Singapore

Sport academies can only be good for our athletes

Sport Singapore to run 25 ActiveSG academies, including for football and tennis

  • CHUA SIANG YEE, THE STRAITS TIMES

By February, national agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) will be running four ActiveSG sport academies, a grassroots initiative that provides affordable programmes for budding athletes.

While some lauded this move, others pointed out that it is spoon-feeding national sports associations (NSAs).

After all, promoting their sport should be a primary function of NSAs.

That the first four academies include football and tennis - two of the three sports that had failed to garner a medal for the nation at last year's South-East Asian Games here - hints at the project's objectives.

Be that as it may, the academies, and SportSG's ambitions to cover 25 sports by 2021 - they can only be good for our sports scene.

The programmes, which are detailed and well-structured, provide a clear pathway for athletes to not only improve their skills, but also remain in the sport for the long term.

For instance, the athletics academy caters to athletes up to age 24, while there will soon be a new football programme catering to children aged 13 and above, in addition to the current scheme for children up to 12.

Sports coaches often lament the challenge they face to keep youngsters keen, especially in a time when distractions and commitments are manifold.

SportSG officials are also hitting all the right notes by going for recognisable faces as coaches, which boosts the academies' credentials.

This will encourage parents to sign their children up for a programme that requires them to train up to three times a week.

Former national striker Aleksandar Duric and three-time Olympian Luis Cunha lead the football and athletics set-ups respectively.

It makes sense for an authority like SportSG to run the academies.

An NSA's executive committee faces re-election every two years, and this might limit the scope of its planning.

Furthermore, as SportSG chief executive Lim Teck Yin observed, there is "room in the sport ecosystem for other players".

Whether this breeds complacency in NSAs remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure - Singapore's athletes win.

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