Miscued mission for excellence
Friday, July 12, 2013 - 12:37 (The Malay Mail)
Besides the annual school activities — inter-class, inter-house, inter-district and national championships — these athletes also compete in many local and international multi-sport events.
At district level, a total of 805,088 students are involved yearly while at state and national levels, it is 100,636 and 12,154 respectively.
At the recent 16th Malaysia Games, easily 80 per cent of the participants were school athletes.
When the Games was introduced in 1986, it was an open-age event. But as it duplicated the various national championships, an age limit of under 23 was introduced. This was later reduced to under 21 and now there are plans bring it down to under 19.
The objective of the Games was to enable the hosts to acquire new sports facilities and unearth fresh talent, especially among school leavers aged 19 to 21.
The point is, while student athletes who find places in tertiary institutions can participate in the Games, those who do not continue their studies are left in the wilderness.
So too are those who go to colleges. There are about 500 colleges in Malaysia, but the majority of them do not promote sport and do not have the facilities.
Thus, the Malaysia Games continues to survive on the supply of athletes from schools, which does not augur well for the development of sport in the country.
International meets for school athletes this year include the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, Asian Youth Games, Asean Schools Games, 21st Little Athletics International and the inaugural Asian Schools Track and Field championships, not to mention the various Asian schools championships for soccer, rugby, athletics, table tennis, swimming and tenpin bowling, to name but a few.
Apart from burnout, there is also the issue of students missing school due to their involvement in sport. Athletes from sports schools easily miss about 70 days of school due to training and competition.
While it is good news that top athletes in schools are getting ample exposure through competition, it must not exhaust them or cause them to neglect their studies.
Yet, the vacuum in the 19 to 21 age group has to be addressed.
True, athletes are coming through from the universities, the Games organised by the Malaysian Universities Sports Council (for public universities), the Polytechnic Sports Council, the Community College Sports Council, Private Institutions of Higher Education Sports Council and the Malaysian Institution of Higher Learning Games (SUKIPT), but a lot more needs to be done to widen the athlete base and reduce the burden of students.
It is pointless to organise Games for the sake of organising them or competing in competitions for the sake of competition. Millions of ringgit are being spent in the name of sport and there has to be accountability and returns without overtaxing school athletes.