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Friends for life and sport for life

The ongoing review of the Junior Division sports competitions at the annual National School Games could be key in sustaining young children's interest in sport.

This is especially so if the review, announced by Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng last Wednesday, achieves its objective of providing student-athletes more playing opportunities and game time.

Currently, many students put in six months (or more) of training and hard work, only for their season to end if they lose their first two round-robin or group-stage matches at the schools' zonal level. But all practice and no play does little to keep children keen on sport.

So does losing by big margins - in the preliminary rounds of the ongoing South Zone Junior Division boys' football competition, Radin Mas Primary School defeated New Town Primary School 19-0.

The plan to have tiered competitions, where athletes and teams are grouped according to their different competencies, and modified tournament formats will ensure all students, including substitute players, avoid experiencing a similarly disheartening time on the field.

Currently, the chance to represent their schools is limited only to the best athletes as schools go all out in search of victory. Tiered competitions would grant the rest also this privilege.

The Ministry of Education is also seeking to "reduce perceived stakes of the competitions, while balancing this with the need to instil competition rigour and sporting excellence".

The commitment to sporting excellence is laudable although the thrill of triumph and the disappointment of defeat are the very essence of sport - as well as life.

With playing time increasing, bonds are also set to strengthen, in line with the Government's ideal of sport as one platform to inculcate greater social cohesiveness.

The bonus? These children won't just build friends for life, but also engage in sport for life.