S$20m plan to grow Singapore para sports over next four years

S$20m plan to grow Singapore para sports over next four years
The Singapore Disability Sports Council hopes to get more people with disabilities to play sports, and to develop the next generation of para athletes. TODAY FILE PHOTO
S’pore Disability Sports Council chief lays out ambitious plan to develop and grow disability sports
Published: 11:00 PM, March 20, 2017
Updated: 5:28 AM, March 21, 2017

SINGAPORE — After outstanding showings at the 2015 Asean Para Games and the Paralympics held in the year after, the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) has drawn up a S$20 million blueprint — the most ambitious plan for the disability sports community to date — to build on the momentum of success over the next four years.

The plan will lay the foundation for the development and growth of disability sports in Singapore from this year to 2020, said Mr Kevin Wong, SDSC president and chairman of the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC).

Sharing the details with TODAY ahead of the media launch on Thursday (March 23), Mr Wong said it will look into several key areas: Getting more people with disabilities to play sports and be physically active, strengthening the skills and capabilities of clubs and partners, and building a comprehensive athlete support and development framework.

It will also seek to enhance coaching and technical expertise, improve partnership and collaboration among members and stakeholders, as well as increase private sector involvement.

The proposed initiatives will amount to an estimated S$5 million a year, or S$20 million in all. The SDSC currently receives some S$1.4 million a year in annual funding from the Government, with an additional S$1 million raised via sponsorships and donations. Despite the uncertain economic climate, and competition from other mainstream sports, Mr Wong said he was “quietly confident” that the SDSC will be able to get the corporate sector on board, and raise the funds needed to fully roll out their plans.

He noted that there has been an increase in the number of donors and sponsors in recent years, following the strong performances of para-athletes.

“We are telling the community that this is what is needed, and we will do our best to raise the money,” said Mr Wong. “If we are unable to raise it, we will have to cut back.”

Instead of firms’ corporate social responsibility kitty, Mr Wong wants to target their marketing budgets.

“Our approach is not ‘pity me, please give me money,” he said. “Our sportsmen and women overcame many challenges to be where they are ... many companies have these shared values, they see the value in it and can use it to multiply their brand presence.”

The 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil, saw national para-swimmers Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh winning a record haul of three medals (two golds and one bronze).

Mr Wong, who was voted into his SDSC and SNPC posts last October, said: “We want to inspire the community to be active, have more people (with disabilities) use sports for rehabilitation, and get the country active and healthy. We also need to develop the next generation of athletes, as we cannot always depend on Theresa Goh and Yip Pin Xiu. We need to develop athletes now, rather than wait till the athletes retire (to do it).”

To get more disabled people to try out and play sports, the SDSC plans to start a National Disability Sports Framework (NDSF) where a “Learn to Play Get Active” initiative will allow members to accumulate points based on their participation in activities and programmes in order to claim rewards and incentives.

Members are placed in categories ranging from Level 1 to 10, with Level 1 for registered SDSC GetActive members, and Level 4 for GetActive Gold members who participate in at least six SDSC and SDSC-partnered programmes half-yearly. Mobile apps will be used to allow members to sign up, receive news and updates, and help administrators keep track of membership numbers and participation.

Members who show potential in their sport will be channelled into developmental programmes, which will then filter into the national youth and senior training squads. The goal is to grow participation numbers and build a larger talent pool to choose from.

“We need to grow the sport ... over next four years, our projection is that we must have a base of 3,000 athletes actively training under our NDSF,” said Mr Wong. “By then, our membership should be at 30,000 or 40,000. The key thing is to upscale the sport capabilities of our clubs and partners.”

An Athlete Support Framework has also been established to outline eligibility criteria for funding support, training and development opportunities, with athletes able to receive support grants, occupational grants and medical insurance coverage.

The SDSC also plans to expand the number of sports clubs and interest groups from five to 22 in the future. At present, the SDSC functions as the national sports association for a number of sports, but Mr Wong hopes to recruit passionate volunteers to set up clubs for their various sports.