The annual National School Games (NSG) junior division – for ages nine to 11 – has been changed for the better. Kids now have more play time during matches, among other changes (scroll down for details of all the changes).
The Ministry of Education announced this unveiled at the NSG opening ceremony at the OCBC Arena on Jan 23, 2019.
12 sports affected
Basketball is one of 12 sports that will undergo changes in areas such as game formats, equipment, awards and recognition and the use of substitutes.
One change to the format will see each school field three teams of three to five players while games are played in two six-minute periods on half a court. Previously, a team of 12 would contest five-a-side games on a full court in four 10-minute periods.
All three teams earn points for the school, towards a final ranking in the group stages or a result in the knockout stages.
Krupa Palaniappan, a Primary 5 pupil, says: “It’s better because you have more opportunities and more space, so you can play better. Everyone has a chance to play and they won’t think they are bad just because they don’t get chosen to play.”
Also, in track and field, athletes will no longer compete in specialised events such as the 100m.
They will instead take part in a multi-event competition, where they each have to run, hurdle and throw in the same race.
Participants get achievement pins based on how far they throw and how fast they run, for example, instead of their final race positions. Watch the video below to see it in action:
Changes make sense
Former Singapore sprinter and two-time Olympian C. Kunalan lauded this change, saying: “It makes sense; at that age, running 100m or 200m or 300m is crazy. If you are training for these events at such a young age, I feel that after some time you’ll get fed up.
“Of course there will be a couple of young ones who won’t mind doing this forever because they’re just born like this. But how many ‘born-like-this’ kids do we have?
“We don’t want to lose any of the kids too early. This kind of thing will keep the fun element there and they won’t get too injured too early or (suffer) psychological burnout.”
All sports affected by 2021
All 21 sports in the junior division would have underwent the changes by 2021. The process started last year in three sports – golf, rugby and sailing.
This follows the review of the NSG competitions, which started in 2015 and was completed last year .
Tan Chen Kee, MOE’s divisional director of its student development curriculum division, explains: “The review was started because first we wanted to look at our students’ initial encounter with sports and how we can strengthen that – how we can make it a lot more enjoyable, less competitive and how can we adopt a long-term athlete-development view of things and… help the children slowly ease into the competition and the sports.”
Award and recognition systems (individual events)
Top eight performers, instead of the four best, in individual events will be recognised where applicable.
Criterion-based recognition, such as timings for track and field and the number of pinfalls in tenpin bowling, will be introduced in relevant sports.
Competition formats (match-based sports)
Teams will play a classification round followed by a tiered round, where they will compete against teams of similar abilities. This allows weaker teams to double the number of matches they play under the current format.
Sports like basketball and floorball will become smaller-sided games played on a smaller court. This allows players to have more touches of the ball.
Age-appropriate equipment will be used in sports such as tennis so that student-athletes can grasp the proper playing techniques
Substitution rules (match-based sports)
To create more opportunities for more players in match-based sports, most, if not all, substitutes must play at some point in the match.
Watch MOE’s video below on the changes:
A version of this story first appeared in The Straits Times.
Photos: ST, TNP