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Supporting coaches for a more confident nation

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the CoachSG Conference 2018

31 October 2018

Distinguished guests, coaches,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

1. Good morning! A warm welcome to our speakers and to our guests from overseas. I am pleased to join you this morning at the CoachSG conference. As coaches, you are an important stakeholder to MCCY.

2. Our social mission in MCCY is to build a Confident Nation, a Cohesive Society, and a Caring People. My colleagues and I feel a deep sense of purpose as our work lies at the heart of building a nation – a nation that progresses together, stays united in the face of uncertainty, fear and volatility, and there’s a lot of volatility out there as we know. There are many uncertainties confronting us – economic transformation, terrorism, religious extremism, technological disruption that’s changing our lives, and online falsehoods. These are just some of the issues that are constantly pulling at our social fabric, and potentially tearing people apart. How do we build new ties, and strengthen existing ones, with all Singaporeans – so that we can stand closer together and weather the storms ahead with confidence? We see an opportunity in sports to support our mission.

A confident, cohesive and caring Singapore

3. How can we build a Confident nation through sports? When Joseph Schooling won the 100m Men’s Butterfly Final at the Rio Olympics, he gave the nation the confidence that it is possible for a Singaporean to achieve an Olympic Gold. Beyond swimmers and young athletes, Joseph has inspired many of us – to be bold and chase our dreams. When Jason Chee punched his fist in the air after winning the Gold at the 2017 ASEAN Para Games, he inspired us with his fighting spirit – to never give up and to overcome hardships and obstacles in life. Joseph, Jason and all our Team Singapore athletes are role models of powerful values, such as determination, courage, discipline, team work and perseverance. These are the values that we want, not just in our athletes, but in every one of our youths, as we educate and prepare them for the future. Our youths will need to work hard and work together to battle and overcome obstacles, pursue excellence, and achieve their dreams. I am glad that MOE has plans to make our education more balanced and holistic; they are working closely with us in MCCY to do this through sports, along with the arts, heritage and outdoor adventure learning. Beyond the golden moments at the Olympics when we feel a deep sense of national pride when Majulah Singapura was playeda Confident nation is built from our shared experience that reminds us that Singaporeans can achieve the extraordinary.

4. This is where coaches come in. Every single one of you. You play an important role in developing individuals, ranging from participants in recreational sports to high performance athletes. The Government invests about $70M each year in the High Performance Sports (HPS) system that supports our Team Singapore athletes and the development of our National Sports Associations (NSAs). You are a critical part of this HPS system. The field of sports science is advancing quickly – from sports analytics, to nutrition and rest. We will need to continually upskill ourselves to close the gap, and enable our athletes to perform at the highest level. We owe it to our athletes to do so.

5. How can sports build a Cohesive society? Sports has the ability to bring together people from all walks of life. It is a natural setting for us to make friends and build relationships, looking past whatever differences we may have. In my constituency’s football academy, young children of different races and backgrounds come together to play every Sunday. Their parents also form teams to play football. Through sport, we build new relationships and diversify our social networks.

6. Sports is also an alternative pathway for many young people to find success. It is a great social leveller. Through sports, children from humble backgrounds have more opportunities to succeed in life. Some of them benefit economically through careers in sport, while many others benefit from the values they learn through sport. To ensure that talented young athletes have access to an affordable and quality environment to pursue their sporting and academic aspirations, we set up the Singapore Sports School in 2004. It has been heartening to see our youth athletes developing their potential, while learning values such as discipline, perseverance, team work, and the importance of giving back to society.

7. And finally, for a Caring people, we must be inclusive to people of all abilities. Sport provides an additional platform for our fellow Singaporeans with disabilities or special needs to participate in our society, and for the community to engage and support them. Our para-cyclist Emily Tan brought home 1 Gold, 3 Silver and 1 Bronze medals from the Kuala Lumpur ASEAN Para Games 2017, and 1 Bronze medal from the recent Jakarta Asian Para Games 2018, in tandem with a full-sighted cyclist Sarah Tan. The full-sighted cyclists who train with the para athletes are Team Singapore athletes with their own training loads. And yet they spend time training regularly with the para athletes. The coach for the para-cyclist team is Christian Stauffer. Many athletes in the team were personally scouted by him. He has been training the team pro-bono, several times a week for the last five years. I was very happy to see him at a recent event organised by the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, where he was yet again scouting for new talents. He is always looking for new people who could benefit psychologically through sport. Through the promotion and development of disability sports, we can see the best of human nature in full display – empathy, care, tenacity, motivation, kindness, selflessness. Is Singapore better off because of this? Most definitely.

8 .This leads me to the role that coaches play. What you do is much more than teaching the technicalities of the sport; it is more than the physical aspect of the sport, more than the performance on the court, the field, or the pool; it is more than winning the medal or the game; it is a lot more than sport itself. It is about the values you impart; the character of the athletes you mould; and the dreams that you help achieve. Every one of you has a part to play in building a Confident, Cohesive and Caring Singapore.

Support for coaches to “stay ahead of the game”

9. To be better at coaching, you need to constantly learn new skills, refine your techniques, and stay ahead of the game. This year’s conference theme, Coaching Better Every Day, is precisely that. Sport Singapore (SportSG) has been providing opportunities and resources through CoachSG to help you develop professionally. You will be familiar with the Continuing Coach Education (CCE) programme, which supports coaches in upgrading themselves continually to maintain high coaching standards. The CCE has expanded in content and reach over the years. In the past year alone, more than 2,700 coaches have participated in 90 workshops.

10. Coach Beatrice Chan conducted a workshop on International Table Tennis Federation’s rules and regulations to 20 fellow table tennis coaches; Coach Condrey Liu conducted workshops for over 40 swimming coaches and course facilitators for the recently launched SG-Coach Integrated Programme (Swimming) level 1.

11. If financial support is needed, SportSG has the Coach Development Grant to help coaches develop their skills in areas like disability sports and youth sports. One of the Grant recipients is Danny Ong, who specialises in coaching swimmers with special needs. The Grant helped to support his further development under the International Paralympic Committee academy educator programme, as well as other swimming programmes for persons with special needs.

12. Beatrice, Condrey and Danny illustrate how the coaching fraternity have been sharing their knowledge and experiences as a community of practice. We look forward to supporting more coaches in their journey of lifelong learning.

Everyone has a role in supporting safe sports

13. I would like to next touch on the important topic of SafeSport. I am sure we have taken note of the sexual transgressions committed by team doctor Larry Nasser in the US Gymnastics. Nasser had repeated his abuse for over twenty years before the law caught up with him, even as the initial complaint against him came as early as 1997.

14. In Singapore, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), SportSG and 59 of our National Sports Association (NSAs) have joined forces to lead the charge for SafeSport in Singapore, starting with their joint statement in April this year. In their words, “Harassment of any nature, especially sexual misconduct, in sport is never acceptable.”

15. Thousands of our coaches have attended SportSG’s Values & Principles in Sport Workshop, and pledged their commitment to the Coach’s Code of Ethics. SportSG has been working with the NSAs to articulate what it means to practise safe sports, including appointing Safeguarding Officers to coordinate safe sport efforts. Other initiatives are expected to follow.

16. SportSG will be partnering the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore Police Force and Ministry of Education to form a SafeSport Commission in 2019. The Commission will develop guidelines to help the sports fraternity have a better understanding of best practices, and establish a reporting process for abuse.

17. I want to emphasise that, at the heart of the issue, everyone – coaches, teachers, parents, officials, and even the athletes themselves – has a part to play in SafeSport. First, all of us have to be vigilant and pay attention to what is happening around us in training and during competitions. If we see or sense something amiss, we need to raise this with the appropriate authorities. Second, we need to ensure a safe space for those affected to share their concerns without fear or discrimination. Everyone in the fraternity has a responsibility in ensuring a safe environment in sports. Why? Because the public has placed their trust upon us, so we owe it to the public to uphold a high standard of professionalism.

The road ahead for sports in Singapore

18. Each and every one of you touches the life of someone else through sport. Whether you are opening the doors to sport for the young ones; moulding characters through team sports in schools; or developing the next generation of sports stars, you are in a privileged position to influence, motivate and nurture. The coaching fraternity is a key pillar in our Sports Vision 2030 masterplan. As we scale the next peak together as One Team Singapore, we call on you to support SportSG by coaching better every day and upholding a high standard of professionalism. Let me end with a quote by American youth motivational speaker, Josh Shipp – “Every child is one caring adult away from being a success story.” May you be the caring adults who nurture our next generation of successful athletes. Thank you very much!

 


Last Updated: 31 October 2018

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