ST Forum Mar 8, 2011: Change This Attitude – School sports is about winning, not passion

The debate over the Singapore Sports School’s (SSP) overwhelming dominance in interschool sports (ST, 4 March 2011 Sports School Bugbear) highlights a problem persisting in schools currently: schools only want to pick sports that they can win trophies in and not to provide students with opportunities to develop in a sports they like.
My son loves basketball and table tennis. His school does not offer these as they have done badly in the sports in earlier years. From speaking with parents whose children are in other schools, this is a common trend. Even when a school does offer a sports, it only want children to be in it for winning competitions. Those who wants to join a sports for the love of it but are not good enough for the school team will be sidelined. The trophies add to the KPIs of the school.
We are sending a wrong signal to children. Singapore is trying to encourage entrepeneurship and start-up companies. In any industry, a start-up will face giants in the form of MNCs and GLCs. Do we then take a defeatist attitude that because there are already giants in the field, we should therefore not be in it? Giants can be defeated with hardwork, passion and innovation, as I have personally experienced in my work taking on established companies as a start-up. We want Singapore to export our businesses internationally. You will face much bigger giants overseas. Do we then stop trying? Israel has a high concentration of innovative companies with world-beating products and they are a small country. Why not Singapore? We lack the resilence and self belief they have. Our kiasu mentality tells us to play only when we have an advantage and to back off when the challenge is too great.
Sure, SSP has lots of resources. All the more, other schools should see that as a mountain they have to climb, as a giant they have to overcome. Motivate your athletes to develop self determination. SSP’s dominance is good for sports in Singapore. Embrace the competition.
Yee Jenn Jong
(Note:  This is original unedited version sent to ST Forum )
—————————— Replies ——————————

 ST Forum, Mar 16, 2011

It’s about love of sport, not winning

IN HIS letter, Mr Yee Jenn Jong bemoaned the fact that many schools tend to drop sports that their pupils do not excel in (“School sport is about winning, not passion”; March 8) . He further suggested that schools should take on “giants” like the Singapore Sports School (SSP) to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit.

The SSP athletes have a distinct and unfair advantage when it comes to national competitions. Aside from the fact that they are a select group, the creme de la creme from primary schools, the environment in SSP is almost ideal for producing champions – top-notch coaches, fine facilities, supportive teachers, tutors, sports psychologists, counsellors, trainers and what have you.

The talented athletes there live sports day in and day out, unlike their counterparts in other secondary schools where developing champions is not a high priority.

While it is true that we must encourage our athletes to be positive and not adopt a defeatist attitude, the conditions must be conducive and reasonably challenging. The presence of SSP in inter-school competition detracts from this and could well have a detrimental effect on the self-esteem of the athletes from other schools.

It is enough for school sports programmes to inculcate in the young a love for the outdoors and physical activity, to develop sports skills and motivation to pursue an active life. That should be their main focus.

Competition and winning are important aspects of sport participation but they should not be the raison d’etre of teaching sports.

Lee Seck Kay


 ST FORUM, Mar 16, 2011

Losing can be as important as winning

SPORTS administrators and management must understand that past glory does not guarantee future success (“Sports School bugbear”, March 4; “School sports is about winning, not passion” by Mr Yee Jenn Jong, March 8).

Every batch is different, just as every student is different. Schools should focus on investing in future potential, not past records. Building a track record takes time.

Basketball superstar Michael Jordan once remarked: “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Under the current system, if Jordan were born in Singapore, he would not have been allowed to fail so many times and might not become the legend he is today.

I think the selection policies behind many sports are flawed and should be reviewed. Students require time and experience to grow and develop in the sports they like. They need to be recognised for their efforts and improvements, more than their chances of winning on their first try.

Do sports administrators understand that losing can be as important as winning?

Tay Xiong Sheng


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