Friday, November 4, 2016



Level Field

TALENT scouting is virtually non-existent in Malaysia.
I mentioned this in my columns several times, but it has fallen on deaf ears or sports associations feel it is too much work, and results are not instantaneous.
Development takes time and can’t bear fruit if hard work with proper programmes and patience are not in place.
I am raising the topic again after receiving an email last week from Gan Kah Lok.
She is a 22-year-old Chinese educated girl from Kuala Lumpur seeking assistance to find a high jump coach.
She has been trying to get involved in the sport since primary school at SJK (C) Kung Min.
“I have been looking for a chance to become a professional high jumper since I was young, but unfortunately I haven’t got the chance to do so,” said Kah Lok in her email.
“I convinced myself to stop dreaming and focus on studies instead,” said Kah Lok, a top science student who excelled in her PMR and SPM examinations while studying at SMK Puteri Jaya, and who is now studying for her GCE A Level at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College.
“I want to give it a try. I know I’m not young, but I don’t want to regret not pursuing my dream.”
I contacted a high jump coach who has groomed many talented athletes who had been neglected or needed assistance.
He will remain anonymous, but he has met Kah Lok.
“She has talent, but it is too late. To develop her will take at least two years by which time she will be 24,” said the coach.
“If only she had been spotted early and been trained, she might have made it.”
But the coach said he would find someone to train her at least twice a week.
A potential lost.
Imagine how many budding talents Malaysia has lost because there is no proper system for them to develop, especially in Chinese and Tamil schools.
Even when talent scouting is available in some instances, the next level to train and develop skills is non-existent.
German talent identification expert, Torsten Tesch, who was in Malaysia for three months recently under the German sports solidarity programme, confirmed through data available, the nation has tremendous talent.
However, the next step where these talents need nurturing with proper coaching is missing.
It is no secret state and national sports associations pay little attention to talent identification or development.
Former internationals are hardly used for development programmes.
However, there is some saving grace with former athletes like Samson Vallbuoy and B. Rajkumar who are conducting training for Under-12 athletes mainly from Tamil schools and poor children in Ipoh and Kuala Kubu Baru three times week.
Samson, a national runner from 1981 to 1991, who won three gold medals in the SEA Games, and Rajkumar, best known for his win and national record of 1:47.37s in the men’s 800m at the 1985 Asian Track and Field Championships in Jakarta, have started coaching clinics for about 40 children with the assistance of a few other qualified coaches.
Both have been conducting their clinics voluntarily with their own money and some assistance from well-wishers.
Samson is continuing what his wife, Josephine Mary, another illustrious athlete who won six gold medals in the SEA Games and still holds the national 800m record, had started early this year as part of her two months coaching course at the Delaware University in collaboration of the US National Olympic Committee under the International Coaches Enhancement Certificate Programme.
Having already contributed to the nation by nurturing their daughters Jocelyn and Shereen to become national athletes, they are looking forward to creating a bigger base of future athletes from Perak.
Josephine conducted a study through a pilot project with two secondary school children aged 13 in Perak and conducted a talent identification activity focused on athletics.  In the process she had also attempted to educate and train a pool of volunteer Physical Education teachers on the techniques of carrying out talent identification on their students while conducting PE lessons in schools.
Josephine in her paper presented had said: “On the data and information collected, I have compiled a working paper which outlines the underlying problems on TID in this country and the necessary affirmative action that needs to be addressed by the respective authorities so as to formulate a standard policy change in order to revamp the current physical education program in schools.  
“It is my personal opinion, if these suggestions are given attention, there is a high possibility that young and talented athletes could mushroom, who in turn will be possible back up material for the nation.
“It is also my mission to increase the pool of young talented youths/athletes and thus adopt a long term training program from grassroots to specific for these athletes where we can see some impressive results along the way as they progress.  In addition to this, I am also trying to establish links between sports and local athletic clubs.”
Kah Lok’s case is a wake-up call for sports to take talent identification and grassroots development seriously if we are genuine about building a sporting nation. 

TONY is a sports
journalist close to
four decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at

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