Friday, July 24, 2015

Wasted days and years


Level Field

Is Malaysian sports so desperate to attain world standing again that we are falling back on past proven coaches?
Morten Frost has returned as technical director of the Badminton Association of Malaysia after his stint here as national coaching director 16 years ago (1997-1999).
Now, there is news that former hockey technical director Terry Walsh (1990-1993 and a three-month stint for the 1998 KL Commonwealth Games) may be coming back after 22 years.
Damien Kelly, training programme director for the 2006 Doha Asian Games, is also tipped to return to be a part of the National Sports Institute/National Sports Council Podium programme.
Let’s get one thing right – all of the above are reputable figures who served Malaysia well, and there are no qualms about them coming back.
But why were they made to leave in the first place?
Generally, not only these three but many other top foreign coaches who came to Malaysia left in a huff, basically unable to work freely and professionally. Some of them were ousted by the players themselves or they had differences with top officials who wanted these coaches out for reasons known only to them.
It is great that Frost is back and Walsh and Damien may be coming too. But the truth be told, we have probably wasted all the progress these coaches had made earlier. Think of what we could have achieved if they had stayed on all these years. What a waste!
Now, we are back to square one, not to mention the money we would have to spend on bringing these coaches back after such a long period.
Yes, some of the coaches left because they had better offers but if they were good for local sports, why was there no earnest effort to retain them?
If we can bring them back now, why were they allowed to leave earlier?
Some may argue that these coaches return with more knowledge and experience but others would say it would have been wiser to not let a good thing slip away.
Top coaches who have come and gone because they couldn’t handle the Malaysian sports culture include Li Mau, Han Jian, Yang Fang Xiang, Park Joo Bon and Rexy Mainaky in badminton; Trevor Harley, Dr Josef Venglos, Claude le Roy and Allan Harris in football; and Daniel St Hilaire, Wang Lin and Ume Freimuth in athletics. There were also many in gymnastics, who left in not the best of circumstances.
Bowling coach Sid Allen was ousted by the players after a 10-year stint, although the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) managed to continue the good methods that Sid had put in place.
I am not advocating foreign coaches but if a particular sports cannot find a calibre local coach to reach the next level or international standing, why not?
But these foreign coaches should not be for short-term programmes or achievements but they must be hired for long periods so that they can start programmes, plan the development of the game, groom local coaches to succeed them and scout for players to ensure there is a ready pool of young talent to tap.
It has been three years since the London Olympics and the Rio Olympics is next year. Have we done anything concrete since we returned from the former? We were struggling for supremacy even at the Singapore Sea Games.
In February, Minister of Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin announced the Podium Programme, which was formulated by a team of experts from the Western Australian Institute of Sports after a three-month intensive study of sports development of Malaysia. This came in the wake of our below-target performance at the Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games and the Incheon 17th Asian Games.
Goals have been set for the next four years: to be in the top 10 at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games, and winning 50% of the medals in all the events in which we will compete at the 29th SEA Games, which will be hosted by us, in 2017.

Excellent on paper but whether the programme, which is expected to go into full swing in September, has enough time to mature is left to be seen.

In realistic terms, a two Olympic cycle – eight years – is the minimum period for any programme to achieve the desired results.

But let us give the plans being put in place a chance and hopefully we will not face disappointment again, only to come with more short-term plans.

What Malaysian sports needs at this stage is a total overhaul, from top to bottom at the national, state and grass-root levels. But of course that is wishful thinking.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​

No comments: