Why local sports talent have had few successes

Why local sports talent have had few successes
File photo of Seng Kang Primary pupils jumping over hurdles during a physical education lesson. Introduced in 2004, the lessons aim to inculcate values like teamwork and resilience, and teach the children to win with humility and lose with grace.

THE issue of Singapore's imported sports talent has created a buzz once again ("Developing young talent vital for sporting success" by Mr Edward Tay Wee Meng, Aug 17; and "Give due credit to foreign-born S'pore athletes" by Mr Edwin Pang, July 30).

I was a teacher for four decades, and my experiences with Singaporean parents and the education authorities could shed some light on why our local sports talent have had few successes.

Back then, physical education (PE) was often overlooked in the quest for academic excellence.

In fact, many parents were openly against their children spending time on "wasteful and unproductive" outdoor pursuits.

Closer to examinations, teachers would "hijack" PE lessons to drill students in academic subjects.

This mindset has not changed much, even if some parents are allowing - and even supporting - their children to become outstanding athletes.

The setting up of the Singapore Sports School was a step in the right direction.

Even so, its students are expected to do well academically, and the focus has been on producing all-rounders.

Securing raw talent from overseas might be seen as taking a short-cut to the winners' podium, but this is a simplistic way of looking at things.

A lot of hard work, sacrifice and professional guidance are needed to turn imported sports talent into winners. And these athletes help local talent by being their sparring partners and role models.

It would be helpful if the naysayers suggested means to nudge Singapore forward in the international sporting scene without having to rely on imported talent.

In the meantime, our local talent should be given opportunities to excel in the sporting arena if they have the wherewithal to go the distance.

Ho Kong Loon

This article was first published on August 27, 2014.
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