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Monday, 9 June 2014 | MYT 10:42 PM

OFF THE COURT: Malaysian junior athletes are just too ‘lembik’

The benchmark. Can our junior athletes train as hard as Malaysia's world No.1 badminton player, Lee Chong Wei?

The benchmark. Can our junior athletes train as hard as Malaysia's world No.1 badminton player, Lee Chong Wei?

“IT IS okay lah. The training is not too bad lah. I will try lah … Wah, so hard lah today.”

These are some of the common statements I hear from our juniors nowadays. It is not only in badminton.

It is the easy-going, laid-back attitude and lack of competitiveness at grassroots level that we have problems producing quality players.

I have travelled quite a bit. After ending my decade-long career with the national team, I went to play in the league in Europe.

It’s different there. The European athletes know what they want. And they do it with real focus. Even the young ones possess admirable self-control and show a high level of commitment.

During my time in the national team, we were all single-minded. We used to push each other to the limit.

It was a thriving time – especially in the men’s singles. There were established players like Ong Ewe Hock and Yong Hock Kin being pushed by my batch like Mohd Roslin Hashim, James Chua, Lee Tsuen Seng, Sairul Amar Ayob, Ismail Saman, Jason Wong. Below us, Mohd Hafiz Hashim and Lee Chong Wei were snapping at our heels.

There was a healthy competition. We may be good friends, but we kept each other on our toes.

Now, our players are satisfied with mediocrity. When you’re involved in sports, you should have the competitive edge and spirit.

Many things, however, are compromised these days.

They are happy producing low quality work in training. They are happy when they miss one or two days of training to catch a movie or hang out with friends. They are happy if they lose easily to their team-mates.

Maybe, that’s the reason why we are struggling to find successors for some sports – like a replacement for Chong Wei in badminton or Nicol David in squash. I believe it’s the same in other sports, too.

It is not because we lack the players – it is because we lack the quality and character in them.

We cannot solve this problem at the top because it is too late. It has to be dealt with – from the bottom.

There are a few challenges at the state and lower levels and I would like to highlight a few. I think we seriously lack good coaches. I call it the congestion problem – too many players but too few quality coaches.

It is because of this that some of the players at the lower level do not get the attention and guidance needed to excel. They are physically strong but lacking the skills.

It is like creating an army of players. They are all strong and mighty but without in-depth knowledge on how to strategise when they are under attack.

The quality is already being compromised and diluted at the base. Just imagine what you have when they move up the ladder.

On top of that, youngsters of this generation have to deal with so many other distractions, too. They are being bombarded with 24-hour fun and entertainment via all their cool gadgets. If they’re not monitored, all is lost and we don’t have their attention, interest, devotion and commitment.

Both the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Sports can work together to churn out more quality coaches. And these coaches must also be good educators and role models who are willing to go the extra mile to make the juniors complete players.

Then, there is a problem with facilities, too. We have a big pool of players but do not have enough facilities to support them? Can you imagine having 40 to 50 players at state level with just one or two coaches and a few courts?

The intake of badminton players into the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) is about 10-12 players a year – half of them boys and the other half girls. This is not enough.

How many of them are going to survive the system?

During my time, 10 boys and 10 girls were selected into the academy every year.

And I strongly believe that coaches must be fair to their players – whether it is at the state or national level.

If a player is not good enough, the coaches must be honest to inform them or give them another option. One should not be given false hope.

I can go on talking more, but I strongly believe that all the stakeholders have a role to play to ensure that we have continuity of quality players coming through.

If everyone from the bottom to the top level is united by a common goal, we should get it right, If not, we just have to wait lah!

Tags / Keywords: Wong Choong Hann , badminton , squash , Lee Chong Wei , Nicol David , Bukit Jalil Sports School , BAM


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