Beyond the obvious physical benefits of sports, these top schools give us the lowdown on their athletics programs and why it's important to get kids on the field.
We get it – if we want our kids to succeed, we need to find ways to give them the best education possible so that they get the grades they need to get into the universities of their choice. But here’s some news: top universities are looking for more than just great academic results in their potential students. They want kids who are well-rounded, who excel not just inside the classroom but out of it as well. One way to do it? We say get them into sports. Not only will it benefit our children physically, sport also helps our kids learn important lessons they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. We speak to experts from top international schools in Singapore to get the lowdown on their athletics programs and to learn more about the benefits of getting kids involved in sports.
GESS – International School
What’s new with GESS – International School’s swimming programme?
GESS – International School welcomed a new Head of Swimming, Ivan Bunakov, to strengthen its world-class swimming programmes. Coach Ivan holds the Level 5 American Swimming Coach Association Certification (the highest coaching certification) and has expertly coached several international gold medal swimmers. The GESS Swim Programme is not limited to talented student-athletes, but for the wider school community as well.
What are the school’s latest achievements in swimming thus far?
In less than a year, Coach Ivan has led the GESS Swim Team to clinch several medals at notable events. This includes the Singapore Swimming Association’s Major Game Qualifiers, International Feeding Frenzy Swimming Championships in Bangkok, the 53rd Singapore National Age Swimming Championships, and German Age Group Swimming Championships in Berlin.
Aside from winning medals, what does the new swimming programme aim to achieve for GESS’ students?
Together with Coach Ivan, we aim to establish GESS as a leader among schools in Singapore. For starters, we aim to expand the current swim team and increase enrolment in our after-school swim programme. We want to provide our swimmers with competitive opportunities locally and globally, which will help pave their way for scholarships at universities all over the world. This programme is also capable of fostering a like-minded and supportive community for our students through their shared passion for swimming. Last but not least, we are working with Coach Ivan to optimise the school’s temperature-regulated Olympic-sized swimming pool, which is unique in the Southeast Asian region.
St. Joseph’s Institution International
What does sport mean to students at St. Joseph’s Institution (SJI) International?
Sport is an integral part of campus life for our students. SJI International is a member of both the Athletic Conference of Singapore International Schools (ACSIS) and Singapore Schools Sports Council. All students – from under eight to 18 years old – participate in a full range of team and individual sports (both competitive and recreational) that the school offers. In fact, almost 50% of our Grade 2-6 students play on at least one school team. We believe in giving every child an opportunity to play by providing a wide range of co-curricular activities (CCAs) for them to participate in. They are also encouraged to join the school team in any sport they like. By getting them “hooked into sport” from a young age, students will grow up with self-confidence and resilience.
What sets the school’s athletics programme apart?
We believe that sports help develop and grow the virtues in every child, so we’ve linked all our sports teams and CCAs to The Virtues Project, which is also our character development programme. All coaches and teachers use “the language of virtues” during Physical Education (PE) and training sessions. This helps our students develop and practice qualities such as cooperation, determination, kindness, and much more.
We’ve also recently announced the SJI International-Lion City Sailors Elite Development Scholarship during our 15th Anniversary Dinner. This is a scholarship created specially for youths who show exceptional talent in football. It’s a full scholarship that covers all school costs leading up to the scholars’ IGCSE in SJI International, after which they can choose to further their studies in local polytechnics, junior colleges, or the IB Diploma. As the scholarship aims to offer not just academic excellence but that in sports as well, scholars will be training at the Lion City Sailors Football Academy during the course of their studies too. There’s also the opportunity for scholars to proceed with a career in professional football upon completion of their IGCSE and National Service.
What are some of the athletics facilities that the school has?
SJII has a sports complex – the Lawrence da Silva Sports Complex – which has a 25m swimming pool, indoor sports hall, fitness room, and rock climbing wall. The school also has an outdoor basketball court, tennis court, and a sports field for track and field sports.
Epsom International School
Why is sport important to Epsom International School?
At Epsom, our responsibility as educators and mentors is to nurture and guide each and every child to reach their full potential in their academic journey and beyond. We recognise that academic achievement, first and foremost, is significant. Our hope, however, is that our students leave Epsom with the self-confidence to walk into any situation, knowing that they can be themselves and valuably contribute.
We also recognise the important role that sport plays in a child’s overall development – it teaches essential life and social skills such as resilience, leadership, accountability, respect and patience – and it is complementary to what is learnt in the classroom. We have seen firsthand how school sport participation can enhance a child’s self esteem and emotional well-being, which will undoubtedly lead to transformative life-long benefits.
How is sport integrated into the school day?
Apart from the PE lessons included in the curriculum, students participate in inter-house and inter-school tournaments throughout the school year starting from as early as Year 7. As part of our ongoing effort to provide a truly holistic education, we have launched the Mouratoglou Tennis Programme which combines high-performance tennis, using the Mouratoglou Academy tennis training methodology, and a world-class British education. Being a partnership with Patrick Mouratoglou, the coach responsible for mentoring and nurturing rising tennis stars like Stefanos Tsitsipas, Coco Gauff, Holger Rune, and Alexei Popyrin, the programme will allow students to immerse themselves in the sport and engage in a curriculum that delivers excellent academic results. Student-athletes will have access to a Higher Education team with an enviable track record of admissions to top global universities and personalised guidance applying for NCAA tennis scholarships in the US. This is the first of many sport partnerships to be announced at Epsom.
We are also very proud of the achievements of our student-athletes and alumni, many of whom compete at the state and national level. Our student, Mayumi Shinozuka, has recently been chosen to represent Malaysia in the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi in the Women’s Triathlon category.
What are some of the star sports facilities in the college?
Our 50-acre campus allows students to access world-class sporting facilities which includes hockey, cricket, rugby, and two 4G AstroTurf football pitches, a swimming pool, professional squash courts, and a newly built Mouratoglou tennis complex (which will soon include indoor clay courts).
Overseas Family School
What’s the goal of Overseas Family School’s Sports Program?
The goal of Overseas Family School’s (OFS) Sports Program is to instil in students the skills and strategies necessary to compete in high-level competitive sports. This is part of the school’s commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment where students can achieve and succeed. The Program offers a wide variety of individual and team sports to students across all age groups and skill levels.
With over 200 teams across 15 sports and six age groups, OFS students compete in the annual ACSIS leagues and championships. Furthermore, the OFS Competitive Sports Program provides opportunities and support to students representing the school both at the national and international level. Students can engage in various supplementary sports programmes on a foundational and developmental level through our Enrichment Program.
The different developmental pathways in the OFS Sports Program provide all our students with access to sport regardless of their abilities. This allows them to build healthy practices, discipline, and leadership skills while experiencing the camaraderie of being on a team.
What are some of the school’s recent sports achievements?
The OFS Tigers have already made their presence known within our first year competing in ACSIS. Our Head of Competitive Sport serves as Chairman for ACSIS Gymnastics as well as ACSIS Swimming. The OFS Tigers Gymnastics team are currently ACSIS Champions. Our OFS Tigers Swim Team are currently ranked second in swimming with a number of individual champions holding the number one ranking in the country, and as well as top five ranking in their respective home countries. Our Swim Team members will be competing in the Olympic Trials this year, and will potentially have qualifiers for the World Cup!
OFS is constantly expanding our competitive sports offerings to develop deeper pools of talent as our school numbers grow. As current Division Champions in Badminton, Basketball, and Gymnastics, there are higher levels of interest than ever before. Our OFS Tigers are on track to achieve great things!
What are some of the sports facilities available?
We have a beautiful modern campus in Pasir Ris equipped with state-of-the-art sporting facilities. This includes an indoor Olympic standard swimming pool and bespoke Gymnastics Centre, five covered basketball and netball courts, a running track, football and rugby fields, and cricket nets with bowling machines. With our fantastic location near the calm waters of Pasir Ris Beach, we also offer a Sailing Program with our customised fleet of Pico training boats!
Nexus International School (Singapore)
What kind of athletics facilities do you provide for your students?
Nexus International School (Singapore) offers a wide range of athletic programmes that cater to learners of all ages. From our engaging World of Sport programme designed for younger learners, to year-long programmes in Swimming, Football, Volleyball, and Rugby, Nexus provides opportunities that extend both within Singapore and onto the international circuit.
Nexus is a registered member school of the ACSIS. We have competed in Football, Swimming, Rugby, Badminton, Touch, Gymnastics, Basketball, Netball, Volleyball, Cricket, Cross Country, and Track & Field across three sporting seasons with other international schools within Singapore.
The school’s state-of-the-art facilities are world-class and cater for a wide variety of sports. Equipped with two spacious air-conditioned Sport Halls with digital LED scoreboards, we host Volleyball, Basketball, Netball, Badminton, and Gymnastics. The Aquatics Centre features an Olympic-sized pool for long and short course meets, a three-lane warm-up pool, and a high-performance fitness centre for our senior swim squad. We also have a FIFA and World Rugby-approved astroturf pitch which allows us to host Football, Rugby, and Touch fixtures. This pitch also accommodates cricket with two nets for budding cricket enthusiasts. Alongside the field is a 100m sprint track which is used not only during lesson time, but also as a training area for our Track & Field and Cross Country teams.
How can students sign up for a sport?
Nexus encourages its learners to try a wide range of sports for their healthy wellbeing, but also to discover where their passions lie. Learners can sign up for as many sports as they like where they will join training sessions, play matches and even compete at international competitions.
How does your school encourage a healthy balance between academics and athletics?
Nexus believes in a holistic approach to teaching and learning – lessons are not contained to four walls and we look at the overall wellbeing of each child. Skills like teamwork, collaboration, risk-taking and passion come across in both our athletic and academic offerings.
Singapore American School
What’s your school’s athletics philosophy?
At Singapore American School (SAS), we believe participation in school-based athletics is a privilege. Activities and athletics are an integral part of the total educational experience, contributing to a positive school and community culture. The activities and athletics program at Singapore American School provides students with the opportunity to explore their passions through diverse and wide ranging activities, prioritised by our Eagle Pathway. Through participation in these activities and athletic pursuits, our coaches and instructors educate our students on character development and life skills.
As students move into the areas of competitive sport, we expect that they exhibit the highest level of conduct both on and off the playing field. This is what we call ‘The Eagle Way’. Finally, we believe that participation in school-based athletics should be fun!
What kind of athletic facilities do you provide your students?
We have gyms and fields for elementary school, middle school and high school. We also have two swimming pools, tennis courts, a high ropes course, a fitness centre and a running track.
What are the benefits of athletics for students?
Aside from the social, physical and emotional benefits of an athletics program, we use it as a platform to teach our student athletes the virtue and significance of our SAS core values of compassion, honesty, fairness, responsibility and respect. Through practice and competition, we seek out learning and teaching moments during the season to educate our students about our values in the hope that they leave SAS not just as better athletes, but as better people.
Recently, one of our Eagles, Collin Schuster, qualified for the 100-metre backstroke at the US Junior Nationals. According to coach Aaron Gray, Schuster’s “preliminary swim was his best, and this was when he qualified for the Olympic trials”.
Tanglin Trust School
What’s your school’s view on athletics?
At Tanglin Trust School, we use an evidence-based learning methodology in our athletics program which supports the development of essential foundation movement skills. We aim to provide every individual with learning opportunities to meet their own unique specific needs by providing a safe, fun and creative learning environment where students can safely explore and improve their physical development, skill and decision-making capabilities.
What kind of athletic facilities does your school provide for your students?
To provide the best possible support to our students’ physical and sporting development, we have invested in an extensive range of sports facilities, practice equipment and training resources. Our world-class synthetic playing field is a FIFA- and RFU-approved 4G surface and floodlit for extended evening use. We also have five multi-purpose indoor sports halls, 4G field, rooftop arena, and a large training ground complex.
Two climbing walls and a fully equipped gymnastics hall support our students’ passion for climbing, parkour and gymnastics, while our swimming complex with its 25m pool and adjacent learner pool provides for swimmers of all levels. With a variety of purpose-built and fully equipped infant play spaces, our children – regardless of age and ability – have access to key learning spaces, equipment and resources to maximise their physical and sporting potential.
How is athletic excellence measured?
As part of our new sport science hub, a student’s physical development abilities will be observed and profiled by our athletic development expert. They use qualitative and quantitative data to record personal improvements and compare stats with nationally accepted standards. A combination of coordination, control and skill-based measures help us benchmark and profile the needs of each student according to key criteria considered important to developing efficient and effective movement and decision-making. We are also teaming up with the National Institute of Education (NIE) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to assist with testing and measuring protocols for improvement over time.
In addition, performance outcome measures are used to indicate immediate performance levels of an individual and team. Performance results indicate where a student or team sits on their development journey and often demonstrate where improvements are needed. As the older students become more performance focused, they learn to adapt and find ways to win. For our sportsman and sportswoman of the year award, we consider students’ performance across at least two sports and they must also demonstrate Team Tanglin core values and exhibit the skills needed to perform at the highest level. Tanglin has awarded over 100 player of the year and sportsmanship of the year awards.
Dover Court International School
How does your school encourage its students to be more active?
Every child is encouraged to be active at Dover Court International School. We believe that a strong mind needs a strong body and our PE teachers make sure that all children get the chance to be active and challenged.
The PE Curriculum at Dover Court provides a range of movement experiences to develop students’ overall physical abilities. The purpose is to support all students to develop a foundation for an active life and to empower students to become competent and reflective performers. We want our students to appreciate and understand good sportsmanship and display the highest conduct in sporting situations. We have high expectations of all students’ attainment and personal conduct and we empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices.
As an inclusive school, we strive to create an environment where we celebrate both success and resilience and where all individuals and their achievements are valued and celebrated.
What are the opportunities for athletic competition?
Dover Court is part of the ACSIS and participates in meets and tournaments across Singapore. We also host and take part in smaller friendly meets with other international schools in Singapore. As members of FOBISIA (Federation of British International Schools in Asia) we send one team to the Primary FOBISIA Games and one team to the U13 FOBISIA Games, both held in Phuket, Thailand.
Through our family of schools, Nord Anglia Education, we participate in the Nord Anglia Games and overseas swim meets and football tournaments, these are hosted by other NAE schools within the region.
How does your school encourage a healthy balance between academics and athletics?
All students from Nursery to Year 11 participate in PE lessons as part of their curriculum. This ensures that they maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle and continue with sports throughout their time at Dover Court.
Students are able to participate in team sports as part of the ACSIS organisation and the Nord Anglia Family of schools. Furthermore, in our Sixth Form, students continue with their balanced lifestyle through the Creativity, Activity and Service core component of the International Baccalaureate (IB).
For those who want to incorporate sports into their academic studies, we offer PE GCSE and, from August 2020, we will also offer Sports, Exercise and Health Science as part of the IB Diploma Programme.
UWC South East Asia
How important is athletics in your school?
With over 4,000 students taking part in some kind of sporting activity at UWC South East Asia (UWCSEA) each week, the majority of the UWCSEA community believe in the positive role that participation in all kinds of sport can play in education. Fair play, teamwork, humility in success and grace in defeat are all important aspects of a UWCSEA education.
Our programme is organised so that all students, regardless of age, have access to extensive opportunities for regular participation in recreational, developmental and representative sports, as well as an array of associated fitness and more general well-being for life activities.
Does your school have anything to offer for the athletically gifted?
We routinely work with families whose children are achieving at the highest level possible in their sport – some of these students are able to participate in college-based teams (we have many students who are also national-level swimmers, for example); others are supported in their passion for a sport that is not offered at the College, such as fencers Ywen Lau and Samantha Beatrice Sayson, diver Beth Kong or synchronised swimmer MinLi Leong.
What are the opportunities for athletic competition?
All our students participate in several Days of Sport each year (aquatics and field), as part of their class or mentor group, or in the Middle School as part of their House. These are fun-filled days designed for maximum participation.
UWCSEA Dover and East are two of the 28 member schools in the ACSIS competition which involves teams from 8U to 19U. In many years, our campuses field teams for every sport, often with multiple teams in an age groups so as to give our students an opportunity to participate in athletics.
Our senior sports teams also travel across the region to compete in the South East Asia Student Activities Conference (SEASAC) tournaments in badminton, basketball, cross country, football, golf, gymnastics, rugby, softball, swimming, tennis, touch and volleyball. SEASAC sporting events are hosted by the 16 member schools, located across six South-East Asian countries.