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Why It Matters

Academies good for Singapore sports

By February, national agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) will be running four ActiveSG sport academies, a grassroots initiative which provides affordable programmes for budding athletes.

While some have lauded this move, others have pointed out that it is spoon-feeding national sports associations (NSAs). After all, promoting their sport should be a primary function of NSAs.

That the first four academies include football and tennis, two of three sports which failed to garner a medal for the nation at last year's Singapore SEA Games, hints at the project's objectives.

Be that as it may, the academies, and SportSG's ambitions to cover 25 sports by 2021, can only be good for Singapore sports.

The programmes, which are detailed and well structured, provide a clear pathway for athletes to not only improve their skills, but also remain in the sport for the long term. For instance, the athletics academy caters to athletes up to age 24, while there will soon be a new football programme catering to children aged 13 and above, in addition to the current scheme for children up to 12 years old.

Sports coaches often lament the challenge they face to keep youngsters keen, especially in a time when distractions and commitments are manifold.

SportSG officials are also hitting all the right notes by going for recognisable faces as coaches, which boosts the academies' credentials. This will encourage parents to sign their children up for a programme that requires them to train up to three times a week. Former national striker Aleksandar Duric and three-time Olympian Luis Cunha lead the football and athletics set-ups, respectively.

It makes sense for an authority like SportSG to run the academies. An NSA's executive committee faces re-election every two years, and this might limit the scope of its planning. Furthermore, as SportSG chief executive Lim Teck Yin observed, there is "room in the sport ecosystem for other players".

Whether this breeds complacency in NSAs remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure - Singapore's athletes win.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2016, with the headline 'Academies good for S'pore sports'. Print Edition | Subscribe