SINGAPORE: With the rising popularity of aquatic sports, especially among young children, the Singapore Aquatics (SAQ) has initiated the “Hands Up for Safe Aquatics” campaign. Its primary aim is to ensure the athletes’ safety and well-being while fostering a conducive environment within the pool. The campaign also underlines the significance of adherence to safe sports regulations.
The campaign aims to bring attention to the various forms of abuse aquatic athletes may be subjected to. It urges all stakeholders, including coaches, parents of young children, and individuals involved in the aquatic community, to actively participate in establishing a safe environment.
The “Hands Up For Safe Aquatics” campaign was officially launched by Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Ministry of Social and Family Development, and SAQ president Mark Chay on the sidelines of the FUTURES Swim Meet (for swimmers 7-12 years old) at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, Singapore Sports Hub.
“As the national body for aquatic sport in Singapore, our role is not just to produce champions. With our vision of Every Singaporean A Swimmer, 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,” said Singapore Aquatics President Chay.
SAQ president hopes that the “Hands Up For Safe Aquatics” campaign will get the aquatics community to pledge their support to keep aquatic sports safe from neglect, physical and psychological abuse, and indecent abuse and harassment.
“The primary aim of the campaign is really to make Safe Sport second nature to aquatics. For example, some coaches may mean well by offering to give athletes a lift to or from training. But there are do’s and don’ts when it comes to interacting with athletes, especially minors. The nature of aquatic sports also means that coaches often have to be in physical contact with athletes as they instruct swimmers about fine-tuning a swim stroke or divers to execute certain manoeuvres,” the former Nominated Member of Parliament said.
The campaign has received support from national athletes such as water polo player Mounisha Devi Manivannan, swimmer Ardi Zulhilmi Azman, Vivien Tai from artistic swimming, diver Max Lee, and para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu.
“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. I think that it’s important for everyone (coaches, athletes, parents) 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. This environment should be provided to athletes from young, so they understand what kind of behaviour is appropriate and what is not,” shared 20-year-old artistic swimmer Tai.
Coaches also come on board, including former national swimmer and founder of Aquatic Performance Swim Club Ang Peng Siong and Garett Lee, head coach of swim school Sentosa Swim Coaching.
“The issue of athletes having to deal with both physical and psychological abuse is a problem. It’s not just s*xual abuse, but even issues like publicly shaming an athlete because of how they look can have a lasting negative effect on a young person. It is important that we create a safe space for children and athletes to train in. 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,” explained coach Lee, a coach developer for SAQ.
In a media release, SAQ shared that the latest National Sports Participation Survey by the national sports agency Sport Singapore showed that sports participation in Singapore hit an all-time high in 2022. It indicates that 74% of 4,500 respondents aged 13 and above participated in sporting activities at least once a week.
In addition, swimming is among the top five sporting activities that they engage in. A 2022 Statista survey also showed that attendance at Singapore swimming pools crossed the 4.5 million mark, almost double the 2.5 million visits in 2021.