Badminton’s future in the country starts in schools and the mindset of parents

Future stars: Young shuttlers need to be given proper guidance to improve their technique.

This is a period of inter-school district sports throughout the nation.

Sports such as badminton, cross country, sepak takraw and athletics, among others, will be organised by district education offices.

MSSD badminton tournaments are being held now so that the district teams can be formed for the Selangor Schools tournament (MSSS) due to be held from Feb 4 for 7 in Petaling Perdana.

Hundreds of players from primary and secondary schools will vye for 36 places in each district teams.

Often, districts will choose these players and conduct a centralised training for them for a couple of days before the Selangor meet.

Nothing much can be done in a few days in terms of improving the skills or fitness of players.

The sad part is, most of the time, we the coaches of these district teams, will know who would be selected before the district tournament starts! Bias? No. Cronyism? No. It is due to the lack of new unknown talents in these meets.

Around 500 players would be taking part and the maximum number of unknown talents that can match the established players is one! Most of the time, it’s none!

Only at the primary level can an above average player penetrate into the district team.

Even then, that player would have been trying for years to achieve it.

They then carry on to secondary level. That is a reality in many districts in Selangor.

Players such as R. Sathiestharan, M. Thinaah, Zulfadli Zulkifli, Azryn Ayub, Ng Pui Yee, Soong Joo Ven are some who conquered this game from primary to secondary in recent years.

Sathiestharan of Selangor and Cheam Jun Wei of Penang played in the boys’ singles final in the MSSM Badminton tournament every year until last year.

One will be surprised to know that it happens in the district level too. For instance, Kunaal Dev versus Ai Wei Jian was the line-up in the boys’ singles final in MSSD Gombak from the year 2008 to 2011 — a four-year continued rivalry with Kunaal winning it every year.

Now Kasturi Radhakrishnan is repeating that in the girls’ singles category. Perhaps this scenario is insignificant for some.

I wondered initially. How could it be that there are no newcomers to challenge them or to give them a decent fight in the tournaments? The answer is obvious. Everyone knows it. Parents.

Yes, parents who love the game and make arrangements to train their children properly under a professional coach consistently for a long time. The parents of the above-mentioned youngsters are a shining example.

They sacrifice their time, money, energy and leisure time by sending their children for daily training and taking them for tournaments. Worse still, they kill many hours sitting in the badminton hall.

I personally know some parents who quit their well paid jobs and start their own business so that they can be with their kids whenever they want — for training and tournaments.

Most of them do feel the pinch in terms of money spent on their badminton playing kids — coaches’ fees, equipments, food, travelling and supplements.

Don’t be surprised if a parent says he or she spends RM3,000 a month on average. I am not sure how many people realise the fact that Malaysia will never have good players without these parents.

Schools and district education offices can never produce a good badminton player. Believe me, not under the current conditions.

Many schools and districts have good badminton teams. However, we the teachers, acknowledge that we do not produce good players unlike other sports.

Why can’t we? Look around in schools nearby you. How many schools have playable badminton halls? A necessity. Even if a school has a hall, does it have expertise in coaching and guiding badminton players?

How many school heads are interested to build strong badminton teams?

I could create tens of questions explaining why schools can’t do much when it comes to badminton.

Malaysian stakeholders should know that these things must change.

Many parents and students are less involved actively in badminton due to many reasons.

No problem if badminton is played as a leisure sport in a family. But to get involved actively is a major decision for them.

Sooner or later when the economic cake gets smaller, when other priorities take over, fewer parents would do the same as before. Consequently, the nation suffers.

I admire Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. I really hope he will find ways to help schools produce good players by creating the proper infrastructure and expertise in badminton coaching and sports science.

By doing this, we can supplement the role of parents who are passionate to train their kids.

The Government can also create more sports’ schools and assure parents that there is indeed a future for badminton playing kids. Though we have “1Murid 1Sukan” (1 student 1 game) programme in schools, the purpose of every student taking part in a game is significantly different from producing skillful students in a game.

Quality is needed to excel in the sport of badminton!

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