AFTER listening to feedback from parents and students, the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) announced a revamp of its youth programme yesterday.
From Jan 1 next year, the existing National Youth Team (NYT) will make way for the new Youth Training Squad (YTS), which will comprise the country's top players - 10 boys and an equal number of girls - between the ages of 13 and 18.
Places in the YTS will be contested by the top eight singles players in the Under-15 and U-18 categories of STTA co-organised tournaments, such as the Safra-STTA, Dr Ng Eng Hen-STTA and Dr Lee Bee Wah Cup-STTA Table Tennis Championships.
They will then slug it out in YTS selection trials, to be held annually in the first week of January. The top five U-15 and U-18 boys and girls will then be invited to train with the YTS for a year.
During the year, they will be given opportunities to compete in ITTF junior pro tours, on top of an overseas training stint.
The YTS will hold its training sessions on weekday evenings and on Saturday mornings, so as to suit the schedule of players in mainstream schools.
The STTA had previously preferred its youth paddlers to opt for the Singapore Sports School's School Within A School route, enabling them to train during the day and tackle schoolwork in the evening.
However, this led to the alienation of some players from mainstream schools, such as Raffles Institution's Lucas Tan, the world No. 155 junior who clinched the South-east Asia Junior Championships U-15 title last year.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, the STTA said the new model is a "refinement" of the old model.
Previously, players only had one chance - when they were in Secondary 1 - to make the NYT.
STTA chief executive officer Wong Hui Leng said: "We have introduced these adjustments based on parents' feedback and students' constraints due to academic requirements.
"These new changes clearly show our continued dedication to grooming more local talent... by identifying, nurturing and motivating aspiring (players) to become the best that they can be."
This article was first published on Apr 14, 2015.
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