IDENTIFYING young talents and developing them into world-class champions is not an easy task. I have read about the pyramid system, which is applied in schools, where students are groomed to compete at the basic level in primary schools, right up to the national level in secondary schools.
Outstanding athletes represent their schools, moving up from the district to the state level. At the pinnacle is the national level, governed by the National Schools Sports Council Athletics, where the top students will vie for a place as the nations best in selected sports.
It is essential that physical education be reviewed to offer students an overall education and foundation in healthy living. Physical activity can yield benefits for mental and cognitive health. It also improves social behaviour, enhances sportsmanship, self-efficacy and emotional intelligence.
Schools should employ former athletes and those with coaching certificates as coaches and trainers to assist the schools in various districts and states to help produce more champions as part of our National Sports Vision 2030.
The pyramid system ensures that the best athletes, who are identified from young, are trained to excel.
We have a former world squash champion running a programme called “Little Legends” to teach children the basics on physical, mental and various exercises, as well as aspects on discipline.
We also have sports schools in Johore and in Bukit Jalil offering leadership programmes. According to a report, 50 Olympians were produced from five sports schools since the first one, Bukit Jalil Sports School, was opened in 1996.
The Education Ministry, Youth and Sports Ministry and parents all have a role to play in providing children with a balance in academics and sports. If sports do not pan out, there is always education for children to rely on as a career path.
This is where both ministries can work hand in hand to chart an all-rounded education for students. A fine example is Azeem Fahmi, who was given a scholarship to pursue a degree at a university in the US.
Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh and Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek should work together to get investments for sports schools, which is a platform for young athletes to advance while they pursue their studies.
To be a world-class athlete, students need to have a world-class mindset. They need to excel physically and mentally, and sports schools can play a crucial role.
The more students who are uncovered at the grassroots and youth levels, the more champions can be produced if nurtured and developed from young.
C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu