Forum: Sports can improve lives of people with disabilities

A dragon boat team made up of visually impaired paddlers from the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped as well as volunteers.
A dragon boat team made up of visually impaired paddlers from the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped as well as volunteers.PHOTO: ST FILE

Initiatives such as the DB Hearts dragon boat challenge promote social inclusiveness and unity through sports, and encourage persons with disabilities and special needs to lead better lives through sports (Beyond winning, Nov 25).

Regardless of social status and whether or not one is able-bodied, sports activities are a powerful enabler that positively impacts lives.

For instance, training in martial arts has been shown to have a positive influence on self-perceptions of competence in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In his New York Times bestseller It's How You Play the Game: The Powerful Sports Moments That Taught Lasting Values to America's Finest, former presenter for the Ultimate Fighting Championship and author Brian Kilmeade articulates well that "sports is the best classroom for life".

Indeed, sports impart values which are applicable to everyday life.

Besides the benefits to mind and body, sports also instil desirable traits such as discipline and self-regulation, and help reframe failure and victory not as end states but rather as learning opportunities for participants to recalibrate and improve themselves.

Worthy initiatives such as DB Hearts Challenge are good examples of the Enabling Masterplan - Singapore's roadmap for a more inclusive society, where persons with disabilities become integral and contributing members of society - in action, and should be given more support.

One way could be by dovetailing such grassroots initiatives with national initiatives such as the Disability Sports Master Plan for greater synergy. In Australia, for instance, the Australian Football League's All Abilities programme supports persons with disabilities to live better through sports from the grassroots to the state and national levels.

This would truly be a fitting testament to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's vision of using sports to unify Singaporeans to live better regardless of race, language or religion.

Woon Wee Min