Renewed passion for sports or still kiasuism?

A sing-and-swim lesson for toddlers at a swim school.
A sing-and-swim lesson for toddlers at a swim school.PHOTO: ST FILE

The ground-breaking victory of Joseph Schooling has kicked off a sporting craze in the local community, especially among budding young talents and their eager parents ("Schooling's win fires up sports ambitions" and "Swim schools gain from 'butterfly effect'"; both published last Thursday).

Local swim schools have witnessed a surge in enrolment inquiries from parents contemplating a sports education for their children.

Traditionally, this choice is often considered risky because of the perception that professional sports is an unstable career.

Most parents are reluctant to enrol their children in rigorous sports training, lest it hinders academic studies - a perceptional safeguard against future income insecurity.

Although the Schooling phenomenon is a positive one for the local sporting scene as well as educational diversity, it is not necessarily indicative of a positive mental shift from our culture of kiasuism.

Many parents are motivated by the competitive mindset of starting young to groom Olympic champions, and some others are looking into sports training to give their children a competitive edge over others in school.

These notions have resulted in the scramble for sports training classes, driven by the desire to replicate more Joseph Schoolings - the contemporary epitome of success.

Masqueraded as ardent passion, this sporting phenomenon is yet another manifestation of our competitive culture, where success and recognition are emphasised over lifelong learning and genuine interest.

We cannot perpetuate the mindset of kiasuism, which leads our youth to become combative, egotistic and results-driven individuals, as much as it can motivate and inspire.

One report said that some swim students have asked to learn the butterfly stroke - considered the most difficult stroke - out of the blue, even if they are still struggling with easier strokes.

Our current social behaviour calls for immediate reflection. Instead of focusing on what Schooling has achieved, students should be encouraged to think about how he has taken steps, one at a time, to fulfil his dream.

Furthermore, we need to learn to appreciate alternative education and career pathways, without referring to material outcome.

Sometimes, it takes a leap of faith to walk untrodden paths, but real passion never fails to bring fulfilment and meaning to those who stand steadfast by it.

Wu Weiying (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Renewed passion for sports or still kiasuism?'. Print Edition | Subscribe