Grassroots may be the answer to a new era

IN 30 days, the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) will come out with the development blueprint. Peter de Souza, a former Malaysian now working as a sports consultant in Australia, tells Starsport's S. RAMAGURU that the clubs and states HAs are the ones who will have to feature prominently in the blueprint. 

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) has a proper structure in place but the lack of competition at the lower grassroots level is hampering the growth of the game in the country. 

Peter de Souza, a sports management consultant, said Malaysia and Australia have a similar structure but added that the greater emphasis on club and state developments has meant that the Aussies have achieved greater success at the world level. 

Peter is the son of Herman de Souza, the founder president of the Malaysian Hockey Federation in 1953. 

Herman was also the chef de mission for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and coached the Malaysia Davis Cup team in 1965. 

Peter, 59, said it was important that the MHF recognise the contributions that clubs can make at the lower levels and allow them the chance to help develop the game. 

“In Australia, all hockey players are registered with the clubs and there are many activities, from competitions to coaching, at club level. 

“The clubs are very strong and provide the base for hockey development in Australia. From there, the players go to the state teams and then on to the national team.  

“It is very competitive. There are so many competitions at club level that there is a big demand for proper coaching. 

“This is what is lacking in Malaysia - competitions at the district and club levels and systematic coaching for the youngsters,” he said. 

Before taking on the job of sports consultant, Peter was an executive with the Australian Public Service in Canberra. His area of expertise was in international scientific research. 

Currently, he also lectures at the Centre of Sports Studies in the University of Canberra. 

“I’m also not convinced that the centralised programme of having all the top players in the country at one centre is a good thing. Let the players remain with the states sides and bring them in periodically when there is a tournament.  

“When the players remain at the states they can help in guiding the youngsters and also play a role in the development at state and club level. 

“Why displace them and deny the states their presence?” he asked. 

Peter said volunteerism was also very much alive in Australia and that there were many who provide support without looking at rewards. 

“In Canberra, for example, there are about 9,000 registered hockey players. But each will have about five people supporting him or her. That means hockey in Canberra can rely on at least 45,000 people. 

“This is lacking here in Malaysia. Clubs here are only competition-oriented and do not provide coaching structure for young players. They hire players for major competitions. In Australia, you can join any club and can receive coaching. This means the players coming through the system are groomed properly. 

“Of course there is funding for each state affiliates but this is done only if there is a proper plan in place. 

“So, in looking at a blueprint, the MHF need to go down to grassroots to ensure that proper development takes place. 

“Getting feedback from the clubs and states is a good idea and the open forum the MHF held last week is a step in the right direction.  

“But unless we allow for the clubs and states to play a bigger role, the effort will not bear fruit. Inter-state competitions, like triangulars and quadrangulars should be encouraged. 

“Hopefully, the blueprint will cover this and start a new era for hockey in Malaysia,” he said.  

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