SINGAPORE - While the biggest female tennis stars take centre stage at next month's BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals, to be held here over the next five years, the sport will simultaneously be promoted at the primary school level during that time.
For the first time, about 10,000 pupils from 14 schools will be given the necessary equipment and training to play an introductory form of the game called modified tennis, using scaled-down rackets and lighter balls on a smaller court area with lower nets.
Modified tennis caters to children between the age of six and 12.
The five-year initiative, introduced through the WTA Finals' presenting sponsor SC Global's Tennis for Every Child programme, was launched yesterday at the Ministry of Education's Evans Road complex.
Said guest of honour Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong: "We didn't want to just have a high-level franchise in Singapore when we brought in the WTA Finals.
"What we wanted to do was use this event to interest the younger generation to take up the sport and hopefully nurture a new era of tennis stars.
"(With this programme), I'm glad we are now reaching out to young children who may not have the opportunity to try tennis at their age and inspire them to pursue the sport further."
Added SC Global's chief executive officer Simon Cheong: "By initiating this community programme, we hope... also to create a lasting legacy for the sport in Singapore after the WTA Finals concludes here in five years."
Through the programme - a collaboration between the home-grown luxury property developer and the Singapore Tennis Association worth almost $500,000 - the pupils will play the sport during their Physical Education (PE) lessons, using equipment provided by sports manufacturer Wilson.
PE teachers from the schools have already received training on how to conduct modified tennis classes through an International Tennis Federation workshop.
Local food and beverage chain BreadTalk will also be providing financial support of an undisclosed sum, while raising awareness of the programme by selling a special tennis-themed bun at their bakeries next month.
The programme starts next week when school reopens after the one-week September break.
One pupil who has felt the impact of the sport is Fengshan Primary School's Ng Jia Xiong.
Having been introduced to modified tennis during PE lessons in school a month ago, the 11-year-old Primary 5 pupil is now hooked on it, preferring it to floorball which he plays as well.
"It's fun in a challenging way because it's not easy to keep the ball in play and use it to score against your opponents," he said.
"I hope I can do better in the sport and represent Singapore in future."
This article was first published on September 11, 2014.
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