Since Joseph Schooling’s splash at SEA Games 2015, the perennial debate regarding how National Service should be rethought to allow for greater development for sports has returned to boil. We thought of  five questions that may need to be taken into account should there be a change in MINDEF’s current stance.

1. Is representing Singapore in any particular sport equivalent to National Service.

Joseph’s mother, May Schooling certainly thinks so.

“[In a way] if you represent the country and make people stand for your flag, you’re doing ‘national service’,” May Schooling

Sure, it’s a national service – but it is not the same thing. To clarify, May never said that it should replace Schooling’s NS obligations and it shouldn’t. If it does, then there would be no end to what constitutes National Service.

“Eh. I just did my national service by spending my SG50 bonus at the Great Singapore Sale.” Tan Mi Mi

2. How good must you be to be considered for deferment?

This was raised by a number of athletes who have been spurned previously by MINDEF. Why some can, some cannot. What standard or potential must you have before you can be considered for deferment.

Represent in S League counted? This is a slippery slope that MINDEF needs to deal with by clear articulation of it’s policies. Yet this needs to somehow be balanced with a non-arbitrary application of said policy. How would one measure potential in an exactness that is fair for both MINDEF and the athlete?

3. How then do we help young athletes develop?

The competing window of an athlete is generally a short one. Even cyber-athletes who compete in the gaming arena claim that their response times and coordination fall off quickly after their prime of 18-21 years of age.

Experts go further to claim that the longer a period training is suspended, the greater the potential loss of fitness.

Is there an arrangement that could satisfy both? Train on odd days, report to camp on even days?

Interestingly, Eric Cantona served National Service and played football with the Army football team.

4. Is the deferment of 1 year enough?

Schooling’s deferment of a year won’t be enough. We’re predicting the need for Schooling to extend his deferment even after the Olympics because there will always be another competition that he could prepare and participate for.

5. Is there a better option compared to deferment?

South Korea, for instance, allows for its male citizens to serve 2 years of National Service any time before they reach the age of 28.

Deferment works for not but surely there must be a better way.