Paddlers' new path

Paddlers' new path

Over the past year, it has come under fire for a perceived bias in its selection criteria. Now, the Singapore Table Tennis Association has dropped the strongest hint yet that the way forward for aspiring young paddlers is through the Singapore Sports School's "School Within a School" programme.

This, after confirming that intakes for its national youth team, which is made up of players from mainstream schools aged 13-18, would cease from next year.

"We have done a review of our youth development pathway," STTA chief executive officer Wong Hui Leng told The Straits Times on Wednesday. "It was found that we need to chart a new path for Singapore, if we harbour hopes of continuing to match the standards of top table tennis nations."

Among the reasons given for the decision were poor attendance at training due to school commitments and a high attrition rate at both pre- and post-GCE A levels. These, the STTA said, equated to a wastage of resources.

Under its revised youth development scheme, annual trials will be conducted to select training squads for major competitions such as the Asian Youth Games and Youth Olympic Games. That will open the door for two boys and two girls from mainstream schools to join their Sports School counterparts although the selection criteria have yet to be set.

Stephen Chia, whose son Shing Kee is a Year One student at Raffles Institution and joined the national youth team earlier this year as part of its final intake, expressed concern about the move. "It's disappointing that the STTA is implying that if young paddlers want to continue pursuing their passion, there's only one path for them to go down," the student care facilitator said.

The development could see non-SWS students training only with their schools, which could be as little as three times a week, as they would not have the benefit of the five additional training sessions under the national youth set-up.

Those under the SWS programme, on the other hand, get to train in the morning and afternoon while taking their academic lessons in the evening.

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