AT a time when the teaching profession is being besmirched by the UPSR examination leaks, it is good to remember when teachers were held in high esteem especially in the sporting field.
Of late, teachers have been accused of not having the same commitment as their older colleagues when it comes to sports development.
There are various reasons from lack of rewards, changing lifestyle, teachers who prefer to earn extra money through tuition and the diminishing number of school fields.
Tribute to teachers
This column attempts to give credit to those who were the pillars of Malaysian sports — many of whom were teachers.
It is impossible to credit every one because many shy away from publicity, are working in the remote areas or others steal their glory.
Rennie Martin, who celebrated his 80th birthday last Thursday, was among the teachers who did so much for Malaysian sports.
Among those who attended his birthday celebration were Datuk R. Yogeswaran, Brother Felix James Donohue, Karu Selvaratnam, Freddy Vias, N.A. Baskaran, Leslie Armstrong, Dennis Doss and Radha Krishnan.
Key role in development
Rennie’s dedication to athletics was second to none and the sacrifices he made are unthinkable these days.
He would drive athletes around for training and competition, give them pocket money, buy them spikes and be in school the whole day, weekends and school holidays!
The education and sports ministries should recognise and reward teachers like Rennie so they can be icons for teachers.
Rennie with his family from left daughter-in-law Cynthia Laetitia, wife Josebelll, daughter Sumitha, son Suresh and grandchildren Christian Aida and Alexandra.
Rennie began his teaching career in Taiping in 1953.
He went on to teach in St Anthony's school in Pudu (1954), Batu Arang (1955-1960) 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.
Rennie was actually more interested in football and was a referee in the 1960s.
But he was assaulted when he was refereeing a Selangor league match between VOC and Hong Chin at the SIA ground (beside the Istana Negara then).
Only the security provided by the Hong Chin players who put him in a taxi and sent him home saved him from further injuries and Rennie decided to quit the sport.
It was then that his friend, Leslie Armstrong asked him to get involved in athletics.
Rennie was a natural and even turned a basketball player, Ho Yoon Wah into a national jumper who cleared 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 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 into the thousands.
The only thing that kept him going all those years was his passion for the sport.
Rennie training athletes.
Rennie was so passionate about the development of athletics that he has presented many papers to the Malaysian Athletics Federation, Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM) and National Sports Council. He has also written in newspapers how the standard of athletics in the country can be improved and how the MSSM system has to change to expose budding athletes to various events instead of specialising at an early age.
If only they had listened, Malaysian athletics would not be in the doldrums today.
Rennie's articles in newspapers on development.
Rennie had this to say: “As long as we neglect development, sports in schools is dead.
The playing fields keep disappearing, teachers are more interested in giving tuition than being on the field and the education system does not favour sports, we can continue to spend millions of ringgit and not get any returns.”
Many names of teachers mentioned here might not ring a bell but they need to be acknowledged for being responsible for past glories.
Among those who made their marks in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s include Gerald Rozells, the late Bernard Khoo, the late Philip Adolphus, Kirubakaran Rokk, David Fernandez, Datuk Ahmad Shafie (football), Lionel Rajamoney, Michael Perry, C. Ramanathan, T. Krishnan, A. Tripadi, S. Sivapragasam, Tan Choo Mong, T. Thiruselvam, Marina Chin, N. Nadarajah (athletics), Brian Foennader, Louis Rodriques, late Vincent Fernandez, S. Sivapathsundram, Malek Khiew, Teng Cheng Leong, Pritam Singh Sandhu, Gurdial Singh (hockey), B. Rajakulasingham, Indran, B. Sathiasivam, R. Ratnasingam, Jimi Chai (cricket), Aladad Khan (multiple sports), late Mui Fatt Chai, Goh Yea Yen (badminton), Wong Tong Poh (swimming), the late Ung Ket Chow (rugby) and the list goes on.
Many of these teachers are still actively involved in coaching despite being retired. In recent times, we have had K. Sukumaran, P. Gansesmoorthy, C. Nadarajan, Ustaz Md Yazid Yahaya, Sidan Harun, Mat Jusoh Saat, Khairul Annuar Khairuddin (football), S. Arunandy, Khoo Boon Keat, A. Vellurajan, K. Segeran Nair, Tan Eng Hui, R. Magendran, Pritam Kaur, (athletics), S. Sasitheran, R. Vivekananda, N. Ghananathan, K. Sunderasan, Tejar Singh, Yap Gark Soo, Mokhtar Baharuddin, Durai Raj (hockey), K. Kamarajan (cricket), Mazlan Ahmad (swimming), the late Guana Seagarn Sammuel, Yasmin Othman, Nahar Desa, Madeline Parril, Khairul Mohtar, Anita Abdullah, Doris Selvi Thomas, Mathialagan, Abdul Rahman Besar (bowling) to name a few.
There is still hope for schools to become the permanent foundation of Malaysian sports but it needs to be made worthwhile for teachers to be seriously involved.
This is a tribute to teachers like Rennie Martin, the many mentioned in this article and the many more who have been missed out.