Sport development in the headlines (sort of)

Is Malaysia really serious about revamping their sports system?

Every few weeks something in the media makes it sound as if Malaysian sport officials may be moving towards a more comprehensive approach to developing individual sports. Sometimes it's as a result of bad news, like it was this past week when Malaysia failed to make it past the quarter finals in the Thomas Cup in Bangkok and when Sime Darby pulled its sponsorship of the Malaysian LPGA tournament. No matter what the reason though, anything that grabs people by the lapels and says, "Think of something else!" is a good thing.

Yatela Zainal Abidin, Chief Executive Officer of the Sime Darby Foundation (YSD), said the foundation "decided to pull the plug on LPGA Malaysia and intends to channel its resources into sports development programmes instead." She didn't elaborate about whether these developmental programs would be in golf or not but any kind of corporate recognition that its money can be used to better advantage at lower levels of sport is great news.

In an article titled, Pay for what you want, I noted that grassroots development is expensive and that no country on Earth has the resources to do it with government funding alone. The relevant quote is:

No government on Earth has enough money to bankroll a real grassroots sports program. Government funding would have to be spread so thin that it would end up being inconsequential.

So one part of the developmental equation is for sport associations to find partners willing to help shape the next generation of athletes. It sounds like that is what the Sime Darby Foundation is doing and they should be congratulated for it.

Meanwhile, Kenny Goh, Chief Operations Officer for Badminton Asia, hit a home run when he gave his suggestions as to how the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) might improve the sport.

He was speaking after the Malaysian Thomas Cup team failed to make it past the quarter finals in Bangkok. Many of Mr. Goh's ideas have been written about here before (and I wondered if he is a regular reader of this site). Here are the highlights of the article from the New Straits Times:

Empowering clubs and decentralizing the development system - Yes! As has been said here more than once, clubs are the heart and soul of the sport, so "building a healthy and thriving club system is vital to performance in any sport." As a result of a new and improved club system badminton administration will become decentralized and much more powerful and effective than the present centralized model.

More development tournaments - Competitions for lower skilled players are essential to help those players reach the high performance level. Matches are an important part of development, it's where all the skill training can actually be tested.

More involvement with state badminton associations - The strength of the national organization can be enhanced with a good state administrative structure. Just as empowering clubs strengthens badminton performance locally, helping state associations can increase their effectiveness on the state level. The BAM should recognize that their mandate is not just high performance but in creating the environment that can help produce it.

These are good ideas and if they are given a chance then sports in Malaysia will eventually make progress. However, one thing we need to keep in mind is that development is a long-term process. There are no quick fixes. Changes need to be given time to work.