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Put aside Sporting Excellence and Keep Sports Fun for Children: Sidney Kumar

Former national Rugby Athlete and educator believes enjoyment of any Game comes first before the pursuit of excellence

Sidney Kumar is a well-loved coach by the St Andrews family and is instrumental in their success in this year's National School Games. PHOTO: BENEDICT TAN

According to the 2020 National Sport Participation Survey (NSPS), 75% of children aged 13-19 participate in organised sports at least once a week.

Despite the relatively high number, a C- was given for ‘Overall Physical Activity’ in Singapore’s 2022 report card on physical activity for children and adolescents by the National Institute of Health.

On the importance of sports in a child’s development, Azhar Yusof, Director of CoachSG, told ActiveSG: “Our children’s cognitive progress goes hand in glove with their physical growth.”

With Singapore’s education system known for its taxing nature, it may be tough for children to keep up with their academic pursuits while keeping sports fun.

Sidney Kumar (right) celebrating success in the National School Games final with Kon Yin Tong, SportSG Chairman. PHOTO: RICHARD SEOW

Sidney Kumar, 37, a former national rugby athlete, knows all too well about the role sport plays in the development of children. Having spent 11 years teaching in schools, Sidney decided to step out to pursue his vision and founded Sportify Kids last year, a multi-sport curriculum based program for kids.

To help ensure the holistic development of children through sport without having kids suffer from burnout at a young age, Kumar turned his focus towards quality instead of quantity, saying that a lot of it boils down to coaching pedagogies and structure of the program.

“It could also come as a by-product of training together and the journey as a team. The coaching and program must be able to create a culture of joy and love for the sport, only then, can the kids have longevity and success in the games,” he says.

Despite retiring from being a national athlete, Sidney Kumar is still active in the Singapore rugby scene. PHOTO: AARON KONG

Kumar has known sport for all his life having played rugby for 26 years but before his professional career, he was just another boy who enjoyed running around.

“As a kid, I fell in love with sport because it was fun,” he shares. “As much as we want the kids to chase excellence and win championships, it is important to remember that these are kids and they should continue to have fun.”

This was what Kumar instilled in the St Andrews’s Secondary School Boys Rugby team he coached to glory earlier this year. For the first time in five years, the Saints were crowned champions of the National School Games 'B' Division after defeating fierce rivals, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).

Sidney Kumar coaching kids at The Cage, Kallang as part of his Sportify Kids academy specialising in several different sports including rugby, basketball, football, athletics. PHOTO: SPORTIFY KIDS

“Having played at the National Stadium once or twice representing Singapore, I was thrilled that the boys would get the opportunity to do so in front of their family and friends,” he says. “For us, the message to the boys was clear. A few weeks before the finals, we drilled home the message that we already qualified for the finals and that there was nothing to lose, and everything to gain.”

Luckily for Kumar and his players, the gold was theirs. In defeat, it can be easy for kids to lose the joy they once had for their sport. Kumar believes it is more often than not that coaches are the ones left to lick their wounds after a tough loss but also says that kids must keep looking for the light in the game they play.

Sidney Kumar is a 2017 SEA Games silver medalist, seen here with his teammates in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. PHOTO: SIDNEY KUMAR FACEBOOK

“Interest and passion can only take them so far. After that, reasons like friendships, success in the sport and progression can help. If they are able to do that, and do their best on the field then there is nothing much we can ask of them,” he says.

Sportify Kids specialises in several different sports including rugby, basketball, football, athletics and many others. The variety is something Kumar feels is essential in children. “My firm belief is that it is critical for kids growing up to discover and try out as many sports as they can. This provides them with knowledge and physical literacy to enable them to develop certain skills and joy in certain games they play,” he shares.

Sidney Kumar coaching kids at The Cage, Kallang as part of his Sportify academy specialising in several different sports including rugby, basketball, football, athletics. PHOTO: SPORTIFY KIDS

The company also prides itself on a values system called ‘RISE’ which stands for resilience, integrity, self-disciple and excellence. Sportify Kids hopes to instil these values in children through sport.

“These are values that are life-long and are traits of the most successful people in the world. Sportify Kids aims to use sport and play to teach these values to the kids. This is done through careful planning of activities and creating scenarios for the kids to learn and practice.”

Picking up on such values is important in the character development of children and teenagers and is commonly learned through their upbringing at home. Bringing sport and family together not only improves character, but is also an avenue to help families bond and stay connected.

Sidney is a proud father of two, from where he draws his inspiration in developing a structured coaching program for holistic development while keeping sports fun for kids. PHOTO: GWEN TAN

“It can be as simple as spectating as a family at the Sports Hub or actually playing the sport at the community centres and other sport facilities,” Kumar says.

From the 37-year-old sports veteran’s experience, sport is the best teacher and classroom available to kids.

“Aside from the clear physical benefits of playing sport, the socio-emotional value of sport is essential especially in this current time,” he shares. With the help of physical activity together with a game consisting of a few rules, children are able to learn and build relationships they won’t find anywhere else but perhaps what’s most important, is to have fun. After all, physical and mental health go hand in hand.


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