I am glad that there has been a concerted effort in featuring most of our athletes in the run-up to the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. It gives them the recognition they deserve which would hopefully drum up more support for them. However, I am puzzled by this feature from Today.
Any sport requires a combination of athleticism and craft. Excellence is achieved through years of practice and discipline. It is a career in its own right; one that starts rather early. This is why I am puzzled by the need for these netball players to have a day job. It would certainly surprise any athlete from abroad that some of our athletes only train three to four hours a day. More importantly, regardless of how doggedly resilient they are, having little rest would affect their performance in both the sport and their day jobs.
Why would they do this? Three possible reasons come to mind.
(1) They really want it.
If that is the case, then props to them. While I personally feel that they should focus on their sport, given that an athlete's career is short and netball has fewer opportunities for competition (they are not included in the Olympics yet), they should be free to pursue their own goals. I am also glad that their employers and coaches are understanding in this regard.
(2) They want to make ends meet.
I really hope this is not the case. If it is, then it is a disgrace that a country can spend billions and expedite construction only to have a stadium with a leaky roof, or millions on the opening ceremony and publicity campaigns, but not pay their players well.
The time and energy invested in training are definitely the same, if not more, than their counterparts in the corporate world. They also risk injuring themselves which might have a permanent effect on their health.
(3) They are doing this in preparation for a career transition once they retire from the game.
This is a tricky one. We must not assume that they would necessarily want to stay in sports or be a coach after they hang up their jerseys. Though, as a point of interest, I wonder whether the sports industry is able to absorb all of them should they choose to stay.
While the Singapore Sports Council should be commended for their SPEX education and career scheme, the ideal would be for the athletes to worry about their careers only after they have retired. Of course they should plan for their career transition but they should not have to handle such an arduous juggling act. What little time they have outside of practice should go to spending time with friends and family.
I wonder if, after the cameras and sound recorders are switched off, the reporter asked why they wanted to juggle two careers.