Sports coaches exercise extra caution when conducting one-on-one outdoor lessons

Outdoor lessons are still allowed but limited to one coach and one student. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Sports coaches here say they are exercising more caution while conducting private one-on-one outdoor lessons amid the heightened Covid-19 safe distancing measures that have impacted most physical activities.

Since May 19, all indoor sports and physical activity classes and programmes for youngsters aged 18 and below have been suspended. Outdoor lessons are still allowed but are limited to one coach and one student.

Swimming coach Ling Yao Hui, 42, previously ran classes at private and public pools but now uses only those in condominiums. His fees are about $80 a lesson and his income has dropped at least 60 per cent due to the current restrictions.

He wears a face shield and surgical mask and trains up to three students a day across multiple locations. He said: "The cases now are quite high, but I still need to work to survive. But I cut 50 per cent of my classes for this period.

"I have had to make adjustments. I focus more on teaching endurance swimming so I don't have to get too close to the student. Because when you are teaching kids technique, sometimes you need to hold them."

Mr David Lim, 55, head coach and managing director at Swimfast Aquatic Group, continues to conduct lessons at Anglo-Chinese School( Barker Road) and Methodist Girls' school.

He said: "Currently, we need to stop the cross-transmission of the virus from different schools, different cohorts and different households," he said. "(But) my element is the water and I can't do many virtual lessons as compared with other trades."

In response to queries, a Sport Singapore spokesman reiterated on Wednesday (May 26) that there is no prohibition to holding multiple consecutive classes as long as there is no intermingling before or after each practice session, and coaches are allowed to run lessons at multiple locations.

The spokesman noted that parents and coaches are encouraged to follow the national agency's guidelines on the safe management measures during this period of heightened alert to make informed decisions for their child's activities.

Some parents like Ms Kim Tay, 33, have stopped their children from attending swimming lessons for now. The yoga instructor with two primary school going children said: "We decided not to continue due to the increasing number of school children getting infected. We prefer to wait till the situation is better."

For housewife Jennifer Hong, 52, she is satisfied with the current protocols put in place by Swimfast Aquatic Group, where her daughters, aged 18 and 20, train.

She said: "There is no interaction with other swimmers at all and we leave immediately after the training. The kids enter and leave at different timing so as to minimise interactions, and their swim bags are put at least 1m apart from each other.

"I also ensure that my girls sanitise their hands before and after training too. The Swimfast club has made very excellent arrangements so I am very assured it is safe for our kids to go for training."

Professor Dale Fisher, an infectious disease expert from the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, urged coaches conducting lessons at multiple locations to exercise more caution.

He said: "It's impossible for the authorities to consider every circumstance... so even if it may not be illegal, the coaches and trainers should try to limit lessons as much as they can.

"I understand the financial imperatives but we have to be more sensible at this time. The obvious danger is if the coach or trainer gets the virus and goes around to these different locations and others get infected by him/her.

"And the trainer could always be in an asymptomatic phase so he/she might think they are fine and carry on. There are clear risks, so we have to be more careful."

A tennis coach in his 50s, who wanted to remain anonymous, said demand for private lessons had grown due to students being on home-based learning.

He said: "Of course, there is always a possibility (of risks). We take all the necessary precautionary measures.

"For example, when I found out about the students from Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) contracting Covid-19, I told two of my students from that school that I cannot continue coaching them for this period.

"It is not practical to stop coaching for all the kids, as it is our livelihoods. I am thankful that we have not gone into a full circuit breaker, since many of us were out of a job last year for four months during that period."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.