Friday, September 16, 2005

EXERCISE IN FUTILITY (16/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 16/09/2005

IT was a noble effort by Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM)
vice-president, Low Beng Choo, to keep the international two-way exchange
programme on youth management alive, but how much was benefited from the
exercise, is a big question mark.
The programme, with the visit of five sports leaders from Iowa this
week, funded by the Bureau of Culture and educational Affairs of the US
Department of State, was introduced in 2003, with Iowa Amateur Athletic
Union (Iowa AAU) and the OCM as principal partner organisations with the
assistance from various sports organisation and agencies.
The purpose was to share information on how youth sport are managed in
both Malaysia and the US, especially by NGO's, clubs, schools and local
authorities at grassroots level.
The seminar was to show how various bodies in youth sports can be
coordinated and integrated, so that the educational, behavioural and
economic benefits of grassroots participation in sports is maximised.
While the turnout for the seminar on Tuesday at the National Sports
Council was encouraging with about 60 people from various sports
associations, agencies, schools, universities, departments and sports
councils were present, the question that needs to be answered is whether
the right people were present.
While some sports associations like bowling, cricket, shooting,
bodybuilding, snooker and billiard, table-tennis, volleyball and
basketball were represented by their senior officials. They were also
many junior officials present, who had no say in their respective
Above all, policy-makers were not present and whatever was imparted by
the delegation, really had little bearing because nothing was going to
This was clear when some of the participants decided to skip the
remaining sessions after the first hour. And they were from the Education
The aim of the seminar was to study how the sports programme, as it
exists in the US, involves the whole community - schools, parents, clubs,
sports organisations, local councils, parks departments etc - and how
they fit into an overall programme.
It was also to gather ideas on how Malaysians can get the whole
community moving as efforts are being made to develop a national sports
The delegation, with the husband and wife combination of Teresa and
Neil Parmenter (President Greater Des Moines Sport Authority and
chairperson Iowa AAU, and past President Iowa AAU and currently national
chairman for AAU - baseball, respectively), Troy Dannen (executive
director, Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union), Steve Duncan (director
of athletics, Valley High School) and Vicki Comegys (director of sales,
Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau), took pain to explain
their system to the best of their ability.
They focussed on actual examples of club, school, local authorities and
community programmes and how they developed, implemented, managed and
But from the start, it was a lost battle, because their concept is
based on voluntarism, self funding, family commitment, support of local
councils, developing facilities and fund raising.
Malaysians generally want to be spoon-fed, want monetary rewards, have
no time for family recreation, do not have the support from local
councils, want hand-outs and are not prepared to go the extra-mile.
And above all, the basic facilities - field and arenas - are not in
place and that instantly cripples the growth of sports.
There were a lot of good ideas which surfaced from the seminar, but
whether it is applicable, is left to be seen.
The seriousness of the American community towards community sports and
grassroots development is underlined from the fact that less than two per
cent of these programmes succeed.
But they still continue with their programmes and continue to expand,
because it has far more benefits than just attaining excellence standards
as its benefits include shaping the lifestyles of their youth, a healthy
mind and body, a productive society and character building, to name a few.
In all fairness to Malaysians, there are some communities like the one
in Subang Jaya, who organise the Subang Jaya Community Youth Football
League, which is a purely community effort, who are a independent lot
with great vision.
The delegation were in Penang yesterday to conduct a similar
seminar/workshop hosted by the Penang State Sports Council for the sports
fraternity in Penang and neighbouring States and it is hoped they will
use the ideas presented.
Changing the Malaysian mind-set towards sports development is going to
be tough task, but the efforts of OCM in collaboration with NSC should be
applauded, because without an effort, nothing can be achieved.

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