A Generation of Students Missing Out on the National School Games

In light of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the community, the Ministry of Health announced on 22 January that the commencement of the National School Games (NSGs), originally slated for next month, will be postponed. This would now be the second time that the NSGs are facing disruptions due to COVID-19, having previously been called off in 2020.

Each year, the NSG sees about 60,000 student-athletes across 29 sports. With these games being postponed and possibly being cancelled for a second time, I explore how the lives of many student-athletes have been affected and evaluate the importance of the NSGs.

READ: National School Games to Return in 2021

My initial reaction

Last year, when I first caught wind of the NSG being cancelled, I was in the midst of softball season. My teammates and I were training tirelessly three to four times a week on the field to put on our best performance at the competitions. Naturally, it was a big blow to us to see all of the scheduled games being cancelled and our season screeching to a halt. This was similar to what my peers from other sports co-curricular activities (CCAs) faced too.

The postponement of the NSGs this year leaves me worried that it will be cancelled again for a second year and the effort put in by my schoolmates in preparing for these games, will go to waste once more.

Importance of the National School Games

For many CCAs, the National School Games is an opportunity to pitch their students against those from other schools. These games are important annual events which bring together students from all schools to compete for medals and podium placings. These accolades are often an important motivator for students-athletes. Many of them strive for improvement and give their best during training sessions in hopes of excelling in these games and winning medals. In that sense, the NSGs give a measurable target for students to aim for and chart their performance.

Furthermore, the NSGs provide rare platforms for student-athletes from different schools to connect with each other. It facilitates friendships between like-minded peers, outside of oneā€™s own school. Interactions like these also trains oneā€™s interpersonal skills where we learn how to communicate aptly with peers, some of whom can be our competitors. It teaches us that above competition and winning, it is the friendships and bonds made through sports that matter.

For team sports like floorball, water-polo, and softball, the NSGs promote team-bonding. Through the trials and challenges, joys and celebrations, teams will get the opportunity to strengthen the bonds between teammates. For many students, valuable and lasting lessons of teamwork are taught through these games.

Implications of missing out on the National School Games

The NSGs being cancelled and CCAs taking a hiatus have affected the lives of many student-athletes in 2020. My batchmates in sports CCAs, some of whom are national athletes, have had their training schedules reduced from four times a week to zero. Many of these students, who have been training intensively months leading up to competitions, felt that all of their prior efforts have somehow gone to waste.

Many of these student-athletes were also not used to this sudden change in lifestyle, one even commented that life came to a standstill for him. Due to COVID-19 last year, all his training sessions were cancelled. Seeing this as an opportunity instead, he began exploring his other interests in music and volunteering to teach tuition to primary school children via Zoom.

And for incoming batches of students moving to Secondary school, JC or Poly, these changes to the NSGs might affect their CCA choices. For me, I decided to leave Softball, a sport which I have been doing for four years to join another non-sports CCA. This was due to a variety of reasons, but the lack of NSGs for softball was a big factor. I also took this opportunity to pivot and learn something new from a different activity.

Overall, the cancellation of the NSG came as a big shock for many of us back in 2020. While this has radically changed our experiences in our sports CCAs, it might not necessarily be a bad thing. Teams can still connect with each other through internal friendly-matches or bonding through Zoom calls, and extra time saved from the competitions can be used to develop ourselves outside of sports and forge our own opportunities.

 

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