When the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) appointed former international footballer V. Sundramoorthy as its caretaker national coach last Friday, it took a bold step, yet one wonders whether it was in the right direction.
His ascension to the hot seat marks the first time in 16 years that a Singaporean has been given the top coaching job. If viewed with one lens, it is a victory for those championing the virtues of local coaches. Yet the FAS' insistence on the addition of the word "caretaker" to the job title makes one wonder whether this episode does more harm than good for the advancement of local coaches.
The consequences of the appointment and the job title are pertinent as other sports flirt with the idea of a local as the main person in charge.
In swimming, Gary Tan is tipped to be in line to take over from outgoing coach Sergio Lopez, who will step down after the August Olympics. Lopez is a Spaniard with American citizenship and a breaststroke bronze medallist at the 1988 Olympics. And he endorses Tan.
The virtues of local coaches are also being pondered by the fencing and athletics communities.
In April, Lau Ywen, 16, won the women's cadet individual (sabre) final at the Fencing Cadet and Junior World Championships in France. She credited her coach David Chan for calming her nerves as she fought back from a 2-5 deficit to win 15-14.
At last June's SEA Games, sprinter Shanti Pereira delivered Singapore's first track gold at the biennial regional meet in 42 years. Local coach Margaret Oh, who had been mentoring her for the past seven years, was credited with helping her reach that milestone.
With local coaches getting better access to best practices abroad and having the opportunities to incorporate the latest in sports science, coaching abilities have been raised. Local coaches, with their intimate knowledge of local talent, culture and mindsets, deserve a shot at the top jobs. But they can be deemed a success only if local sports associations have complete faith in them. Faith to not just appoint them but also accord them the appropriate title.