“The youngsters will have to pull out of school and rely on personal tutors. Each will get a personal coach. They will travel abroad to train and spar, and possibly play in 10 overseas tournaments a year” (Forget School, Play Tennis: STA’s $500,000 Offer, Mr. Ewan Mah).
I read with interest the proposals made by the Singapore Tennis Association (STA) in the article, “Forget School, Play Tennis: STA’s $500,000 Offer” (April 2, 2010), by Mr. Ewan Mah. While the concepts and plans are highly commendable – cognisant of the considerable space for development in tennis – the STA should not overlook potential challenges in the eventual implementation.
Tennis, like many other professional sports, requires the right mix of nature and nurture: aspiring players must possess inherent talents at birth, and dedicated forms of training and conditioning since young. Singaporean players must be prepared to make a plethora of sacrifices – from time with their families to commitments towards their education – should they decide to make their tennis passions a long-term career. This assortment of considerations are compounded by the fact that in spite of the sport’s increasing popularity in schools and neighbourhoods, Singapore’s standards lag behind internationally and even regionally in Southeast Asia.
Nonetheless, putting in perspective Singapore’s infancy and the stern tests ahead, the concerns do not revolve around the STA’s positive intentions and $500,000 offer. Rather, it is imperative for the local tennis governing body to develop a better-rounded long-term plan to ascertain Singapore’s excellence in the sport in time to come.
First, the STA could consider working with the Singapore Sports School (SSS) to include tennis as one of the developmental sports; after all, the institution has been able to groom athletes without compromising their academic pursuits. Next, there should be close case studies made overseas – particularly in countries with exceptional players or outstanding academies – such that certain aspects can be incorporated to the proposed programme. If possible, the STA’s nominees could be sent overseas to special tennis colleges under scholarships to receive customised training catered to the needs of the individual players. Progressively, as the STA grooms a reliable pool of veteran players, coaches – as a possible alternative for players who do not make it on the world’s stage – and trainers through stringent criteria, special initiatives can be introduced to develop players from young.
Ultimately, the sports agency should not be overtly concerned about the dearth of accomplishments, and ignore the need to promote tennis as a leisure and recreational sport. The STA must continue to promote the sports in schools and neighbourhoods, probably coordinate the diverse coaching system, and enhance existing public courts. Medals are important, but nothing beats tennis’s enhanced participation and growing popularity to increase physical fitness and provide wonderful entertainment for Singaporeans.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.