Friday, July 29, 2005

DARK LURE OF CITY LIGHTS (29/07/05 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 29/07/2005

ACADEMIES, sports excellence centres, centralised training centres and
sports schools are all vital ingredients of sports development.
But more often than not sports authorities have these centres where it
is convenient to them - in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities - where
all the sporting facilities are readily available.
What is even worse is that athletes are made to leave their home State
to join these sporting centres.
Therein lies the problem where we lose many athletes from the various
Plucking these athletes from their natural environment to be placed in
training centres away from their family especially at a young age, has
seen many pack their bags and leave for home.
Then, there are states which send their athletes to Kuala Lumpur
instead of setting up their own centres.
Take for instance former national sprinter Miri-born Watson Nyambek,
who in 1995, as a 19-year-old, set a national record for the 100m
(10.46s), when he bettered the then 29 year-old record set by Dr Mani
Jegathesan (10.49s in 1969 at the Bangkok Asian Games).
He went on to clock 10.30s to better the national record in 1998 which
is still standing, but he never realised his true potential.
Though he trained under Canadian coach Daniel St Hiliare, Harun Rasheed
and later Mumtaz Jaafar, he failed to improve.
Maybe coming to Kuala Lumpur was a culture shock to him and the bright
lights of the city finally got the better of him.
Would Watson have been a better athlete if he had remained in Sarawak
and the top coaches sent to him?
It was no secret that at one stage he prematurely ended his career
because of his family's financial woes after the retirement of his
father, Nyambek Ngalang, from the Police Field Force.
His mother, Unam Kana pleaded with her son to return home as she missed
him and hoped he would work closer at home.
Sarawak are a powerhouse at national schools level having won the
overall title for three consecutive years from 2002 besides being
champions from 1993 to 1995 and 1997.
The Sarawak Sports Council (SSC) assist the Sarawak Schools Sports
Council (SSSC), but it all ends at the schools.
SSC have even provided a sprints coach from China - Ma Yan Juan - the
last two years and earlier had a pole vault coach from China.
Ting Siew Ngyong, the SSSC technical chairman for athletics, said that
it was a pity many of the schools athletes who have tremendous potential
are lost after they finish school.
"Many of these schools athletes are not prepared to uproot themselves
from Sarawak to go to Kuala Lumpur. Some, who joined the Sports School in
Bukit Jalil, returned after a few months," said Siew Ngyong.
"We have the State Sports Centre in Kuching where top schools athletes
are placed in SMK Tabuan Jaya and even here we have problems to bring
athletes from out lying districts to be based in Kuching."
Maybe it is time for sports associations to go to the athletes to
realise their true potential instead of uprooting them.
For instance, soccer players from Sabah, Terengganu and Kelantan have
good physique, which is important for the game now and there have been
quite a number of talented players emerging from these States.
Maybe setting up training centres in these States, will see more
players coming out of these States to represent the nation.
There is an athletics training centre in Cameron Highlands as many of
the top middle and long distance runners have come from here.
Upgrading the facilities and getting top coaches to be involved will
see more athletes emerge from here.
Sports schools, like the ones in Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar, have
provided their fair share of success stories, but there have been many
failures too.
There have been many cases of indiscipline, athletes packing their bags
and leaving, prima donnas emerging at a young age only to fail to realise
their true potential and many other incidents where students have been
sent back to their respective States.
Then we have the Bandar Penawar School in Johor which is nestled away
in a quiet corner.
It is bad enough they are away from the family, but to be billeted in a
quiet town could prove detrimental.
With the Government setting aside RM125 million for grassroots
development for the eight core sports, it is hoped that the money will be
directed to areas where the true potential lies for each individual
sports and not come up with general programmes just to show on record
development programmes have been organised.
FA of Malaysia have chosen the easy way out to pump their RM2.6 million
money into the existing Tunas Bola Sepak and Tunas Cemerlang centres, as
their previous sponsors no longer supports the programme.
Maybe, FAM should get the State FAs directly involved, instead of just
depending on the schools and Education Ministry to be the main players.
It is hoped that the other sports associations come up with more
effective programmes to nurture the young talent to be champions.

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