‘Sports tuition’ a growth field

Young athletes competing in the National Primary Schools Track and Field Championships last mont. Photo: Wee Teck Hian
Parents from Temasek Primary School cheering during the National Primary Schools Track and Field Championships last month. Photo: Wee Teck Hian
Parents are signing their children up for private sports coaching with DSA scheme in mind
Published: 4:12 AM, May 13, 2014
Updated: 2:31 PM, May 15, 2014
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SINGAPORE — When Tiffany Yau took over the baton for the anchor leg of the 4x300m relay finals at the National Primary Schools Track and Field Championships last month, the pressure rested squarely on the 12-year-old’s young shoulders to be first across the line.

With the grit of a seasoned athlete, the Primary Six student from Temasek Primary School sprinted home to the deafening cheers from hundreds of supporters, including her parents.

For Tiffany, and many others like her, the competition to excel in sports is important as it has a bearing on where they will end up in the next academic year.

In the stands, talent scouts from various secondary schools were keeping close tabs, and even before the finals, Tiffany and her parents had already been approached by spotters from Cedar Girls’ Secondary School and the Singapore Sports School with provisional offers to join the schools under the Direct School Admissions (DSA) programme.

Introduced in 2004, the DSA scheme provides an alternative avenue for P6 students to gain admission into secondary schools. Under this scheme, participating schools have flexibility to admit students on the basis of their sporting abilities. As a result, an increasing number of primary school students are taking up private coaching in the bid to be better in their sport.

“All parents want their kids to do well, and go into good secondary schools. We are no different,” said Tiffany’s mother Josephine Yau.

“Top schools in Singapore want all-round students. Academics alone may not be enough these days. (Private coaching) is like tuition, but in sports, to boost a kid’s chances to be better than his peers and gain admission into a top school.”

Tiffany trains up to five times a week for up to two hours each time, supplemented by twice weekly private sports coaching. The result was two gold medals (200m, 4x300m) and a bronze (4x100m) at the nationals, which puts her in good stead for the DSA. “I also have tuition classes around four times a week, but I just have to manage my time well,” the budding sprinter said. “It feels very hectic sometimes, but I see it as a challenge.”

Schools administrators and sports coaches TODAY spoke to are already warning that this growing trend to take on an extra sports load is becoming a cause of concern and can work to the disadvantage of the student-athletes.

Said Nanyang Primary School athletics coach Lim Chee Min: “The primary schools’ sports scene is not just about kids enjoying their sports anymore ... It has evolved into a pressure-cooker situation for some of them. Higher likelihood of injuries and the dulling of a child’s interest in the sport are just some examples I have noticed with students who can be overwhelmed by the amount of training they received.

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