Former national water polo player Yip Ren Kai steps down for SA to reach 'the next level'

Yip Ren Kai spent just over a year as general manager of Singapore Athletics.
Yip Ren Kai spent just over a year as general manager of Singapore Athletics.

He accepted "the call to connect and help local sports" and became Singapore Athletics' general manager in February last year, as the sport faced troubles then.

Just over a year on, former national water polo player Yip Ren Kai has tendered his resignation last Friday, joining a string of those with short stints in the position.

The 36-year-old, whose last day of work is on March 29, believes he is leaving the sport in a better state than it was when he arrived.

"Over the past few months... there have been improvements made not only within the fraternity, but also within the structure of the association," said Yip, who joined on a three-year contract in February last year.

"So it's time to pass it on to someone who can bring the association to the next level."

Of the last four general managers before Yip, Jaime Cheong (March 2016 to January 2018) and former national thrower James Wong (December 2012 to September 2014) lasted the longest.

Yip had joined SA at a turbulent time when it was plagued by infighting between factions in the previous management committee, as well as spats among various coaches, athletes, management and secretariat staff.

Before that, he was appointed by national sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) and the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) as team manager of the track and field team to oversee preparations for the 2017 SEA Games.

A new SA team, led by president Tang Weng Fei, is now in charge after its biennial elections in October last year.

Yip feels SA is now on the right track with the setting up of the coaching structure for different age groups for relays and the rebuilding of relationships with key stakeholders such as sponsors, SportSG and SNOC.

"Within the fraternity, everyone can see that the association is working together to try to improve the sport, so everything is moving in the right direction," said Yip, who will return to the private sector and be involved in the commercial side of sports.

"Taking baby steps will be crucial and being able to get more people and schools participating in athletics would be a key success factor...

"Once the public regains confidence in the association and the sport, there'll be more people competing and more parents allowing their kids to focus on athletics."

Sprinter Shanti Pereira said Yip has "definitely helped SA tremendously".

She said: "I felt that he engaged with the athletes more and encouraged a more athlete-centric environment where the interests of the athletes rose above everything else. It's a pity he's leaving, but I wish him all the best."

SA's vice-president of training and selection Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied added: "He pulled the secretariat together and ensured their welfare was taken care of, and he was also able to work with the different personalities in the management committee."

SA is searching for Yip's replacement in consultation with SportSG, and has already spoken to three possible candidates, said Malik, who stressed the association is not in a hurry to appoint a new GM.

If Yip leaves before his replacement is appointed, his role will be covered by a group including honorary secretary Ang Peng Siong and his assistant Eric Song.

Malik said: "We are keeping our options open and casting the net wide as it is a key position, and we want to get it right.

"We are looking at (someone with) strong leadership, management experience, and someone who is comfortable engaging the different stakeholders... we need somebody who is a people person."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2019, with the headline 'Yip steps down for SA to reach 'the next level''. Print Edition | Subscribe