National sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) will work with the various national sports associations (NSAs) for team sports to strengthen their pipeline of talent.
But, if an exceptional talent is unearthed before his or her team are ready to strive for success at the international level, "there is a need to think about interventions" to support such prodigies, said SportSG's chief executive Lim Teck Yin.
He was speaking in relation to a statement SportSG issued last week in reference to the Ministry of Defence's decision to reject footballer Ben Davis' request for National Service deferment. Mindef stated its belief that the family had no intention of ensuring the 17-year-old, who signed for English club Fulham, would fulfil his NS duties.
Then, SportSG noted it "will work with our NSAs to ensure that there are specific whole team strategies that would enable more coherent support to be delivered".
"What needs to happen (in such cases) is we need to wrap (around the athlete) a campaign plan, that makes sense for the national team at that age group," said Lim, on the sidelines of an event at Heartbeat@Bedok yesterday.
"If I just take you as an individual and say that you are very talented, and we just want you to be the best that you can be; that is the role of the NSA, the parents, the coach and the athlete.
"But I have a role, to ask what is the context and where that performance will matter to Singapore? That context has to be vested in competition - which one, which year and how will the other pieces come together?"
Lim noted that the "intervention" method will go hand in hand with the growth of the team sport's development pathways, which ideally should be overseen by experts from both the NSA and SportSG.
In team sports wanting "to take the next leap", Lim added each sport presents a different set of conditions, from level of ambitions, ability of a team, as well as the "eco-system" of the sport, both locally and internationally.
"We do need to look at the pyramid that represents the (developmental) pathway and see how that is prepared technically, scientifically and tactically," the former national water polo player said.
"Even being able to map out how many games a year your pipeline of athletes in team sports need to have is something that we need to be able to nail down, and work through a strategy of leagues and international competitions.
"There are many dimensions to this equation; it is not so simple to just say, 'Let's put seven players overseas and the rest just play in the local league'... how many players need to be based overseas and which countries are they likely to be able to flourish in?"
SportSG's role is also to augment the NSAs' efforts by working with schools or even the agency's own networks for overseas placements and opportunities.
Lim acknowledged this is an evolving process and noted: "From an idealistic perspective, we want every athlete to reach their potential... but for team sports, it is not just one athlete, but the whole team that need to come together.
"Sport Singapore needs to work with NSAs to place (the athlete) in the right context in order for the strategy to be delivered.
"We can deliver a long-term (developmental) strategy so that whenever we need to send a team, you always have a great one but, when you are at the stage of interventions, we need to be very specific to context."