There is growing competition between Singapore schools to build the best sporting programmes in the country, and to give students the education, skills and confidence to train like elite athletes. In recent years, schools in the city-state have launched elite athlete programmes that demand more commitment, training and talent than extra-curricular clubs and school sports teams.
Schools including Australian International School (AIS), Nexus International School, Dulwich College (Singapore), GEMS World Academy and Singapore Sports School all offer a high-performance programme for students pursuing a goal in professional sports. These cover rugby, football, golf, swimming, gymnastics, athletics, triathlon and netball.
AIS says: “AIS is very well-known for both sport and the arts, and we are the only international school in Singapore to offer the Athlete Development Programme for aspiring athletes… We have the facilities and, more importantly, the sporty cohort here to make us very strong in competitive sport.”
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As well as hiring trained PE teachers, schools are bringing in professional, certified coaches with international experience to deliver high-level competitive training. At GEMS World Academy, for example, student athletes have training clinics with Sir Gordon Tietjens, former coach of the New Zealand All Blacks Sevens.
Another ingredient in the recipe for a great sporting education is a well-equipped campus – and international schools in Singapore have some truly outstanding sports facilities. Walk through many school gates here and you’ll find outdoor Olympic-sized pools, climbing walls, gymnasiums, full-size rugby/football pitches, and CrossFit training rooms. Stamford American International School (SAIS) has its own golf academy with putting greens and a swing studio, and Singapore Sports School (which is a specialised independent school with a small international student body) has a badminton centre, table tennis centre, fencing hall, and indoor shooting range.
One of the challenges for student athletes performing at an elite level is how to succeed without sacrificing their academic achievements. IB schools have the option to offer a unique three-year IBDP programme that gives students the opportunity to focus on sport alongside their studies. Singapore Sports School was one of the first schools globally to pilot these scheme – and maybe we will start to see other IB schools here follow suit.
While there is just a handful of Singapore’s 80-plus international schools running an elite sports academy, many more offer an impressive sporting programme as part of the curriculum. As required by UK, US and Australian curricula and IB programmes, students learn skills in football, netball, basketball, tennis and many other team and individual sports in PE lessons and after-school clubs.
Expat students are given a sporting advantage here, and often offered a more extensive sports programme that they would receive in their home country. Swimming lessons are offered year-round at most campuses, with some students learning water safety and swimming confidence from as young as two years old. There are sailing and climbing programmes at UWC South East Asia, golf lessons at Singapore American School (SAS) and SAIS , and ultimate frisbee at schools including ISS and Chatsworth.
One of the newest kids on the block, the GIIS SMART campus is one of the first schools in the world to use the SPEDAS (Sports Performance Enhancing Data Analytics System), which captures students’ on-field performance through digital technology and provides analytics to help them improve.
The school says: “Students will wear trackers/tags during games which will be precisely located by tracking devices to collect data like individual performances, mapping of the sports field and game statistics during intra-school competitions."
Other schools celebrate their national sports. Singapore American School (SAS) offers popular US sports such as baseball and softball; the very British Dulwich College (Singapore) describes cricket as one of the school’s “major sports”.
Some schools are working in partnership with external sports providers to expand their offering of clubs and training programmes after-school. UWCSEA’s East campus, for example, has links with partners in Singapore such as FastBreak Basketball and Dragons Rugby Club. And SAIS offers a soccer programme that’s run by the Real Madrid Foundation Football School.
The Eagles (SAS), The Lions (Stamford American International School), The Dragons (UWCSEA) and The Sharks (Australian International School) – these are just some of the competitive school teams in Singapore all vying for the same trophies. Schools who are members of the Athletic Conference of Singapore International Schools (ACSIS), South East Asia Students Activity Conference (SEASAC), the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asia schools (IASAS), and the Federation of British International Schools in South and East Asia (FOBISIA) can field teams in local, regional and global tournaments. Students from as young as eight can compete in sports as varied as swimming and football, badminton and volleyball.
Click to read more about the sports associations in Singapore.
There’s also plenty of healthy competition in the cross-college tournaments run by some of the global school groups in Singapore. Dulwich College (Singapore), for example, saw its students take part in an Olympiad in London at Dulwich College, as well as the Dulwich Junior Games at Dulwich College in Yangon, Myanmar. Dover Court International School competes in swim meets and football tournaments worldwide with other Nord Anglia Education schools.
Sport education is not just focused on training athletes, either. Schools are using sport to teach students important life skills. For example, Tanglin Trust School focuses on “the learning of transferable skills such as decision making, team work and self-management, giving students the tools to apply their developing skills across different sporting activities.” And SAS expects all student athletes to learn the values of the ‘The Eagle Way’, including determination, sportsmanship, teamwork, and communication.
Also, students who are interested in a career as a sports coach, personal trainer or sports therapist have the option to study relevant subjects. UWCSEA’s Dover campus and Singapore Sports School, for example, offer Grade 9 and 10 students the opportunity to study PE at GCSE level, and Sports Exercise and Health Science under the IB Diploma.
Click here to read a round-up of the leading athlete development programmes in Singapore.