Coronavirus pandemic

Calm take on axing of NSG

Chan Jing Xuan of Victoria Junior College scoring the first goal in the 1-1 draw with River Valley High School in the A Division floorball final last year. VJC, who won the penalty shoot-out 2-0, will not get to defend their title after the National
Chan Jing Xuan of Victoria Junior College scoring the first goal in the 1-1 draw with River Valley High School in the A Division floorball final last year. VJC, who won the penalty shoot-out 2-0, will not get to defend their title after the National School Games were cancelled yesterday. ST FILE PHOTO

Athletes and coaches crestfallen but look ahead after National School Games called off

While student-athletes and coaches were disappointed with the cancellation of the National School Games (NSG), many said they were not surprised as the inter-school competition had already been suspended twice owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Announcing the move yesterday, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said that there is insufficient time to complete the season within the remainder of this year's school calendar. Students would also not be "adequately prepared for the competitions due to a lack of training", added the ministry.

The NSG, which involve about 60,000 participants across 29 sports, had been suspended since Feb 7 to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in schools and other educational institutions. Its cancellation, said to be the first in the NSG's history, was part of the MOE's announcement yesterday on the easing of Covid-19 measures implemented during the circuit breaker period from April 7 to June 1.

Christ Church Secondary School basketball player Mah Jun Hao was one of those who was saddened by the cancellation.

The 16-year-old said he and his teammates had been following their coach's home physical training programme to maintain their fitness in the hopes of a restart.

Jun Hao, who was aiming to win the NSG title in his final year, said: "It's disappointing because I can't reach the goal. We trained so hard, but because of the virus, we can't play any more. It's too bad."

The suspension of the annual NSG, which typically start with zonal rounds in January and run till August, was initially scheduled till the end of the March 14-22 school holidays.

But it was suspended a second time on March 19, this time till the end of the May 30-June 28 holidays. The school break was then brought forward to coincide with the extended circuit breaker period which will end on June 1.

Netball coach Justin Teh said that many coaches had expected this outcome for the NSG after the A, B and primary school divisions were called off earlier.

Teh, who is also general secretary of the National Instructors and Coaches' Association, said it was disappointing "especially for teams that feel this may be their year to go far or win, and for graduating batches of students".

The initial suspension of the NSG had already been a huge financial blow for sports coaches, and with no school competitions for the rest of the year, many have been forced to seek alternatives to earn a living.

BITTER PILL

It's disappointing because I can't reach the goal. We trained so hard, but because of the virus, we can't play any more. It's too bad.

MAH JUN HAO, Christ Church Secondary School student, on the bid to win the basketball title in his final year.

Track and field coach Shawn Wee said: "With NSG being cancelled... the sad fact is that they don't need us. Now, it's about how to find alternatives and move forward."

The 29-year-old had taken on a temporary job as a venue ambassador at Clementi Sports Hall, one of the sports facilities used to house foreign workers who provide essential services and do not have Covid-19 symptoms. The job is part of national agency Sport Singapore's initiative to help those whose livelihoods are affected by the crisis.

Since last Thursday, instructors and coaches in schools who have had their income disrupted by the suspension of co-curricular activities can opt to get paid ahead of work done, as schools look at alternative ways to hold such classes amid the pandemic.

MOE said schools will explore ways of conducting these activities, such as using e-modes or class-based approaches "when the situation allows for it".

Football coach Razif Ariff has been in discussions with one of the institutions he works with, Singapore Polytechnic, to conduct online training sessions as part of MOE's initiative.

While Razif, who also coaches Kent Ridge Secondary and Jurongville Secondary, is now doing food delivery to make up for the loss of income, he feels that it was the right move to cancel the NSG.

The 34-year-old said: "Football coaches knew it would be called off, but we're not looking at the NSG now.

"This is something we have to work together (for) - it's not just the safety of the boys but everyone in the nation. As long as we are safe then that's fine, I don't see the need to continue."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2020, with the headline 'Calm take on axing of NSG'. Print Edition | Subscribe