Friday, April 1, 2005

A New Approach Needed (01/04/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 01/04/2005
Headline : A new approach needed

FROM the look of things, dedicated teachers may no longer suffice for the
development of sports.
Professional coaches might be the answer if schools are to produce
caliber athletes.
This was the point raised by former Olympian sprinter Mej Jen (rtd)
Datuk Shahrudin Mohd Ali, who competed in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Now 64, the former Deputy Chief of Air Force, spoke his mind at the
Olympian Night organised by the Malaysian Masters Athletics Association
(MMAA) last Saturday.
He was among the 24 of 41 athletes from eight Olympics - 1956 in
Melbourne to 1988 in Seoul - who attended the function, the first-ever
organised to pay tribute to these past greats.
Eight athletes could not be contacted, six are deceased and another
three - Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, Dilbagh Singh Kler and Junaidah Aman,
could not attend because of prior engagements.
Those present wanted to meet Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said,
who was scheduled to attend, but could not make it because of other
pressing matters.
Most of them had come to talk about the ailing sports condition and how
best to put it right.
Shahrudin expressed his views when he was asked to speak on behalf of
his fellow Olympians.
He started by saying Malaysia's goals had to be realistic.
"It is pointless to aim high when realistically, we do not stand a
chance," he said.
"After the 1960 Olympics, I quit because I did not know what hit me when
I competed as I was dwarfed in the race," said Shahrudin.
The point he drove home was it is impossible for us to compete against a
field which is not level.
"We Malaysians don't have the physique to match the world's top
"And with inter-marriage a taboo and genetic engineering non-existent
here, we are battling against the odds," he added.
Shahrudin went on to say things have worsened because grassroots
development is virtually zero.
"Schools were the foundation of sports those days. But these days, when
we have coaches in tudongs and sarongs, how do we expect to compete at the
Asian level, let alone the world level?" he asked.
"Gone are the days when we could depend on dedicated teachers to produce
athletes in the various sports.
"These days, we need professional coaches, who know the sports inside
out if we want to have a chance to see outstanding athletes emerge.
"We can't depend on teachers with basic courses in various sports to
churn out the champions of the future."
Shahrudin is sadden that while athletes of yesteryear are willing to
share their experience and knowledge, they are not given the opportunity
to do so.
A look around the room revealed only a handful are involved in coaching
or administration.
It is a sheer waste such valuable knowledge and experience is not being
There are close to 300 Olympians from 18 sports - athletics,
weightlifting, shooting, swimming, hockey, boxing, cycling, fencing,
badminton, soccer, table tennis, taekwondo, yachting, gymnastics,
canoeing, judo, wrestling and diving - from the 1956 Olympics to the 2000
Sydney Games.
Even if only half of them are involved at various levels of coaching and
administration, Malaysian sports would be in better shape.
Of the Olympians, hockey players are the most at 119 while athletes come
second with 47.
Admittedly, the Government are now focused on making sports a career in
an effort to lift its standard, but sadly, these past athletes, have been
Maybe it is not too late to engage the abler of these athletes to help
resuscitate Malaysian sports.
The fact is, the athletes who attended the dinner, came not for the
garlands, token medal, gift and dinner but because they are honoured to be
So, let's stop ignoring this wealth of experience in our very own
Let's use their knowledge instead of spending huge amounts on
FOOTNOTE: Teachers whom I identified as a dying breed in the school
system in my last column, called or e-mailed to express their thanks.
This only goes to underline teachers and coaches alike, could do with a
pat on the back once in a while.
Certainly, it is not money or fame that they are looking for, just
Many names might have been missed out and to them, a big thank-you and
please carry on with the good work.
Perhaps, it is time the relevant authorities - be it the Sports
Ministry, Education Ministry, National Sports Associations, Sports
Councils or even the private sector - made an effort to honour or reward
teachers, officials or even volunteers for playing their part in keeping
the sports culture alive.
Maybe an Olympian night for the 200 odd Olympians from the 18 sports is
in order, probably even to coincide with the National Sportsman and
Sportswoman Awards ceremony.

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