SINGAPORE — National sports association Singapore Aquatics (SAQ) has launched a "Hands Up For Safe Aquatics" campaign on Wednesday (6 September) to raise the awareness of being safe-sport compliant as the popularity of aquatic sports increases.
The campaign hopes to shed light on the types of abuse which aquatic athletes - those taking part in swimming, diving and water polo - can potentially be subjected to.
It hopes to get the aquatics community to pledge their support to keep aquatic sport safe from neglect, physical and psychological abuse, as well as sexual abuse and harassment.
With more people engaging in aquatic sports, the campaign aims to:
promote a safe and conducive sporting environment,
raise awareness of the forms of abuse of harassment which may take place in a sporting environment,
educate the community (coaches, athletes, parents of young kids) about the importance of being safe-sport compliant.
SAQ will work with the Safe Sport Commission Singapore (SSCS) and the Singapore Coach Excellence (SG-Coach) Programme to ensure that aquatic coaches who renew their certification every three years must have completed the safe sport programme requirements. They must also abide by principles spelt out in the Safe Sport Unified Code, which was launched by the SSCS in November 2021.
To kick-off the safe-sport push, SAQ and SSCS will be holding a series of workshops for national aquatic athletes, coaches and administrators on safe sport best practices. SAQ will also be conducting an Advocates of Safe Sport session on 19 September and a Coaches As Trusted Adults workshop on 11 October, where case studies will be shared.
Athletes and coaches come on board to support campaign
According to the latest National Sports Participation Survey by Sport Singapore, sport participation in Singapore hit an all-time high in 2022, with 74 per cent of 4,500 respondents aged 13 and above taking part in sporting activities at least once a week.
Aquatic sports, specifically swimming, is among the top five sporting activities people engage in. A 2022 Statista survey also showed that attendance at Singapore swimming pools crossed the 4.5 million mark, almost double from the 2.5 million visits in 2021.
“As the national body for aquatic sport in Singapore, our role is not just to produce champions," said SAQ president Mark Chay. “Singapore Aquatics must also ensure that we help nurture a safe, conducive environment for aquatic sport enthusiasts of any age, any proficiency level, to be comfortable in the water.”
Chay launched the "Hands Up For Safe Aquatics" campaign together with Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, on the sidelines of the Futures Swim Meet at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Among those who are backing the campaign are national athletes Mounisha Devi Manivannan (water polo), Ardi Zulhilmi Azman (swimming), Vivien Tai (artistic swimming), Max Lee (diving) and Yip Pin Xiu (para swimming).
“As athletes, we all train hard to achieve our dreams and goals. However, we can only do this if we have a safe environment to train in," said Tai, 20, who is also a pharmacy student at the National University of Singapore.
“It’s important for everyone to understand that abuse and neglect do not just come physically, as athletes also need a nurturing environment free from other forms of abuse to thrive and enjoy their sport.”
Yip, who is a SSCS member, added, "From the people who are just starting out in sport, people have been doing this for a long time, to high performance athletes, everyone deserves a safe environment to pursue their interest and passions.
"We hope that this campaign reaches out to everyone and sends the message to help hemselves and those around them to create such an environment."
From the people who are just starting out in sport, people have been doing this for a long time, to high performance athletes, everyone deserves a safe environment to pursue their interest and passions.National para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu
Coaches have also come on board, including former national swimmer and founder of Aquatic Performance Swim Club Ang Peng Siong, and Garett Lee, head coach of Sentosa Swim Coaching.
“The issue of athletes having to deal with both physical and psychological abuse is a problem. It’s not just sexual abuse, but even issues like publicly shaming an athlete because of how they look can have a lasting negative effect on a young person," said Lee.
“Some of these budding athletes put in blood, sweat and tears to chase their dreams. But while doing so, it is important for them and their coaches to know what constitutes the right behaviour and what doesn’t.”
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