Speech By Mr Richard Seow, Chairman, Singapore Sports Council, At The "Sport Development And Excellence For The Student-Athlete" Conference 2014

23 Jan 2014

Mr Tan Teck Hock, Principal, Singapore Sports School

International Delegates

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1 A very good morning to you. My congratulations first to the Singapore Sports School for celebrating its 10th anniversary. In a short span of 10 years, it truly has made some remarkable achievements but I think they are only now just getting started.

2 This conference this morning represents a milestone for the Sports School and reflects a growing institution that has begun to contribute to the wider sports ecosystem. So I’m very appreciate and thankful for all of you, coming together to make this conference a success this morning.

3 I would like to extend a very warm and special welcome to our friends from overseas who have journeyed from near and far to make this conference a success. I am sure their contributions to this conference are going to be incredibly meaningful and insightful.

Vision 2030

4 With the stresses of modern day living and a more complex world, we believe that sport has the power to change lives for the better and to bring communities together to enhance the quality of life for us all.

5 In 2011, the Sports Council embarked on a journey called Vision 2030. This journey was predicated on the question, “How could sport best serve Singapore?” Throughout that year, we collected views, opinions and thoughts from more than 60,000 people through all walks of life.

6 Live Better Through Sports became our clarion call for Vision 2030.  It was a call with a simple message – individuals, communities, corporate – to use sport to live better.

7 Last year, we released the Vision 2030 report. This is Singapore’s strategic roadmap comprising 20 recommendations on how sport can be a key strategy for individual development, community bonding and nation building. The 20 recommendations are categorised under four broad themes:

  1. Organising for Success
  2. Sport Without Boundaries
  3. Future Ready Through Sport and
  4. Sport as a National Language

Vision 2030: SSP’s role

8 The Sports School plays a special role in Vision 2030 and the sporting ecosystem.

Organising For Success

9 If we are to fully optimise sport as a vehicle to support the implementation of national priorities, we need to collaborate and coordinate the efforts across the private, public and people sectors. ‘Organising for Success’ looks at how we can achieve this.  

10 In 2012, the Singapore Sports Council set up the Sports Pathways Committee. It was one of the recommendations under Vision 2030 and was set up to focus on coordinating and integrating policies and programmes across organisations. The committee looks at developing integrated pathways to create sports champions; shape values and character through sport; create more opportunities for recreational sports in schools; and coordinating the development of sports spaces in Singapore.

11 The Sports School is a very important partner in this effort and through the elite athlete development pathway, the Sport School’s role in developing sports champions must be well integrated with the larger sports ecosystem involving the Singapore Sports Council, and within the Sports Council, the Singapore Sports Institute. Other key stakeholders would include the National Sports Associations, educational institutions and key public and private sector entities.

12 As the Prime Minister shared with us last night, the Sports School will undergo a strategic review with the end objective of best preparing our student-athletes for the competition fields of sport and life. What models provide them with the best environment to train and compete, while providing them the skill sets and the mindset to be successful in life.

13 We are excited and look forward to the review as part of the Vision 2030’s ‘Organising for Success’ efforts.

Sport Without Boundaries

14 ‘Sport Without Boundaries’ is the next theme under Vision 2030. We believe that sport has room for everyone who wants to play, regardless of age, capabilities, gender or social status. Sport Without Boundaries will provide everyone with the sports programming, physical space and people-support they need to pursue an active, healthy life through sports.

15 In being inclusive, the Sports School has taken in disabled athletes Emma Dione Schick and Khristine Quek who both wanted to study and pursue swimming at the same time. Both had gone on to represent Singapore at international meets such as the ASEAN Paralympic Games and the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled. In this sense, sport builds bridges with those who are less fortunate and less abled. Opportunities and access for people, regardless of ability, will allow us to make better use of sport to improve the quality of life for everyone.

16 The Sports School has also made efforts in this direction by developing athletes with a heart. The Sports School and its students have been giving back to the community and I applaud you for that.

17 I am told that the Sports School raised $75,000 for Club Rainbow, a charity helping children who are suffering from chronic illnesses and their families, under the school’s “Project Infinity.” Recipients of the Singapore Pools Sports Excellence Scholarship also help to engage children of low-income workers, to inspire and motivate them to achieve successes in their studies and sports, at the NTUC’s Back-To-School Fair.

18 It is also heartening to note that fundraising efforts have extended overseas. In 2011, the school raised more than $30,000 for Toryo High School in Kenessuma, one of the worst-hit areas by the Japan earthquake. Also, at the annual Thailand Sports School Games, the contingent of student-athletes and staff bring along donated gifts for distribution at the local orphanage.

Future Ready Through Sport

19 A life in sport can help people prepare for a rapidly changing world. Through intentional design, sport teaches resilience and discipline through thought and action. Good sport can offer a parallel pathway to success as it helps people develop the skill sets and the mindsets valued by society. This is the essence of the third theme under Vision 2030 – ‘Future Ready through Sports.’

20 We believe that we can harness the power of sport to build character and provide a truly holistic education. Sport provides us with this unique and integral platform to do this.

21 The focus is not only on medals and podium finishes. We want to also equip and enrich our youth with strength in heart, mind and body. It is in all these fields of endeavour that our elite athletes contribute to the expression of national pride and the aspirations of our people. Our best athletes have an important place in the community as role models, ambassadors and leaders.

22 The Sports School has understood the power of sport to prepare its students to be ‘Future Ready’ and this is clearly seen in their call to develop ‘Learned Champions with Character’.

23 For the Sports School students, developing values and character takes on greater significance as elite sports men and women are leaders and icons in society.

24 The Sports School’s Character Development Programme allows student-athletes to shape their character and values through a range of learning experiences such as workshops, camps and overseas trips. The experiences they gain and the lessons they learn will provide them with the essential life skills that will be foundational as they pursue excellence in sports and excellence in life.

25 My congratulations to those in the Sports School involved for starting an award system to recognise student-athletes with good character, and those who do well academically. Winning and being successful is important but our definitions of success must never compromise our values. As it was so adequately put by perhaps one of the best sports coaches ever to live, UCLA former basketball coach John Wooden, and he had this to say: “Talent is God-given, be humble. Fame is man-given, be grateful. Conceit is self-given, be careful.” So I think it’s truly important that we develop sports champions with character.

26 Sports School alumnus Scott Ang was one of the recipients of this award system and he went on to become a President’s Scholar last August. Besides sterling academic achievements, he has demonstrated leadership qualities and served the community with a heart, both at home and abroad.

27 Scott is now an officer with the Singapore Armed Forces and is currently reading law in Cambridge. We wish Scott well in his endeavours and applaud and encourage the role model that he is. For the Sports School’s teachers, coaches and staff, you have my ultimate respect for developing our student-athletes, and bringing them to their maximum potential as athletes and also as valuable members of society. Your job is only partly done when they achieve sporting success or academic success. It would perhaps take a few more decades after sporting success to see the real fruits of your labour, which will be when they start giving selflessly of themselves to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others and on society. So we look forward in generations to come, for the Sports School students to come back to perhaps become teachers, coaches and valuable members of society.

Sport as a National Language

28 The final theme under Vision 2030 is ‘Sport as a National Language’.  Amongst the four themes, this is perhaps the most easily understood by the man in the street.

29 Sport can unite us as friends, colleagues, competitors and communities while inspiring us as Singaporeans.  We all know what it feels like when our athletes bring glory to the nation at international sports events.

30 The Sports School can feel proud about its role in inspiring Singaporeans and giving them a reason to cheer and to feel good. In a short span of 10 years, Sports School has produced:

  • 4 Olympians
  • 7 World Champions with 7 World Championship titles
  • At the recent Nya Pyi Taw Southeast Asian Games, the Sports School had 37 student-athletes and alumni in Team Singapore, with 20 of them as first-time debutants
  • 272 student-athletes and alumni have since donned Singapore colours to compete in the “Open” category

31 I am confident that the Sports School will continue to produce sports champions who will give us even more reasons to cheer in the future.

SSP’s Role in the Wider Sports Ecosystem

32 Even as the Sports School continues to deliver value to its students, it can also play a larger role in the wider sports ecosystem.

33 As shared, the strategic review of the Sports School will look at how it can play a more effective role in the entire sports national ecosystem.  Over the last 10 years, the Sports School has accumulated a wealth of knowledge in developing and managing a school system that trains elite athletes to reach their full potential. This knowledge is invaluable as we undertake the strategic review.

34 Beyond Singapore, the Sports School is also beginning to play a role in shaping standards and best practices by bringing together international and regional industry experts through conferences such as this. This can only serve to raise the benchmark and help the industry progress forward.

35 I commend the Sports School for also initiating conversations with our international counterparts. Through the EW Barker Endowment, the Sports School has sent their student-athletes overseas for various training stints. The Football Academy has partnered with Japanese Football Club Omiya Ardija providing the Sports School’s footballers with the opportunity to train with them last year. Similarly in 2012, five footballers headed for Japan for a 10-day training stint with top-tiered Albirex Niigata. The tie-up was the first of its kind and training with the youth teams of Albirex Niigata will only benefit the boys in their Long-Term Athlete Development.

36 I am also told that the Sports School had started an agreement with Tenpin Bowling Australia in 2011 where their bowlers would have friendly matches with the Sports School bowlers while en route to the Asian Schools Tenpin Bowling Championship. Academically, the Sports School has tied up with Auckland University of Technology to host the Diploma in Sports Management and Exercise Science for elite student-athletes. Though this programme has ended its run, it has helped many champions such as our swimming queen Tao Li, and helped developed many Learned Champions with Character.

37 Such multinational co-operations are important in raising the overall standards of sports excellence and education both in the region and internationally.

Conclusion

38 Vision 2030 is neither a beginning nor an end. It is an evolution of Singapore’s passion for sport and a representation of our confidence in what sport can do for our country and for our people in the decades to come.

39 The Singapore Sports Council is committed to this vision. Our government has announced last year that it is investing $250 million more in funding for sports programming and doubling the sports facilities investment over the next five years. We will also be creating opportunities for all to enjoy and experience sports.

40 I am happy to see that the conference has brought together so many friends from the international sporting fraternity. I hope that you will remain connected with Singapore and our sports scene even after the conference, and become part of our global network.

41 I thank you all for your kind attention and wish you all a very successful and fruitful conference ahead. Thank you very much.

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