IMPACT ON TALENT PIPELINE
Apart from wider societal ramifications, the decline in team sports participation has also been detrimental to the development of young sporting talent in Singapore, said coaches and sports associations.
Mr Douglas Danapal, head of commercial, public relations and communications at the Singapore Rugby Union, said that many students who enrolled into junior college in 2020 had “not played a single match of rugby” in their entire two years there.
This would include students who had entered their respective institutions through the Direct School Admission scheme.
“The attrition rate has been very high, and many schools have slowed down their rugby CCA (co-curricular activity) or stopped it … games are not allowed, and competitions are not allowed,” he said.
Mr Danapal was afraid that due to the lack of game time, Singapore will be less competitive in the sport.
“We are one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that has yet to start full-contact rugby training for clubs,” he said.
Agreeing, Mr Kristian Thorbjornsen, founder of Big Blue Floorball School, said that floorball had been declining in popularity over the last two years due to the heightened restrictions.
Floorball became more well-known here after the Singapore men’s and women’s teams both won gold in the 2015 SEA Games, and the women’s team again won gold four years later.
Mr Thorbjornsen said that over the past two years, his academy had lost about five to 10 per cent of its original student headcount.
He added that Singapore may fall further behind as countries around the world have already started training again, and its players are not getting sufficient game time.
“The Scandinavian countries, for example, have opened up (and started playing games) and are half a year ahead of us. Regionally, maybe it’s not so bad, but at an international level, the gap will widen,” he said.
Responding to queries, the Ministry of Education (MOE) acknowledged that the COVID-19 safe management measures “have indeed impacted the way CCAs, including team sports, are conducted”.
Nevertheless, it said that schools “have adapted and modified their CCA sessions to minimise the disruptions caused by COVID-19, and to continue providing opportunities for students to be meaningfully engaged”.
Since November last year, secondary schools, junior colleges and the Millennia Institute have resumed full CCA sessions, the ministry added.
About 100 secondary schools, junior colleges and the Millennia Institute are also participating in the Team Sports pilot by MOE and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. Under the pilot, about 10,000 students have been able to return to courts and fields as part of this pilot, playing sports such as basketball, floorball, football and netball.