It’s how you learn new things at work, and approach challenges and new projects with an open mind. These are all strong qualities to build in ourselves.


Training with a player from the Thailand team

I had the opportunity to train with Coach Korakij Sermkijseree, a Thailand national table tennis team coach. Better known as Coach Kit, I met him during my polytechnic internship in Bangkok and trained with him for three months. He shared this piece of advice with me: Be positive. Do things we are normally afraid to try. If we don’t try something new, we’re guaranteed to lose. Even if we try and fail, we’ve gained some knowledge about what to avoid or what to do better. The next time we go for it, we’re more likely to succeed.

It’s about doing things differently and constantly learning, absorbing and improving oneself.

Stradford with Coach Kit (second from left) and Padasak Tanviriyavechakul, a Thailand national player (first from left), at the 2016 World Table Tennis Championships, in Kuala Lumpur

Find something that you enjoy and put your heart into it, whether competitively or as a hobby. You’ll see the benefits of dedicating your time and energy into something, the ups and downs as you strive to get really good at that one thing. Also, find and join a company that supports your hobby and begin your career with them, so that you can really enjoy and achieve work-life balance. Not just work, or life, but both!

Keep up to date with the latest happenings in sports at SMU with the SMU Sports Union— home for all sports at the university. Check them out on Facebook!

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