Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back to school for former sportsmen and sportswomen

It has said time and again that schools should use the services of former sportsmen and sportswomen to give sports in schools a lift.

Today my former colleague and former NST sports editor, Lazarus Rokk, writes in length in The Sunday Times (Read here), about how former athletes and coaches, should be utilised in schools to infuse the right basics in sports in our young.

None other than former Mej Jen (Rtd) Datuk Sharudin Mohd Ali, the former Deputy Chief of Air Force, who competed in the 1960 Rome Olympics, now 69, spoke his mind on the matter at the Olympian Night organised by the Malaysian Masters Athletics Association four years ago.

I had written about what Datuk Sharudin had said and hoped that it would be noted and some effort would be taken to accept the challenge to help sports in schools improve. Sadly, nothing changed.

It is hoped that Rokk's piece does not suffer the same fate - read today, becomes paper lama tomorrow and in a week's time someone reads it again, but while the person is having his nasi lemak, where Rokk's article was used to "bungkus" the favourite Malaysian breakfast!

The authorities should seriously take note of the suggestion, if they are really interested in reviving the sports passion in schools.

Read below what Datuk Sharuddin had to say four years ago:

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

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 tapped.

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 forgotten.

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 remembered. So, let's stop ignoring this wealth of experience in our very own backyard.

So lets use their valuable knowledge and experience.

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