Hockey body launches pilot programme to find talent
SHF launches schools' PE programme to attract more to the sport
The men's national hockey side captured the imagination of the nation as they pushed Malaysia to the limit in the gold medal match at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in June last year.
When the men line up for the Hockey World League (WL) Round 1 next month, just nine months on from their penalty shoot-out loss, they will do so without six members of that silver-winning team.
Talent drain has consistently affected the sport and in a bid to find a solution to the problem, the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) is going right down to the base.
On Saturday, it launched a pilot programme - the Singapore Hockey PE Programme - with five primary schools to take hockey into physical education lessons, so young children will get an early taste of the sport, and hopefully get hooked.
Representatives from Bukit View Primary School, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School Primary, Tanjong Katong Primary School, Huamin Primary School and Punggol Primary School gathered at the Sengkang Stadium to collect SHF-provided equipment - plastic sticks, larger plastic hockey balls and shin pads - that will allow the sport to be played on courts and multi-purpose halls; as well as a manual to guide teachers' lessons.
The SHF will also provide schools with technical expertise, with its coaches paying visits to help implement the programme.
"Attrition (of athletes) is an issue for us, with two major problems - overseas studies and work commitments," said SHF president, Mathavan Devadas.
"The main focus of the Youth Development programme is to build a broader base at the junior level and that will help the situation of attrition - that is in the long run of course.
"Now we've got five schools on this PE programme and, by the end of next year, we hope to have 20 schools on board and, out of those 20, maybe five will start hockey as a CCA (Co-curricular Activity) and compete," he added, revealing that the SHF had the assistance of the Ministry of Education in spreading the word to other schools.
The SHF youth development committee, co-chaired by SHF vice-presidents Savinder Singh Dhillon and Benita Tan, has spent a year developing the programme, and Tan is looking forward to seeing it rolled out.
"Based on 2015 statistics, 17 of 90 primary schools played hockey, that's just 10 per cent and 22 of 165 secondary schools, only 13 per cent," she said.
"Those are not great numbers and it is clear that many are not exposed to the sport at all.
The aim of this pilot programme is to expose the game to as many as possible, especially to non-playing schools, to make more young kids aware of the sport at a young age," added Tan, who herself only picked up a hockey stick when she was 18.
This SHF programme is not a static one.
"We've set up feedback channels - once at the six-month mark and another at the one-year mark - to see if things are working and if there is any way we can improve it," said Tan, who dreams that hockey will grow to be as popular as football in the Republic.
"The vision is of course to see a group of kids getting together to play hockey on hardcourts in their neighbourhoods - of their own accord, and having fun."
The Singapore Hockey PE Programme
Each of the five schools on the pilot programme gets 40 plastic sticks, 40 (larger than regulation) plastic balls, 40 pairs of shin pads.
They also get a modified hockey manual, written with input from teachers who have hockey experience.
All this is provided for by SHF.
The SHF will also provide technical support by having its youth coaches visit schools on the pilot programme, at the respective schools' convenience, to guide teachers in the execution of the programme.
The SHF has designed feedback channels into its programme, with teachers from involved schools sharing their experiences with the SHF at least twice - at the six-month mark and at the one-year-mark.