Davis: Singapore among world's best in tennis development
ActiveSG tennis academy head says few countries are doing more to develop the sport
It may be viewed as a sport for the affluent, but a big step has been taken to make tennis accessible to all Singaporeans.
The ActiveSG tennis academy was launched at the Kallang Tennis Centre yesterday with two overarching goals: increasing the talent pool of players with elite tennis as the end goal, while encouraging a healthy lifestyle through sports.
After football, athletics and basketball, tennis is the fourth academy to be launched by ActiveSG, in a bid to make Singapore a healthier nation.
"It's our way to introduce sports to everyone everywhere. We hope that one day everyone will adopt a sport to keep themselves healthy," said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu - who was the guest of honour at yesterday's launch.
"Sport is a great way to bring the community together.
"The idea is to introduce the sport to as many people as we can and reach out to young kids - give them a chance to hold a racket, learn about tennis and hopefully excite them about the sport."
Starting with a mini-tennis programme to teach the sport's basics to young children (at a cost of $130), the academy, which will be headed by technical director Robert Davis, will see developmental academies held at two zonal centres - Kallang and Yio Chu Kang Tennis Centres - and also elite-level programmes conducted hand in glove with the Singapore Tennis Association (STA).
"We will work with the STA in farming the ground for talent, but at the elite level we must be synchronised, and we are," said ActiveSG senior director Ng Eng Soon.
"We will sit down together to plan for the next three to six months, when we will play in the Davis Cup and Fed Cup.
"This will include training camps that will also involve local coaches."
Davis has already recruited three visiting coaches: Thailand's Thanakorn Srichaphan, who owns the Srichaphan Tennis Academy, his 2006 Asian Games gold medal-winning compatriot Danai Udomchoke, as well as Indonesia's 2009 South-east Asia Games champion, Lavinia Tananta.
"This is most unique thing that I've been involved in," said Davis, who has coached on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) circuit.
"Outside of the four Grand Slam nations (England, France, Australia and the US) and Belgium and Germany, I don't think any other country is doing as much for tennis.
"And I can't say enough about the support system here."
He pointed to the facilities and vast array of services made available to athletes by the Singapore Sports Institute.
The tennis academy is not just about tennis excellence, insisted Davis, who has one eye firmly fixed on using the sport as a vehicle to inculcate values in young athletes.
"The ActiveSG Tennis Academy is also about our coaches imparting important life skills. Tennis, like any other sport, has the ability to teach our young important values - such as discipline, respect and teamwork. That will be a key feature throughout our academy," he said.
While the academy aims to attract 4,000 kids to pick up a tennis racket by the end of the year, there is also room in the programme for adults who are keen on learning the sport.
Anyone aged 17 and up can join the adult tennis group where the basics of the sport will be taught, with varying levels of competition organised to test their new-found skills.
"We are pleased to introduce tennis into our family of academies. The academy is for all levels and is designed with a pathway to meet the interests and aspirations of everyone," said ActiveSG chief Lai Chin Kwang.
"From the recreational player to the talented youngster with dreams of representing our country in international competitions and turning professional."
*For more information, visit www.myactivesg.com/academy/tennis
"Outside of the four Grand Slam nations (England, France, Australia and the US) and Belgium and Germany, I don’t think any other country is doing as much for tennis."
— ActiveSG tennis academy technical director Robert Davis