Thu, Apr 29, 2010
The Straits Times
Leave school sports coaching to teachers

By Santokh Singh, Deputy News Editor

SCHOOL sports have been making headlines lately, but not all of them for the right reasons.

A rugby player, seriously injured in a semi-final match and threatened with permanent disability, had barely moved out of the intensive care unit when a judoka was rushed to hospital for an emergency operation to remove a blood clot.

In between, there was the bad press about a free-for-all at the Schools National Under-17 rugby final, and claims that a bowling coach was biased in his selection of players because he owed money to a parent from the school.

The question being bandied about in some circles is: To what extent is the Ministry of Education's (MOE) policy of outsourcing sports coaching contributing to such routs on the sports field?

Some retired teacher-coaches feel the policy may need a relook. One of them rang me over the weekend to remind me of their dire warnings in the past, and added his analysis: 'For teachers, coaching is a full-time job. It involves coaching the child both on and off the field.

'It is not just about imparting the hard skills to win competitions, it is about inculcating the soft skills that come with the game.'

No doubt such teacher-coaches are biased towards the view that school teachers perform better coaching their wards in sports than do professional coaches brought in just to coach a game. For what it is worth, as a former teacher who used to coach hockey, I also think there is merit in this view.

But let's go back to MOE's reasons for outsourcing sports coaching in the first place. The rationale was that teachers were bogged down with classroom teaching, marking and administrative work. Freeing them from the sports field was meant to help them focus on their core teaching responsibilities.

As not all teachers were qualified coaches, it was felt that the professionals would do a better job in imparting sporting skills. In some schools, teachers who knew nothing of a sport were relying on older students or unqualified old boys to conduct training.

The active outsourcing of sports coaching to professional coaches started more than a decade ago. Today, most schools employ coaches, especially in secondary schools and junior colleges.

Sports like hockey, soccer, cricket and rugby are handled almost entirely by external coaches, most of whom are either former national players or retirees.

Next: The issue of outsourcing >>

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