Students on sport in Singapore

Singapore's sporting culture took centrestage in the third of six campus talks featuring Straits Times journalists, in the lead-up to The Straits Times-Ministry of Education National Current Affairs Quiz.

The talk was held on May 23 at Hwa Chong Institution, with students wondering aloud about their about their future in professional sports and the impact of Singapore bringing in foreign sporting talent.

They also asked about overcoming parental objection to the pursuit of sporting careers.

Taking the questions were senior correspondent Rohit Brijnath and sports correspondent Terrence Voon, who did short presentations on the value of fair play in sports and foreign talent in the Singapore sport scene to 1,200 Year 1 students.

During the question and answer session, Henry Lau, 17, asked: 'What do you think is the main reason, main thing, holding back student athletes from becoming pro?'

Mr Voon threw back the question: 'Do you want to be a full-time sportsman?'

Yes, said Henry, a canoeist.

Asked by Mr Voon if he had told his parents, Henry said no.

The reason: 'I think they might think I'm crazy.'

Mr Voon's reply: 'I think you've got your answer right there.'

He noted that despite a handful of million-dollar athletes in Singapore such as bowler Remy Ong and the Singapore's women table tennis team, sport has not reached a level of prestige in Singapore that ranks alongside careers such as lawyer, doctor or engineer.

He added: 'Parents, I think, just don't understand the diversity when it comes to giving their children the latitude to choose what they want to do. We need more people like you, for sure.'

His advice to the young man: 'I suggest you tell your parents soon and see what they say. They might surprise you.'

S Shamitaa, 17, felt that Singapore was more focused on academic than sports and asked how the mindset of parents and students could be changed.

Mr Rohit said that building a sporting culture takes time.

'One of the things that helps parents to change their minds is if they see successful athletes, which is a bit of a problem because if you don't push sport, how do you produce successful athletes?'

He also touched on the issue of passion.

'Most of the time, sport is about passion. Most of the athletes across the world don't always make a great living out of it, they make a decent living out of it but I think they're pursuing their passion. I think they understand that.'

Shamitaa, who has taken part in national-level cross-running competitions, said of the session: 'I think it's effective in getting students to think about, why can't they pursue sport as a career?'

Nathaniel Goh, 17, said he found the talk to be engaging and 'surprisingly captivating'.

'I think both speakers gave interesting points, especially the point on fair play in sports...It boils down to yourself. It's important,' he said.