Jumaat, 30 Mei 2008

Malaysian hockey: Look to schools for the talent

By: Harban Singh, Johor Baru

THE script for the failure of the men's hockey team in the recently concluded Olympic qualifying rounds and Azlan Shah Cup tournament is all too familiar. We would have come up with the same reasons 10 or 20 years ago as well. The root of the problem continues to be that we do not have a large talent pool to draw from.

What are the sources and nurturing fields of this talent pool? It is obviously our schools. The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) needs to persuade the Education Department to give greater emphasis to hockey's structural development at the school level. Eventually, from a "quantity pool, you will get a quality pool of players".

At present, the forward line of our national team is a good indication of why we consistently fail in hockey. What is needed is not only "thinking players" but those with a certain build who cannot be easily intimidated. What we need is 11 "Chua Boon Huats" before we can take on the world. This must start from the grassroots level.

The MHF must send out its scouts and have a mentorship programme (where former and current state players mentor promising junior players) to find talented and rightly built players, especially for key positions. All else being equal in a hockey match, size does matter.

Perhaps the youth and sports minister should sit down with the education minister to prioritise the long-term development needs of hockey and draw up a strategic plan with input from the MHF and other key stakeholders.
If we don't address this issue now, the script of excuses for our hockey failures will be the same 10 years from now.

While we draw up strategic plans for hockey, it would be prudent to keep the present coaches of the senior and junior teams for consistency and continuity. The current hockey coaches are the best around.

The MHF could send them for courses on management and creativity. Networking with sports institutes should help. Australia, the United States and Korea are the leaders in this field and we should study closely how they have arrived where they are now.

The New Straits Times Online:29 Mei 2008

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