Speech by Mr Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development at the Committee of Supply Debate 2023
06 March 2023
Sir, sport helps us unwind and stay healthy. It helps us keep fit physically and mentally and encourages social interactions. This is why sport should continue to be a part of our Singaporean way of life.
Sports as a Way of Life
Sports Facilities Master Plan
Ms. Hany Soh, Mr. Xie Yao Quan and Mr. Mark Chay asked about sports facilities that will be constructed and upgraded, as well as plans to make these facilities accessible to persons with disabilities and seniors.
Easy access to sporting facilities will help us adopt sports as our way of life, and we have been pursuing this through the Sports Facilities Master Plan (SFMP).
The master plan is a multi-year effort to refresh infrastructure, increase residents’ accessibility to sports facilities and encourage social mixing.
We will ensure that our rejuvenated and new facilities cater to seniors and persons with disabilities. To-date, SportSG has retrofitted swimming pools in six ActiveSG centres with ramps for wheelchairs and has set up eight inclusive ActiveSG gyms. We are on track to make all 27 gyms inclusive by 2026.
Through the SFMP:
Residents in Jurong will have greater access to sporting facilities when the ActiveSG Sport Village @ Jurong Town opens in the first half of 2023.
Residents in Sembawang and Punggol East will also enjoy Sport-in-Precinct (SIP) facilities, with further projects expected to open in Nee Soon Central, Woodlands and Gek Poh in the coming months.
Rejuvenation works at Delta and Choa Chu Kang Sport Centres are also in their final stages. Both centres are due to open in the first half of this year.
We will also bring more integrated sport and community hubs to residents.
One such example launched last year is Bukit Canberra, which will feature facilities such as an indoor sports hall, swimming pools, gym, fitness studios, a hawker centre, and a polyclinic.
We also launched the roadshow for the Toa Payoh Integrated Development last month. This would be an exciting lifestyle destination, comprising event spaces, sporting facilities such as a gymnasium, more badminton courts, a revamped swimming complex, as well as a new library. These will be ready by 2030.
SportSG has also been working closely with MOE to expand the Dual-Use Scheme (DUS) to provide Singaporeans with convenient access to schools’ sports facilities. To date, these include around 230 school fields and indoor sports halls.
National Registry of Exercise Professionals
Mr. Xie Yao Quan asked what the ministry’s plans are to help exercise professionals refresh and update their skills. Indeed, certified exercise professionals with relevant accreditations play an important role, especially as more Singaporeans adopt sport as a way of life. To help professionalise the sector, we will launch the National Registry of Exercise Professionals (NREP) in three phases.
From April this year to March next year, we will support our exercise professionals to upskill by providing free membership to the National Instructors and Coaches Association (NICA).
This provides them with access to training support and grants, amongst other benefits.
To register, exercise professionals need to produce the following:
One, Standard First Aid with AED & CPR certification;
Two, code of ethics acknowledgment; and
Three, relevant fitness/exercise accreditations such as Personal Trainer, Yoga, Zumba, or general ones like group fitness instructor.
From April next year, government agencies who hire a sizable number of exercise professionals including Sport Singapore, People’s Association, Health Promotion Board, and Ministry of Home Affairs will only hire exercise professionals registered under the NREP.
This will ensure a certain level and consistency of qualifications amongst all exercise professionals who conduct programmes that are run by government agencies for the public.
A later phase will see NREP strengthening the accreditation framework. Further details of the requirement for a Basic Exercise Science certification and continuous education framework will be released by SportSG in due course.
Through the NREP, we hope that exercise professionals will be equipped with relevant accreditations to raise the overall quality and safety standards of the fitness industry.
Sports as a Fuel to Unite
Update on Major Games
Sir, sport ignites national pride. Mr. Mark Chay asked about our plans to ensure that our athletes are well-supported in 2023; a packed year where our athletes will represent Singapore at the Cambodia 2023 SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games, as well as the deferred Hangzhou 2022 Asian and Asian Para Games. Behind the scenes, our preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris 2024 are also in full swing.
Grooming a champion is a multi-year effort and journey that requires holistic support as the athlete progresses.
We work closely with the National Sports Associations (NSAs) and design this support on a multi-year basis so that we continually identify, develop youths and prepare a pipeline of athletes who can excel at the Major Games.
With this in mind, we will send around 570 athletes to the Cambodia 2023 SEA Games. For many sports, we are sending more athletes than in previous overseas SEA Games. This speaks to our aspirations to provide more opportunities to our athletes, especially our young ones, to achieve their potential.
A lot is asked of our athletes.
In terms of psychological support, the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) and the National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) proactively monitor our athletes’ mental health. Ahead of major competitions, dedicated teams of sport psychologists and Athlete Life personnel provide one-on-one consults and impart skills to athletes so that they can cope with mental and emotional issues.
I call upon Singaporeans to rally together and give Team Singapore athletes our fullest support!
Expansion and Elevation of Hall of Fame
Today’s sporting heroes are often legends of tomorrow. Mr. Darryl David and Mr. Mark Chay asked whether MCCY intends to review the criteria for athletes to be inducted into the Singapore Sports Hall of Fame and whether MCCY would consider the inclusion of coaches and administrators.
Chairman, the Singapore Sport Hall of Fame was set up in 1985 to honour our top sportsmen and sportswomen, instill a sense of pride among Singaporeans and inspire our budding athletes to emulate the outstanding performances of its inductees. However, it is not only strong medal performances that we wish to recognise.
First, several of our top athletes make sustained contributions to their sport and the community after they retire from active competition. We appreciate and recognise these contributions on top of their achievements as active athletes.
Second, the success of our athletes and the overall development of Singapore sports owe much also to the contributions of sports administrators, coaches and scientists, among others. To honour such individuals who have made extraordinary contributions over a significant period of time, we will include a new category for Sport Leaders in the Singapore Sport Hall of Fame.
To elevate the Singapore Sport Hall of Fame as the sporting-equivalent of our Cultural Medallion, I am also pleased to announce that our President will give out the awards starting from this year.
Sports as a Force for Good
Finally, Chairman, sport can be a force for good. As Singapore evolves to be an even more inclusive society, sport must continue to play a key role in our community and way of life.
TeamSG Gives Back
Mr. Mark Chayasked how MCCY promotes philanthropy within our sports culture, including through Team Singapore Cares, that was set up in April last year.
Through TeamSG Cares, former and present athletes can participate in various giving initiatives or start their own charity or social pursuit for causes close to their hearts.
Since the launch of TeamSG Cares, our athletes have been involved in weekly initiatives. These include sport clinics (such as boxing, bowling, football), weekly food distribution activities, school engagements, talks to underprivileged youths, and fund-raising activities for the President’s Challenge.
Sport Singapore’s SportCares initiative also uplifts underserved and underprivileged communities, and I would now like to share how the programme has helped this young man, Abdul Thaslim.
Thaslim is the eldest of 3 siblings. His parents are both blue-collared workers and he has a younger sister with disabilities.
Thaslim started out in SportCares in 2013 with the Saturday Night Lights football programme and later moved to the SportCares’ CareRunners Programme, when he discovered his passion for running. Growing up, finances often weighed on Thaslim’s family. At one point, Thaslim even contemplated discontinuing his studies so he can help support the family financially.
With encouragement from his mentors in the SportCares programme, Thaslim pressed on. He subsequently enrolled into the Youth Coaching Development Programme to fulfil his aspirations of becoming a coach. Inspired by those who had modelled the values of volunteering to him, Thaslim is now an active youth coach at SportCares, and even volunteers with his local Youth Network.
I am extremely proud of Thaslim and wanted to share his story with everyone to showcase how sport can be a force for good.
Disability Sport Master Plan
Ms. Cheng Li Hui, Mr. Darryl David, Mr. Mark Chay, and Mr. Xie Yao Quanasked about efforts to improve accessibility and inclusion in sports and how the Disability Sport Master Plan (DSMP) can spur greater sport participation among persons with disabilities (PwDs).
Launched in 2016, the DSMP has contributed to increased sport participation rate among persons with disabilities, with the participation rate rising from 28% in 2015 to 50% in 2019.
Together with partners such as the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC), Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) and Special Olympics Singapore, SportSG has done so by introducing a range of programmes, including learn-to-play programmes and the annual Play Inclusive campaign, reaching out to more than 18,000 persons with disabilities to date.
The Play Inclusive Campaign, supported by the Ministry of Education, promotes inclusion through shared sporting experiences. Through Play Inclusive, both persons with and without disabilities from the Special Education and mainstream schools train together before participating in unified sports such as goalball.
To better prepare coaches and trainers to coach individuals with disabilities, the DSMP has further developed professional coaching and technical expertise in disability sports. In partnership with the International Paralympic Committee, SportSG has facilitated training in coaching and technical courses and grown the pool of disability sports coaches in Singapore. CoachSG has incorporated modules on disability sports, such as inclusive coaching practices, in its Community Coaching curriculum. SportSG has also worked with the Republic Polytechnic on Continuing Education and Training courses to upskill more than 200 coaches in disability sports coaching since June 2020.
Sir, I spoke about our young Boccia athlete Aloysius Gan’s indomitable human spirit in my MSF speech last week. Today, I would like to talk about this young man again, this time from a sporting perspective.
Aloysius was introduced to Boccia when he was just seven years old, when his teacher noticed his cognitive abilities and recommended that he take up Boccia as his CCA, even though Primary 1 students typically could not join.
In 2021, Aloysius made his international debut at the Asian Youth Para Games.
Aloysius went up against the top ranked South Korean player (who was selected out of a few hundred under-21 players) in the pool stage and lost to him. But they had a rematch in the finals and Aloysius managed to beat him and grabbed his first gold medal in an international competition.
During the Boccia World Cup in Nov 2022, Aloysius also beat more experienced players who were ranked 5th and 8th in the world to advance to the quarterfinals. Merely over a year after his international debut, Aloysius now ranks 18 in the world, and this is a 16 year old we are talking about. Truly an extraordinary achievement, truly inspiring.
With the recent launch of the Enabling Masterplan 2030, it is timely that we review the outcomes of our DSMP initiatives and update our strategies to better support persons with disabilities in sports participation.
This year, we will hold focus group discussions with partners and stakeholders to harvest more ideas of how we can do so.
By updating the DSMP and with the support of all our stakeholders, we will work towards our 70% target for sport participation among persons with disabilities under the Enabling Masterplan 2030.
Sir, last weekend I was at the National Para Swimming Championships held at the OCBC Aquatics Centre. World class venue. World beating para swimmers. And I met many of them, both current and retired: Sophie Soon, her brother Colin, Paralympic bronze medallist, Theresa Goh, Darren Chan, Wong Zhi Wei, many proud parents, and family members who were all there, rooting for the para swimmers.
But, in an ideal world that I envision, there would be many more spectating and cheering on our para swimmers. Allies of the disability community, whether or not they have a person with disabilities in their families or otherwise. In an ideal world, we should see persons with and without disabilities, enjoying a game of basketball together, able-bodied individuals enjoying goalball with visually impaired players, without curious stares, without the awkward moments of being overly polite. In fact, in an ideal world, a ‘para-athlete’ should perhaps simply be called an ‘athlete’!
Sir, to conclude, there is a saying that “staying active starts with me”. However, if you allow me to be grammatically incorrect, I would like to say that sport being a Singaporean way of life starts with I. 3 ‘I’s, for that matter.
Invigorating – where sport can help us to unwind and stay healthy