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September 17, 2023

Hands Up for Safe Aquatics campaign launched to raised awareness about creating safe, conducive environment for aquatic sports

Singapore Aquatics (SAQ) has launched a Hands Up For Safe Aquatics Campaign to raise the awareness and importance of being Safe Sport compliant as the popularity of aquatic sports increases.

The campaign hopes to shed light on the types of abuse aquatic athletes can potentially be subjected to and for coaches, parents and the larger aquatic community to commit to creating a safe environment for aquatic sport.

It was officially launched today by Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Social and Family Development Eric Chua and SAQ president Mark Chay on the sidelines of the FUTURES Swim Meet (for swimmers 7-12 years old) at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.

According to the latest National Sports Participation Survey by national sport agency 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 sport, 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.

With more people engaging in aquatic sport, the Hands Up For Safe Aquatics 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

Said Mr Chay: “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.”

A community effort to Safe Sport

The Hands Up For Safe Aquatics campaign hopes to get the aquatics community to pledge their support to keep aquatic sport safe from neglect, safe from physical abuse, safe from psychological abuse, safe from sexual abuse and safe from sexual harassment.

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).

Said Vivien, 20, a pharmacy student at the National University of Singapore: “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.”

Coaches have also come on board, including former national swimmer and founder of Aquatic Performance Swim Club Ang Peng Siong and Mr Garett Lee, head coach of swim school Sentosa Swim Coaching and coach developer for SAQ.

Said Mr Lee, who has been a swim coach for over 25 years: “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.

“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.”

Singapore Aquatics will also move to make all aquatic coaches Safe Sport compliant in the near future. It will work with Safe Sport Commission Singapore (SSCS) and the Singapore Coach Excellence (SG-Coach) Programme – Sport Singapore’s training and development pathway for coaches – to ensure that aquatic coaches who renew their certification every three years must have completed Safe Sport Programme requirements and 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 this week for national and national youth aquatic athletes, coaches and administrators. The workshops will aim to educate different stakeholders on Safe Sport best practices. The association will also be conducting an Advocates of Safe Sport session on September 19 and a Coaches As Trusted Adults workshop on October 11, where case studies will be shared.

Said Mr Chay, who is himself a coach: “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’t 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.

“Singapore Aquatics’ aim is to make Singapore a world-class aquatics nation. But in order to achieve that, we also need to put in place an environment where young kids are safe to chase their dreams, where parents are comfortable letting their children pursue sport and where coaches are confident that what they are doing is in the best interest of their athletes.”