STTA will back Sports School scheme over youth team

STTA will back Sports School scheme over youth team
New Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Ellen Lee (centre) addresses local table tennis players and coaches during a STTA Christmas party on 24 December, 2014.

The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) is standing by its decision not to accept new intakes for the national youth team.

But new STTA president Ellen Lee admits there is a need to acknowledge the vocal concerns of parents and players affected by that decision.

In fact, one of her biggest challenges since taking over the helm of the Singapore's most successful sport four months ago has been managing the parents of young paddlers.

She told The Straits Times: "Each parent has a different expectation, all wanting the best for their children.

"(The STTA) has to be more broad-based whereas the parents only have one interest - to get the best for their children.

"(I have to) listen to their concerns to understand where they are coming from and see how their interests can be balanced against the STTA's."

The association, following a review of its youth development programme in September 2013, decided to cease new intakes, effectively sounding the death knell on the youth team, which is made up of players aged 13-18 from mainstream schools.

Ms Lee revealed that she met parents of players from the national youth team, the youth development squad (7-12 years old) as well as the Singapore Sports School's School Within A School (SWS) programme last month in a dialogue session.

Among the things discussed then: reassuring parents that there is a place for local-born players to represent the country as long as they show competence and dedication, despite the STTA's continued preference for paddlers to take the SWS route.

The SWS is a customised scheme in which students train longer than usual during the day, with schoolwork at night.

But the STTA's stand earned the ire of parents, who took to voicing their grievances with the authorities - agencies such as the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the Singapore National Olympic Council and Sport Singapore.

"We have to go down that route," Ms Lee intoned, referring to the SWS. But the "very frank discussion" has also led her to contemplate the possibility of "tweaks" and a "rethink".

She said: "I would want to explore whether or not there is any way we could have something that will get a win-win situation.

"It's more of trying to consider all angles and all views put forward."

This article was first published on January 2, 2015.
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