A RECENT call to give more emphasis to sports in schools may be like sweet music to some but, to many, it is like listening to a broken record.
Our Ministers have a tendency to shoot from the hip. They can talk and talk and talk. That’s all. Nothing ever happens after that.
So, when Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the Education Minister, spoke about the good old days of sporting rivalry between schools, it brought back fond memories.
After all, who can forget the intense on-field rivalries between the likes of Victoria Institution and St John’s in Kuala Lumpur, Free School and St Xaviers in Penang, St Paul’s and King George V in Seremban; and Anderson and Anglo-Chinese in Ipoh?
Inter-school competitions at district and state levels were a matter of pride – not only to the children and the schools concerned, but to the parents and, sometimes, even the entire neighbourhood.
And to bring back this kind of sporting culture, Muhyiddin has proposed to review the education curriculum to place more importance on sports.
Muhyiddin should know what he is talking about, having helmed the Sports Ministry a few years back.
Now that he is heading the Education Ministry, his call for a merger between sports and studies does have a credible ring to it.
With the Sports Ministry now headed by the youthful-looking and vibrant Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, there seems to be no better time to get things moving and make sports more prominent in schools.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
But can you blame anyone for being sceptical? How many times have we heard such rhetoric?
In reality, everyone wants to see a concerted effort that goes beyond mere talking.
There are just too many deep-rooted problems in our school system which are hindering the implementation of sports programmes.
First of all, the mentality of teachers and parents that life is all about academic excellence should be changed. Haven’t they ever heard of the good old saying: “All work and no play makes Jack (or Jill) a dull boy (girl).”
A healthy balance – good academic results and equally good sporting achievement – is the key to nurturing a complete student.
In the United Stated and Australia, parents are the pillars behind their children’s interest in sports. And, most of the time, it is a family affair.
But children in Malaysia these days seem to have developed a fear of getting their skin tanned, preferring to spend their time playing computer games or watching television while others are busy being shuttled from one tuition centre to another.
Perhaps, parents should take some of the blame here. Many parents these days prefer their children to stay indoors than to sweat it out at the fields and parks around their neighbourhoods.
And the rising crime rate in the country is not helping matters either.
There are other setbacks too – lack of male teachers; poor sporting facilities; fast disappearing fields and playgrounds; biased selection of athletes at school, district, state and national levels; and the concentration of a sport based on a particular race.
On top of that, there is the issue of ownership and red tapes.
Schools refuse to release potential athletes to play for clubs, states and national sports associations. And states fight - literally - for the right to own students, especially when the Malaysian Games (Sukma) looms ahead.
No wonder, the children of this generation are losing interest in sports and have so much time to get involved in unhealthy activities.
In short, the school system needs a major shake-up to give sports a chance to take root once again.
And for the Ministers and their hordes of yes-men, it is time to walk the talk. Otherwise, they can talk until the cows come home and nothing will happen – ever.