STTA to start Youth Training Squad next year
He left the National Youth Team early last year citing several issues, including the lack of exposure in the international arena.
But paddler Chia Shing Kee may consider trying out again for the national youth set-up next year, after the Singapore Table Tennis Association's (STTA) announced a revamp of their development structure yesterday.
In a media release, the national sports association announced that the youth team will be restructured into the Youth Training Squad (YTS) next year.
Quarter-finalists from the Under-15 and Under-18 categories in the three local tournaments co-organised by the STTA every year - the SAFRA-STTA Table Tennis Championships, Dr Ng Eng Hen-STTA Table Tennis Championships, Dr Lee Bee Wah Cup-STTA Table Tennis Championships - will be invited for selection the following January.
Twenty paddlers will be selected from trials - five boys and girls each for the U-15 section, another five each for the U-18s.
In response to media queries, an STTA spokesman said: "The STTA plans to commit to two overseas competitions and one overseas training stint on a co-sharing basis for the youth athletes at the YTS.
"However, the STTA will constantly review our programmes and make any necessary changes."
Training hours have also been amended to take into account the paddlers' academic obligations.
Before the revamp, the STTA had stopped recruiting paddlers for the youth team since Sept 2013 as there was a review of their development system.
Under the old structure, players were selected when they started in Secondary One and stayed on until graduation at 18.
When contacted, Shing Kee's father Stephen said: "I welcome the changes, it seems like the new STTA president (Ellen Lee) has really looked into the grievances of the parents.
"I will support any change that will allow my son to have more chances to represent Singapore at international competitions," added the father of the Raffles Institution paddler, who turns 15 this year.
Shing Kee, the boys' winner of The New Paper School Sports Star Award last year, helped his school clinch the Schools National C Division boys' team title last year. He also finished second in the Under-15 category and fifth in the U-18 section at the STTA's Char Yong National Youth Top 10 Table Tennis Tournament last November.
The School Within A School (SWS) programme, an existing collaboration between the STTA and the Singapore Sports School, will continue to function alongside the new youth programme.
Players from the youth squad, the SWS programme and the Intermediate Squad, along with semi-finalists from local competitions, will be invited to trial for competitions like the South-east Asian Junior Table Tennis Championships.
Previously, there had been friction between parents of the youth training system and the association, as the STTA had stated their preference for paddlers to go through the SWS programme, where they can train longer and study at night.
Serene Seah, whose son Lucas is in the national youth team, said: "I feel that the YTS is very similar to the current NYT, (but) it is good that the STTA is opening its doors to paddlers who choose to go to mainstream schools.
"But, like before, most of them will eventually choose having a good degree over joining the national team to pursue table tennis professionally.
"And the STTA should be mentally prepared to just give them support during their years in the YTS."