Sydney Tan picked up softball in Primary 3, as part of a compulsory component in physical education classes.
She loved the sport so much that she took it up as a co-curricular activity (CCA) and played for her school, Raffles Girls' Primary School. Her team was crowned national age group champion in 2012 and 2014.
After hearing about the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme from her softball seniors in Primary 5, Sydney and her parents visited schools that were strong in the sport to learn about their DSA programmes.
She applied and was accepted by Nanyang Girls' High School, even though her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) T-score of 249 was below the school's usual cut-off between 260 and 265.
Sydney, 14, who is now in Secondary 3, said DSA can help reduce the stress of juggling academic and co-curricular commitments for school athletes like her. Her CCA training took up so much of her time, she quit tuition for Chinese, one of her weaker subjects.
"I was an average student and didn't do as well as my classmates in primary school," she said.
She welcomed the scrapping of DSA's general academic ability tests. Schools will admit only students with specific talents in sports, the arts or individual subjects from next year. "It opens more slots for those who really want to come in through sports. Those who do well in terms of overall academics already have a high chance of doing well in the PSLE," said Sydney, who aims to make it to the women's junior national softball team.