Youth get chance to volunteer via sport

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and former national footballer Aleksandar Duric at an SGfuture engagement session held at Velocity@Novena, where Play It Forward, an initiative that will offer youth a chance to give back through spo
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and former national footballer Aleksandar Duric at an SGfuture engagement session held at Velocity@Novena, where Play It Forward, an initiative that will offer youth a chance to give back through sport, was launched.PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE

Play It Forward initiative aims to allow them to volunteer at ActiveSG academies and clubs

Like many 17-year-olds, Tan Tuan Wang often felt like an aimless teenager, one prone to making bad decisions. That all changed after being a part of Saturday Night Lights (SNL), a football programme aimed at improving the lives of underprivileged and at-risk youth.

Three years on, he is now an assistant coach in the SportCares programme and wants to pay it forward - by "playing it forward".

The 20-year-old is signing up to be a volunteer coaching assistant under Play It Forward, an initiative that will offer young people the chance to give back through sport.

Launched yesterday by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, it will equip youth with the skills and chance to volunteer at the various ActiveSG academies and clubs.

The first batch of volunteer coaching assistants will do so at the ActiveSG football academy under principal Aleksandar Duric, a former national footballer.

Said Tan, who will graduate from Republic Polytechnic with a diploma in sport coaching in May: "SNL helped me become a better person and make better decisions. The coaches guided me as a person and I just want to give back.

"Through the skills I got from my coaches in SNL, I can change other people's lives, be their anchor and help them make better decisions (too)."

The initiative, backed by Sport Singapore and the National Youth Council (NYC), is largely inspired by the SGfuture dialogues held so far, where sports volunteerism and the engagement of youth through sport emerged as a pet topic.

Said Ms Fu: "Sport has the ability to bring people together, regardless of background...

"This effort is highly commendable, and shows a way forward in how we can develop more programmes together for Singaporeans and Singapore."

Added David Chua, chief executive of the NYC: "This tells our young people that there are many ways of giving back. It can be through your interest, your cause, or in this case, through sport.

"This is a chance for older youth, or adults, to... be part of a mentorship and role-modelling process."

Open to youth above 16, the Play It Forward scheme will also extend to the tennis, athletics and basketball academies and clubs that ActiveSG will roll out this year.

To cater to the first intake of the football academy - about 700 to 1,000 children under 12 are expected to register - Duric is hoping to recruit about 50 volunteers to help him coach.

But it is not just competency or interest that he is looking at.

Said Duric, who will help interview applicants for the positions: "There are a lot of kids who don't get the chance to play. We are here to give everybody the opportunity to play and learn football. Kids are our future - they're precious. They should have coaches who are passionate and who can give them love."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'YOUTH GET CHANCE TO VOLUNTEER VIA SPORT'. Print Edition | Subscribe