Friday, April 8, 2005

State bodies the extra `arms and legs' ( 08/04/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 08/04/2005
Headline : State bodies the extra `arms and legs'

STATE associations have to play a greater role in the development of
sports, if Malaysia are to produce champion athletes in the international
Though national sports associations also play a part in formulating
development programmes, providing expertise and funding to a certain
extent as well as keeping tabs on progress, it is the State bodies who are
their "arms and legs".
More often than not, State associations neglect their development
duties, counting on the schools to do the job for them.
The schools may be the first platform, but sports associations are
better equipped and have the resources to help them.
After all, it is these associations who have to take over the schools'
role when the athletes complete their studies.
While some sports bodies have good development plans laid out and work
closely with schools, a majority continue to focus on a select group of
sportsmen and women, who normally are State or national material by then.
This trend leaves much to be desired in the development of athletes,
because many young talents are either lost in the process or are
identified at a very late age, thus losing valuable years of grooming and
Take soccer, for instance. A majority of the State FAs concentrate on
their three or four teams in the Super and Premier League, or age-group
But hardly any earnest effort is directed at the development of the game
by providing free coaching clinics during weekends or school holidays.
But in all fairness, there are a few States, such as Johor, Pahang,
Perak, Kedah and Pahang, who hold camps or coaching clinics for children.
These clinics are conducted by qualified coaches, where the participants
may have to pay a nominal fee.
Then, there are private clubs who also conduct similar coaching clinics,
but charge slightly higher fees.
Of late, many soccer academies have been mushrooming in Malaysia, with
some even linking themselves to overseas clubs or even countries.
But these are business ventures and the fees normally range between
RM100 and RM400 a month for each child, with two training sessions a week.
There is obviously a demand for such places to flourish, but these
academies are attended by children whose parents are well-off.
And more often than not, the children who attend these academies are not
the cream of the crop, but who can afford to indulge in a sport they love
or are persuaded by their parents to do so.
What about those whose parents earn an average monthly salary of RM1,000
and have three or four children?
Where are these children going to go to learn their basics skills in any
sport, for the matter?
And with community programmes or clinics for the masses still lacking in
the country to provide for the children sporting needs, this is where
State associations can play a meaningful role.
These bodies can charge a monthly fee of RM2 to RM5, which can cover
administration costs, and they must pay the coaches' allowances to get the
best out of them.
The coaches, provided by State associations, should be qualified and
preferably former State or national players whom the young can look up to
and, more importantly, should be able to impart their skills to the
Huge sums of money have been given to the soccer State associations by
the FA of Malaysia (FAM) over the years, but it has not seen the returns
corresponding to the fund allocations because the money had not been spent
wisely or channeled to other areas.
With the Government now setting aside a whopping RM125 million for
development and mass sports, this gives the State associations more reason
to start grassroots programmes for the young.
State bodies have another reason to double their development efforts,
with the sudden termination of the F&N Tunas Bolasepak programme, started
four years ago with FAM and Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM). This
is due to the withdrawal of the sponsors, who were pumping in more than
RM1 million.
It is sad the programme has stopped because it involved 683 centres
throughout the country with about 47,000 schoolchildren (between the ages
of seven and 12) and 1,500 coaches.
And the reason for F&N's pullout was because of the Ministry of
Education's directive to stop the sale of carbonated drinks, including
Isotonic, in schools. Many schools had requested the drink-vending
machines to be removed from their premises, a move that saw F&N
withdrawing their sponsorship.
However, there is still the Tunas Cemerlang programme for schools,
jointly organised by the National Sports Council, MSSM and FAM. Catering
for the 13 to 15 age-group, this programme involves 21 centres and 41
FAM also organise the First Touch programme, but this centres on a
weekly league for 24 youth teams from the Klang Valley, with a few from
the neighboring States.
But what is more important, is a place for children to go to during
weekends and school holidays to train and develop their skills, for free,
if possible.
Sometimes, having a big number of centres alone is not the answer
because each must have qualified and experienced coaches.
It is pointless just organising coaching courses for teachers to present
them with the preliminary certificates and getting them involved in the
programmes, when many of them might not have even kicked a ball or were
previously involved in sports activities.
But because these teachers are required to attend the courses to fill
the numbers created by the centres and extra allowance incentive, they
make up the big number of coaches.
There has always been a misconception that coaches with minimum
qualifications will suffice at grassroots level because they are dealing
with the young.
On the contrary, it is the best and experienced coaches who are much
needed at grassroots level, because they are the ones who will lay the
foundation as the young need to be taught the correct and proper methods
at an early stage.
It is what the sports-inclined pick up when young, which is what they
are going to apply in later years.
With that in mind, the Ministry of Education and sports associations
should utilise former sportsmen and women at grassroots level to ensure a
concrete foundation is laid at the beginning.
Consideration should also be given on rewarding these coaches every time
they produce State or national material to ensure there is a constant flow
of talent and make their efforts worthwhile.
Since there is big money being channeled into development, let us get
it right from the start, and not repeat the same old story of money being
used for the wrong reasons.

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