Friday, October 3, 2014

It’s now or never

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 03, 2014 - the malay mail
Kamaruddi Haziq (right) in action against China in the men’s recurve fi nal. Archery has benefited from long-term development plans. — Picture by AFP
THE writing has been on the wall for some time but officials chose to ignore it or were hoping for a quick turnaround.

But after back-to-back “failures” — to use sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s own word — governors of Malaysian sports must address the situation immediately to stop the rot.

For far too long there have been promises of stringent measures after each debacle but more often than not, they were half-heartedly implemented.

Of course, many will try to justify Malaysia’s performance. The excuses will be the same — silvers could have been gold, competition in certain sports was tough, we were drawn in difficult groups and luck was not on our side.

The fact remains no one remembers a silver medal. We should not depend on the luck of the draw. It is the physical and mental strength of the athletes that matter.

Depending on ageing athletes is certainly not the best formula. Khairy, it is learnt, is going to shake up the National Sports Council (NSC), but he must not stop there. He must ask the National Sports Associations (NSA) leaders who have failed to step down.

There must be a change from top to bottom. Sepaktakraw, especially, has time and again failed. The association cannot give any more excuses.

Khairy must also not make the mistake of coming up with shortterm programmes. The last longterm programme was Jaya 98, a six-year plan that bore fruit in the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

Setting up a special unit to oversee programmes for the 2016 Olympics and 2018 Asian and Commonwealth Games may see us fall into the same trap. What we need is at least a six- or eight-year programme.

This means we start focusing on young athletes under a systematic training programme. As far as possible, overseas stints should be used for competitions.

Base the athletes locally with the best brains in coaching, be it local or foreign, handling the programmes.

Next year’s SEA Games in Singapore and the 2017 Games hosted by Malaysia should be used to expose as many young athletes as possible.

For proof that long-term development programmes work, just look at sailing and archery.

Above all, NSAs should be fully committed to and involved in these programmes.

NSC should be the financial backer and monitor agency of programmes submitted to it for aid. It is the respective sports associations who are the experts and should be allowed to conduct their programmes.

If the NSC is an expert in all sports, then it should shut down all NSA and be the sole body for Malaysian sports.

It will be frustrating for associations at the start of longterm programmes but they must soldier on. Working with young athletes seldom brings immediate success, but the end result can be very rewarding.

There can be no room for sentiments. One has to be cruel to be kind and many will have to make way for a good thing.

The efforts of many officials should be recognised, but they have to vacate their seats if they love Malaysian sports.

At the same time, athletes have to buck up and set their own targets. They can no longer be floating in the system and continue to enjoy the benefits if they do not improve.

We need warriors among our athletes, not hangers-on.

It is time for the real officials and athletes to stand up and be counted. Those who cannot take the demands of high-performance sports have to ship out.

We have to make every ringgit spent worth it.

No comments: