Saturday, May 7, 2016

'Mr Squash' returns

 Squash’s main man Maniam returns

Subramaniam Singaraveloo or better known as Mej (Rtd) S. Maniam returns to Malaysia to take up the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia’s (SRAM) director of coaching post on July 1 after imparting his expertise in India for 14 years.
The former Malaysian national squash champion, national coach, Director of Coaching and affectionately known “Mr Squash of Malaysia” is certainly the most decorated Asian squash personality having been inducted to the Asian Squash Federation in 2009 and besides his consultant coach position in India, he was also the Director of Coaching for the Asian Squash Federation (ASF) and is still the director of the World Squash Federation (WSF) coaching and development committee. He has conducted more than 200 coaching courses at various levels.
The 62-year-old who will return to Malaysia on the third week on June was contacted by Mailsport’s TONY MARIADASS in Chennai and below he answers 10 questions…..

Mailsport: What made you return?
Mej Maniam: During his tenure as president of SRAM, Datuk Sani Karim invited me to return as Director of Coaching. But it did not work out at that time. The current president Huang Ying How then asked me sometime late last year. My contract with India was up for renewal in October 2016. I spoke with Mr N.Ramachandran, the patron of SRFI, expressing my desire to take up the Malaysian offer. After some discussions he reluctantly gave me his blessings. I had served Indian squash 14 years.
My family were happy as they wanted me back. My two daughters had moved back a few years ago.
My 17 years with SRAM was enjoyable and fruitful and I wanted to work with them again.

Mailsport: Who played significant role in your squash journey?
Mej Maniam: When I left in 2002 I had the blessings of two very important people in my squash career. Tan Sri Tunku Imran who was responsible for my coaching career and Tan Sri Mokhzani who was then the president of SRAM. In fact, Tan Sri Mokhzani wanted me back after a couple of years of my departure. I will never forget the support they provided throughout.
I am glad that I am finally returning to give back to squash in Malaysia. It has been an incredible journey for me.

Mailsport: How long will your contract be for?
MM: Two years.

Mailsport: What are your plans and what do you hope to achieve. What needs to be done? Is two years enough to revamp squash scene?
MM: SRAM  doing are well. I  may make small changes to see better results. I would like to focus on SRAM’s coach education programme. We need to bring many of the experienced local coaches up to speed with the rest of the advanced countries in squash. We need to continue improving our ‘bench strength’. The National Junior Development Programme would probably require a full time supervisor. I’d like to see Malaysian squash take back its rightful place as the world’s top four in men’s, women’s, junior men and junior women. Two years may not be sufficient for this to happen. I’d like to see another world champion (junior or senior- in addition to Nicol and Ong Beng Hee) emerge from Malaysia in the near future.

Mailsport: How was your tenure in India and what were your significant achievements?
MM: Besides being a coaching consultant in India, I conducted coaching and umpires courses, umpired, trained technical officials and helped out in the administration.
It was enjoyable and memorable tenure. I had a fantastic team with me. ASF Coach of the year Cyrus Poncha has been a great understudy and is more than ready to take the reins over from me. Mr. Ramachandran was a pillar of strength. He gave me a free hand to handle coaching. I set up a coach education programme, a National Junior development programme and a structured junior and elite training system.
Saurav Ghosal’s British Junior Open U19 title, Asian Games Gold (men) and Dipika Pallkai and Joshna Chinappa winning the 2014 Commonwealth gold (women) brings fond memories.

Mailsport: How do you see the squash world today compared to your playing days and since Nicol made her impact?
MM : Squash has evolved with new courts, equipment, scoring and refereeing. The quality of the squash court floors allows players to play and train longer and harder without too many injuries caused by the hard floors of yesteryear. The rackets are lighter and generate more power. This allows additional use of wrist for deception and short kills. The point a rally scoring is entertaining and encourages players to be adventurous at the right time. Stricter refereeing ensures the game flows without too much interference. Today’s players are extremely fit, fast and powerful. Specialist physical trainers are becoming a norm at the elite level. Sports science is playing a pivotal role in the grooming of world class squash players. The media (print, digital and social) have played an important role. Budding youngsters, these days are watching and learning via their mobile phones.

Mailsport: Do you see Malaysian players making an impact?
MM: Not having studied the full spectrum of players in the country I can only guess. Ng Eain Yeow and Sivasangari come to mind.
Delia Arnold showed her true mettle during the British Open in September 2015 where she beat Raneem El Weilily to make the semis. It was an outstanding performance. This only shows she has it in her to make top 10 at least. Need to look at her plans and take it from there.

Mailsport: How do you see Nicol's present form and will she be able to regain the world No 1  position?
MM: Nicol has been flying our flag proudly in the international arena for more than a decade now. She has been able to maintain her supreme fitness. The 17 inch tin requires her to be quicker and more aggressive. Players need to use the front of the court productively which I am sure Nicol is working on. Having worked with Nicol, before I can assure you one thing - she never ever gives up. She will give everything she has to regain her number one spot. It will not be easy but I am confident with slight modifications in her game and training, Nicol can be world No 1 again

Mailsport: How do you see the current coaching set-up with SRAM?
MM: I first travelled with Ong Beng Hee, when he played in the Scottish Junior Open (Under-11). Since then I have seen him grow into a world class squash player. Now he is a national coach at SRAM and I look forward to working with him yet again. Peter Genever whom I have met on several occasions is soft spoken and has been doing a great job with all the players at SRAM. Andrew Cross has done a great job with Eain Yeow. My old friend Raymond Arnold carries years of experience.
 In the team I shall be working with Peter Chee, the coaching Chairman and Leslie Ponnampalam and I am really looking forward to it because I think we have a great team. 
Together as a team and with full support from Datuk Ahmad Shapawi (Ismail) from the National Sports Council, I think we can take SRAM a notch higher.

Mailsport: Do you still play squash? What about your three daughters?
What do you do during your leisure time?
MM: I still play squash but mainly doubles. Of my three daughters (Venisha Mani, Ashrena Mani and Jesheila Mani), only Jesheila the youngest took up the game. She played as a junior in Malaysia and a little in India. Due to studies she quit. She has a bachelors in economics and runs an Internet marketing company called Chammak selling Indian products. My oldest has a masters in psychology and is employed by Institute Sukan Negara (National Sports Institute). The middle one, Ash, is with us in India. I love golf and reading.


D.O.B:                                 11 March 1954
Place of Birth:                    Kuala Lumpur
Nationality:                        Malaysian
Marital Status:                   Married with three daughters
Malaysian Armed Forces: 1972 - 1992
Graduated:                         Military Academy- Portsea, Australia 1975

1983-1985                           Assistant National Coach - SRAM
1986-2002                           National Chief Coach - SRAM 
1990-2013                           Director of Coaching - ASF
1999-2002                           Chairman-Malaysian Sports Coaches Assoc.
1995 - 2000                         Consultant Coach - WSF
1995 - 2009                         Coaching Committee - WSF
1997- 2012                          Seeding Panel - WSF & ASF
1996-2000                           Referee Advisor - WSF
1997-1998                           International Referee - WSF
2002- Current                    Consultant Coach SRFI
2009 - 2012                         Referee Appointments Review Panel-WSF
1990 - 2011                         Director of Coaching - ASF
2009 Nov - current            Director of Coaching and Development - WSF

1980, 1983, 1984, 1985       Sportsman of the year for Squash - Malaysia
1980                                     Player of the Year - East Asia
1985                                     Sportsman of the Year - Armed Forces
1998                                     Coach of the Year - Malaysia (all sports)
1999                                     WSF Award for work done in China
2009                                     ASF Hall of Fame
2012                                     WSF Award of Recognition

Squash Career:
1976                                    Started squash
1978 -1988                          Armed Forces Champion
1978 - 1986                         Represented Malaysia
1980 and 1985                    Malaysian National Champion
1980                                    Player of the year - East Asia
1980 and 1981                   SRAM Closed Champion
1983                                    Malaysian Closed Champion
1984 and 1985                    National Circuit Champion (Guinness)

Coaching Qualifications:
1980                                      Level 1
1981                                      Level 1 Course Tutor
1982                                      Level 2                                 
1983                                     Assistant National Coach-Malaysia                           
1983                                     Level 2 Course Tutor
1986                                     National Chief Coach                              
1986                                     Level 3 (England)
1989                                     Level 3 Course Tutor

Achievements as Coach
·     Worked with players who became Commonwealth Games Womens Doubles champions, Asian Games champions, World Junior mens and womens champions, British Junior Open champions and winners of several other international titles.

·        Successfully groomed coaches in the region. Some of whom are Allan Soyza (Director of Coaching-Malaysia), Aaron Soyza - Coach to former world no.6 (Low Wee Wern), Raymond Arnold (National Coach -Malaysia), Peter Chee (National Development officer-Malaysia), Cyrus Poncha (National Coach and Recipient of the highest coaching award in India- the Dronacharya Award) and many other elite coaches

·        Created and implemented the Coach Education Programme for the Asian Squash Federation, Malaysia and India.

·        Initiated the WSF Coach Education Programme.

·        Created and implemented the Sportexcel Junior Squash Circuit - Malaysia

·        Compiled and successfully implemented the National Junior Development     Programme and the Long Term Development Programme in Malaysia and   India
·        Introduced an Instructors course to the Asian Squash Federation

·        Lectured at the World Coaching and Development Conference (Malaysia,    Brazil, Sweden, Poland) WSF AGM (KL, Austria, New Zealand,  Philadelphia, Nice) and all coaching conferences in Asia.

·        Conducted more than 100 coaching courses, seminars and coaching clinics   around the world

Outstanding achievement of Teams
Malaysia     -            East Asian Champions - Senior and Junior
-            Asian Junior Champions - Junior Men and Junior Women
-                Asian Champions -Men and Women
-                World Junior Women - 2nd

India             -           World Junior Mens Team -4th
  -               World Junior Womens Team - 3rd
  -           World Mens Doubles - 2nd
                       -           International Invitation Doubles – Womens - 1st
                       -           Asian Mens Team - 2nd
   -          Asian Womens Team - 1st
   -          Asian Junior Mens Team - 1st
   -          Asian Junior Womens Team 1st 
   -          Asian Games - Men-Individual Silver, Women Bronze
   -          Asian Games - Mens Team- Gold and Womens Team -                                    Silver
   -          Commonwealth Games Womens Doubles Gold
   -          Commonwealth Youth Games Boys Individual Bronze and         Mixed Doubles silver

Outstanding Achievement - Individuals
Nicol David              World Junior Champion
Ong Beng Hee          World Junior Champion

Saurav Ghosal        British Junior Open - Champion, Asian Junior
                                  2nd, Asian Games - Bronze.  Joshna Chinappa    British                                             Junior Open          
                                  Champion, Asian Junior -
             Champion, WISPA Satellite Winner, 
              CWG-Womens Doubles Gold, Arjuna Award

Parth Sharma          National Jr. Champion
Dipika Pallikal        Asian Junior Champion - U15, Asian Games -                                               Bronze, CWG-Womens Doubles Gold, Arjuna                                            Award
Anaka Alankamony   Asian Jr. Champion, Youngest WISPA satellite      winner, Arjuna Award
Ravi Dixit                 Asian Junior Champion
Harinder Pal Singh  PSA Satellite Winner, National Champion
Kush Kumar             Asian Junior Champion (U17) Asian Youth 
    Games  - Gold, World Jr. 2014 - Bronze, BJO           2015 Bronze
                     Velavan S                 Commonwealth Youth Games -  Bronze
                      Harshit Kaur/Velavan Commonwealth Youth Games - Mixed                                                                          Doubles - Silver

Other contributions
Created and helped implement the ASF Performance and Coaching Awards
Initiated the Asian annual individual junior championships
Initiated the WSF annual individual junior championships

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