Finding urban youth sports' place in Singapore's broader landscape

Singapore skateboarder Farris Rahman believes there must be greater focus on the elite levels of urban sports if the Republic wants to succeed in this area. He was a guest panellist at the Youth Athlete Development Conference hosted by the National Y
Local skateboarder Firdaus Rahman demonstrating some skateboarding tricks during the Youth Athlete Development Conference hosted by the National Youth Sports Institute on Friday (Nov 3). Firdaus' younger brother Farris was a guest panellist at the conference.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Sport Singapore (SportSG) is not ignoring the potential of urban youth sports such as skateboarding and e-sports, but its chairman Richard Seow stressed that what support the local governing body of sports can offer must also take into account the larger sporting landscape here.

"It's something that we need to be cognisant of because if more and more youths want to play these sports, it's something that's positive," he told The Straits Times yesterday.

"But in the whole broad sports landscape, there are many sports that need attention, many sports that have a big level of support, spectatorship, viewership and participation at the grassroots level."

Naming track and field as an example - Singapore won two out of the 45 athletics golds on offer at the August SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur - of a sport that can reap better returns if it "gets (its) act together and apply (itself) more efficiently", he added: "We have built a lot of 400m tracks in Singapore and there are many different athletes, how can we help them?

"So it's not a question of just looking at eSports or the new urban sports just because they're coming up.

"It's looking at the whole landscape and a lot of it will be driven by popularity."

Seow was speaking on the sidelines of the Youth Athlete Development conference, which was part of a three-day Singapore Sport Science Symposium that attracted over 200 participants.

Organised by the National Youth Sports Institute and held at *Scape, the conference featured a guest panel that included local skateboarder Farris Rahman and professional e-gamer Vikash Singh.

With the inclusion of skateboarding, BMX freestyle, 3-on-3 basketball and sport climbing at the next Olympic Games in 2020, as well as e-sports at the 2022 Asian Games, one of the topics of discussion was the role and culture of urban youth sports here.

To Seow, any activity that promotes a healthy and active lifestyle and engages people in movement is one that SportSG can get behind.

He said: "Any viable sport out there that's recognised as a sport, I think it's in our interest to figure out how we go in and support - with the overarching emphasis being we want a healthy, active community that continues to play and engage in sports so they can be healthy."

Farris, who was second at the 2011 Asian X Games - equivalent to the quadrennial Asian Games - while older brother Feroze won the gold, believes there must be greater focus on the elite levels of urban sports if the Republic wants to succeed in this area.

"Singapore's focus is more towards mass participation. That's why you don't really hear about all the other athletes who are doing really well in their sports... that's the one thing that has to change," said the 23-year-old student, who is sponsored by Red Bull.

"The athletes are here and they're doing well, it's just a matter of (whether) they get the right support. For e-gaming and skateboarding, most of our support comes from private companies."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2017, with the headline 'Finding urban youth sports' place in Singapore's broader landscape'. Print Edition | Subscribe