This is posting is long overdue, but better late than never.
Infact, it is timely that I write on this subject now that athletics in the country is at its lowest ebb and when rewards are pouring in for sportsmen and women.
Here, I intend to pay tribute to the teachers, who are a dying breed and who have done so much for Malaysian sports.
I had paid tribute in my Level Field column in 2005 when I was still with The Malay Mail under the heading The dying breed (Read here).
But I write again to pay tribute, after a recent meeting with one of those teachers - Rennie Martin - who celebrated his 75th birthday on Sept 25 (Read here).
Rennie is among the many teachers who have a played a key role in the development of sportsboys and girl to have a sports culture in schools with many moving on to become national material.
Their dedication is second to none and the sacrifices they made is unthinkable these days.
They would drive athletes around for training, competition, give athletes pocket money, buy them spikes and boots and also are in school the whole day and even weekends and school holidays.
In all fairness, there are still a few teachers who fit into these rare category of teachers cum coaches, but they are just a handful as compared to yesteryears.
Of course, many will be quick to point out that things have changed these days where teachers cannot afford to dedicate themselves to sports because it does not pay and standard of living is very high and teachers are better off giving tuition to earn some extra money.
This is where the Ministry of Education or Ministry of Youth and Sports have to step in to lure these teachers with incentives.
For starters, these two Ministries can recognise and reward teachers like Rennie for their services, so that they become icons for other teachers to emulate with sports being the winner at the end of it.
Just to give a picture what Rennie has contributed to sports who has been a teacher since 1953 starting in Taiping, he has lived, ate and slept sports all these years.
Ironically, what was a loss to soccer was a major gain for athletics.
Rennie, actually was more interested in soccer and was already a referee in the 60s. But an incident when he was refereeing a Selangor league match between VOC and Hong Chin at the SIA ground (beside the Istana Negara then), saw him leave soccer for good.
Rennie was assaulted in that match and only the security provided by the Hong Chin players who put him in a taxi and sent him home, saved him from further injuries.
It was then that his friend, Leslie Armstrong (athletics coach) asked him to give up soccer and get involved with athletics.
The rest is history as Rennie who taught in St. Anthony's school in Pudu (1954), then in Batu Arang (1955 TO 1960) Rawang (1961-1962), La Salle PJ (1963-68) back to Rawang (1969), Catholic High, PJ (1972-1982), Sultan Ahmad Samad, PJ (1983) and Section 17 School (1987) before he retired in 1988.
He even turned a basketball player, Ho Yoon Wah into a national jumper who went clear 2.10m to win the gold medal at the 1981 Manila Sea Games. Rennie rose from a schools coach to a national coach who has gone to the Sea Games and Asian Track and Field.
He has helped set up the Rawang AAA, Petaling District AAA, drawn numerous development programmes and the number of athletes who have gone through him over the years probably runs to thousands.
The the only thing that kept him going all those years was his passion for the sports.
He could have easily bought a house from all the money he spent on the sports from the little salary he earned.
Indeed, he is a respected figure in athletics and it is sad that coaches like him are not honoured.
Rennie is one among the many who should be honoured and this is a job for both the Ministries with the National Sports Council initiating the move.
Whether it becomes are reality is left to be seen. But judging from what has happened all these years, it is unlikely this rare breed of coaches will ever be accorded the honour they truly deserve.
But let us salute all these coaches like Rennie who have done sports and the nation proud.
Maybe, the least the Ministry of Education can do is to have a Hall of Fame for these dedicated school coaches.
Is it too much to ask in the name of sports?