Don't exclude national athletes

Don't exclude national athletes

Mr Koh Tat Meng ("Level the playing field for school sports") and Ms Grace Chiam Che Lin ("Unfair advantage"; both published on Monday) have called for a more level playing field for sports by excluding the Singapore Sports School from national competitions.

While it is important that schools have an equal chance of victory, excluding the Sports School may be detrimental to both sides.

The Sports School trains Singapore's best youth athletes to compete on the international stage. They need competition experience, and taking part in local matches will help.

Mainstream school athletes can pick up best practices and learn from the Sports School athletes' discipline. It will also inspire them to work harder.

However, we cannot ignore the concerns brought up by Ms Chiam and Mr Koh; a level playing field is the fairest way for our athletes to compete for honours.

I have two suggestions to address their concerns.

First, let Sports School athletes compete in older age groups.

The age difference may level the playing field as athletes must compete against more experienced and fitter opponents. It will also allow them to face much tougher competition, fostering an attitude that guards against complacency.

Second, Sports School athletes who compete within their respective age groups may be given a disadvantage or be barred from qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition.

This way, participants can benefit by competing against stronger athletes, but still enjoy a fair chance of victory.

Fairness is important, but it is not the be-all and end-all; the learning experience is equally important in sports. We must keep both in balance.

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