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story David Chappell
By the end of the first academic year, Yale-NUS College’s athletics scene was successfully out of the starting blocks. As the college approaches the end of its second academic year, its momentum is picking up, but there are still many obstacles to overcome. These issues include a need for a funding restructure, a better recognition process, and a need to cultivate an enthusiastic and committed sports culture at the College.
One of the most pressing challenges raised by students was the need for increased levels of funding for both sports clubs and teams. “Compared to regular student organizations, sports require a similar or even higher level of investment in terms of support and funding from the Athletics Department or the College to see results,” Captain of the Ski, Board and Surf Team, Luke Ong ’18 said. Ong also raised concerns regarding the allocation method of the funds, saying he felt that more costly sports need more support from the administration.
However, the lack of funding for athletics organizations does seem set to change. In an interview conducted via email, Athletics Director Wainright Khoo described the current resources for athletics as “limited” but said that the College had “extended more funding to the athletics budget,” following the “exponential increase” in the number of athletics teams.
Similarly, the Athletics Department is aware that the method of allocating funding is something that needs to be worked on. Mr. Khoo said that while he thought the system of funding had been acceptable this year, it could “certainly be improved.” The Department currently plans for the Athletics Council, a council consisting of all the team captains, to play an increased role in the determining of funding for athletics teams and clubs. They will also be creating a new committee, composed of members of both the Athletics Department and the Council, which will look at budget requests from both teams and clubs.
It is unclear, however, if these steps will address the concern regarding Yale-NUS’s process for recognizing sports teams. Evan Ma ’17, who founded the Yale-NUS Volleyball Club, said that the current recognition requirements for both number of members and commitment could act as a disincentive for participation. “It’s a chicken-egg cycle,” he said, “they say if you don’t have enough members then you can’t be a team, but the motivation for putting in effort in the first place is that a team exists.”
Currently each team requires that the number of members equal the number of participants needed for a competition. These members must be able to commit to 85% of training sessions in order for the team to be formally recognized. Ma recommended removing the initial commitment requirement saying that, “once you have enough people, [you] should be recognized a team first and then you have your privileges stripped away if you don’t meet the commitment requirements.”
Another challenge that students raised was the current culture at Yale-NUS surrounding both competing in and supporting athletics. This was highlighted by Ma, who said that he felt “the biggest problem for athletics is commitment,” adding that he felt there were too few people at the College to make up a credible number in each club.
This concern is something that both students and administration hope will be addressed by the arrival of the Class of 2019. Rachel Ong ’17, captain of the Women’s Tchoukball team, said that she hoped the new batch would bring with them commitment, talent and enthusiasm. Mr. Khoo said that the new batch would create a greater athletic talent pool to further strengthen teams already performing well and others still in the developmental stage, sentiments that Ma echoed.
As for support, (Luke) Ong said that he would like to see the same level of support for Yale-NUS sports as was seen for Yale University at last semester’s screening of the Harvard-Yale football game. He added that that level of support is crucial to building College identity, “if you have seen the Bernabeu (one of the world’s most prestigious soccer stadiums), you will understand how sports can bring people from different backgrounds together and unite them.”
(Rachel) Ong had some suggestions for increasing the level of support in the coming years. She said that better publicity of sports events could increase the number of supporters at events. She added that,“it would be great if the Athletics Department could sponsor some food and drink for supporters.”
Despite this increase in commitment, from both fans and competitors, there is still a sentiment that Yale-NUS’s sports needs to remain inclusive to less experienced players. Mr. Khoo said that he hopes there will be “athletics for every type of student at Yale-NUS, from competitive sports to [those at the] intramural level”. Similarly, Ma stated that he wanted Yale-NUS to continue to be inclusive, while at the same time allowing for a good competitive representation for the professional athletes that come to Yale-NUS.