Tuning up for life after sport

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu (second from left) with Team Singapore athletes (in red polo shirt) Peter Kam and Shayna Ng at yesterday's launch of the spexEntrepreneurship programme.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu (second from left) with Team Singapore athletes (in red polo shirt) Peter Kam and Shayna Ng at yesterday's launch of the spexEntrepreneurship programme.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Athletes can tap mentors and resources to set up businesses under new ACE-linked scheme

Team Singapore athletes will have more opportunities to thrive outside the sporting arena as the Sports Excellence Business Network (spexBusiness) rolled out fresh initiatives to support their transition into life after sports.

The new spexEntrepreneurship programme will offer them access to mentorship and resources to set up their own businesses, partnering Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE).

This includes matching athletes with entrepreneurs who operate in the same line or area of interest for one-on-one coaching sessions and providing subsidised office space rental.

Star swimmer Tao Li, who recently launched her own swim school, praised the initiative, which was launched by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday.

"We get to acquire business skills, for example in writing business plans," said Tao, 26, a two-time Asian Games gold medallist. "I hope to meet different kinds of entrepreneurs through networking opportunities and learn from their guidance."

Former national gymnast Lim Heem Wei, 26, is appreciative of the scheme, having started her own private school, Olympic Dreams Gymnastics, to guide the next generation of budding stars.

She said: "Before these schemes like spexEntrepreneurship came up, if athletes needed help, we were really on our own.

"But now we know that there's support and with the schemes which are there, it will benefit us and will make it easier for people to embark on life after sport."

A first-of-its-kind Team Singapore Card was also rolled out, offering discounts and incentives for athletes at retail outlets around the Sports Hub in Kallang.

All former athletes who represented Singapore in a major Games, from as early as the inaugural South-east Asian Peninsular Games in 1959, are also eligible for the card.

Meanwhile, spexBusiness welcomed nine more companies - including sportswear giant adidas and public-listed environmental solutions provider Hyflux - into its fold, which stands at 30 firms from 19 industries.

A total of 62 Team Singapore athletes have been recruited by spexBusiness partner companies either on internships, apprenticeships, part-time or full-time employment.

Para-athletes have benefited as well. Cerebral palsy footballer Peter Kam works in logistics for local sportswear retailer SportsLink, while team-mate Khairul Anwar is set to begin an internship at the Singapore Sports Institute's Coach Development department.

Ms Fu said: "These opportunities offer our athletes the flexibility to work and train so that neither career nor sport has to take a back seat.

"We need more like-minded companies and employers to step forward to support our athletes... they can commit themselves to prepare and do their best for Singapore, whilst remaining confident of their career prospects."

• Additional reporting by Alvin Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'Tuning up for life after sport'. Print Edition | Subscribe