Out to widen the net

Out to widen the net
YOUNG TALENT: (from left) WTA tournament director Melissa Pine, STA president Edwin Lee, Minister Lawrence Wong and SC Global CEO Simon Cheong observing participating children from primary schools at the launch event yesterday.

Lighter rackets, lower nets and softer balls.

Modified tennis, or mini tennis, as it is more commonly referred to, will feature in 14 primary schools across Singapore this year, with the goal to widen the interest and increase participation in the sport among children.

Ahead of the WTA Finals at the Singapore Sports Hub from Oct 17 to 26, presenting sponsors SC Global launched their Tennis for Every Child programme at the Ministry of Education's Evans Road complex yesterday.

The programme will begin on Monday and, for the first time, about 10,000 primary school pupils will be given the equipment and training to play an introductory form of the game, which caters to children between the ages of six and 12.

The five-year programme is a collaboration between homegrown luxury property developers SC Global and the Singapore Tennis Association (STA) and is worth almost $500,000.

"The Tennis For Every Child programme is aligned to our mission of broadening tennis outreach to schools," said STA general manager Gregory Tan.

"Kids now don't have to leave school to learn the game as the court size can be scaled down in the school hall.

"We are looking forward to exciting times in junior tennis development in Singapore. We hope this initiative will help grow the tennis talent pool."

Four of the 14 schools - Innova Pri, Lianhua Pri, Si Ling Pri and Woodlands Pri - are further committing to the programme by incorporating tennis as a Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) option for their students.

The "SC Global Tennis for Every Child" programme will be subsidising the coaching fees for the CCA over the first three years and the STA will provide the coaches.

Equipment will be provided to the schools by sports manufacturers Wilson, while 25 physical education (PE) teachers have already attended an 11-day International Tennis Federation workshop in July to learn how to introduce pupils to the sport.

Local food and beverage chain BreadTalk will also be providing financial support (an undisclosed sum) as well as raise awareness for the programme by selling a special tennis-themed bun at their bakeries next month.

SC Global will be hosting 200 pupils from the programme each year at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

LASTING LEGACY

"By initiating this community programme, we hope not only to make an exciting impact on the learning journey of children in Singapore, but also to create a lasting legacy for the sport in Singapore after the WTA Finals concludes here in five years," said SC Global's chief executive officer, Simon Cheong.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, the guest-of-honour at the launch, said that one of the main reasons the WTA Finals was brought here was to inspire young people to take up the sport.

He added: "Tennis is a core sport in Singapore, in terms of watching and playing (recreationally) - but we haven't had success on a competitive level.

"Internationally, standards are very high, and players have to put in a great deal of effort and train very seriously at a young age.

"But looking at the how well the two Asian players (Peng Shuai and Kei Nishikori) did at the US Open recently, I think we will see more Asian stars on the rise.

"Hopefully, in time, there will be a Singaporean among them."

The 14 schools who have enrolled in the "Tennis for Every Child" programme for 2014 are: Anderson Primary School, Bedok West Primary School, Concord Primary School, Da Qiao Primary School, Dazhong Primary School, Fernvale Primary School, Innova Primary School, Lianhua Primary School, Palm View Primary School, Si Ling Primary School, Tampines North Primary School, Woodlands Primary School, Fengshan Primary School, Yu Neng Primary School.

aakasim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Sep 11, 2014.
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