Re-thinking the mission of Malaysia's sport associations

    The good news is Malaysia achieved its 7-gold medal target at the just completed Asian Games in Jakarta. The bad news is officials and the public expected more. The low-key announcement of the target signaled a low confidence level before the contingent even left for Jakarta. This particular competition was touted as the final test of the ambitious Podium Program, Malaysia's high performance scheme to raise its standard in international competition. That program will probably be judged as a failure now and high level analysis will try to determine why, and what, if anything, should take its place. If you listen carefully you can almost hear officials asking "What now?"

    The bad news -- recent results from international games, a new government facing economic challenges, and the imminent Podium Program review -- could actually be good news. These issues may just be the 'perfect storm' of events that will jumpstart changes in the Malaysian sport structure. Officials need to look outside the Podium Program at the bigger picture of how sport works in Malaysia. Because of the money and other resources invested in the Podium Program it's an easy target for post-Games analysis but limiting inquiry to just the Podium Program will not yield the answers Malaysian sport needs right now.

    Decision makers have essentially two choices: (1) They can decide that renewed emphasis on the typical sport development go-to's -- schools, talent ID, new leadership -- is a viable option only this time they'll do it better. This, obviously, is not a good idea. Or (2) They can enlarge and formalize the role that associations play in development, and, through practices like making future funding dependent on achieving strategic key performance indicators (KPIs), pass much of the development and performance planning to the sport associations. (A much better idea!)

    The Podium Program has a small footprint that affects few Malaysian athletes and has no role at all in producing new athletes. Nonetheless, it is a vital component in the overall sport structure, but the kind of change Malaysia needs has to be much more wide ranging with more clubs, more coaches, more athletes, if sustained improvement is to be realized. The athlete pool needs to be deeper.

    Embrace a broad definition of sport development

    I wrote previously about how sport development should be defined and how Malaysian sport officials focus too much on the elite level of performance and almost not at all on increasing the size of the athlete pool.

    The number of athletes involved in a sport at all levels has a significant effect on performance at the very top level. Currently Malaysia focuses on elite performance to the point of almost completely ignoring the 'the grassroots'.

    Development needs to be defined broadly. The athlete pool needs to be larger, organized, and understood demographically. This is not an easy task and, so far, associations have shied away from any large efforts at increasing the athlete pool in their sports. This is why the ministry should establish KPIs that address development issues, and then hold associations responsible for them through annual funding formulas.

    Associations need to eliminate their 'super club' structures

    Some sport associations have evolved into super clubs by getting all top athletes from clubs around the country to join their own nationalized training programs. These programs typically have top coaches and sport science support from the National Sports Institute or other experts. Athletes participate in these programs on a long-term basis, sometimes for years. The Badminton Association of Malaysia has even gone so far as to coerce players into leaving their clubs if they want to play in high level tournaments.

    Presumably the quality of training in these super clubs is high but these kinds of programs are not beneficial to the long-term health of Malaysian sport for four reasons:

    1. Clubs are the lifeblood of sport development and poaching athletes so they can join nationalized programs cripples the club system.
    2. Super clubs discourage other clubs from participating in national sport endeavors. Clubs and coaches have little motivation to produce top level athletes if they're only to be snatched up by the national association when they reach the elite level.
    3. A super club structure effectively means that there is only one club in the country. In terms of overall development super clubs are a step backward. It may be thought to promote the best training scenario for the sport's top athletes but realistically the return on investment from such programs is limited and conducted at the expense of all other athletes not yet at this level.
    4. Getting out of the training business will free up funds to spend on development programs. Sport associations say that lack of funding is one of the reasons they don't have adequate developmental programs. By ditching the super club model the money saved can be redirected to development.

    The performance of super club athletes is claimed to be a motivating factor for younger athletes so that they will persist in their training and eventually rise to the level where they too can represent the country. This idea assumes that younger athletes have the opportunities to do this; the coaches who can offer instruction, training, and mentoring; a competition schedule that supports development; and transparent pathways for progress. The super club model provides none of these things. In fact it effectively prevents them from happening.

    Sport associations are administrative bodies, they should not be in the business of training athletes. The current evolution of associations into super clubs has hurt club development. Strengthening the club system is critical to future sport success.

    National team qualification needs to be more transparent

    The super club model also clouds the issue of national team selection. How can athletes who are not part of the nationalized program ever be selected for international competitions? Without a clear answer to this question athletes have little reason to focus on their training, and no matter what level they are at presently their motivation to 'qualify' for the Malaysian national team is diminished.

    Because of backroom lobbying, association politics, and opaque funding issues the path to the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, or any large international fixture rests only partially on performance. The rest is determined by factors completely outside the athlete's control. This creates a poor motivational and training environment.

    Obviously it is easier to select athletes in some sports than others. Team sports or sports that are judged, for example, pose unique problems for selection committees. Additionally teams need to be formed well in advance of competitions so that players can develop the dynamic so important to team success.

    Other sports, those measured with time, distance, and weight -- the so-called cgs sports (centimeters, grams, and seconds) -- can be much more straightforward with their selection process. A simple trials competition to select the national team prior to an international games would assure the respective association that the best athletes were selected. This method of talent selection was discussed in a previous article.

    The path to the national team should be transparent and fair. All athletes, whether they are part of a nationalized program or not, should understand what it takes to become a member of a national team and have the opportunity to participate in the selection process.

    The sport hierarchy in Malaysia must appreciate the motivational aspect of making these processes transparent. Sport is a meritocracy and selection processes should be put in place that reinforce this.

    The future of Malaysian sport lies with the sport associations. Any national review of sport structure and policy should aim to strengthen the associations and begin to insist that sport development become their primary mission.

    --------
    Bill Price (price@ussa-my.com) is the Chief Information Officer at USSA Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

    All articles

    Is talent identification even possible? - 17 September 2018

    Who won the Asian Games? USSA Malaysia fires up its research department for another riveting analysis - 10 September 2018

    Re-thinking the mission of Malaysia's sport associations - 03 September 2018

    Using maturity offsets to determine age at peak height velocity - 27 August 2018

    Does Malaysia need the Podium Program? Yes, but it also needs something more - 20 August 2018

    The youth sport talent illusion: How we confuse early-maturers with good athletes - 13 August 2018

    Naturalized footballers: Is it really the Malaysian national team if the players aren't Malaysian? - 06 August 2018

    The tip of the iceberg: What are we seeing when we watch elite sport performances? - 30 July 2018

    What are bicycle gears for? Hint: It's not what you think! - 23 July 2018

    Tour de France: Looking forward to Stage 17 - 09 July 2018

    3 tips that will keep your fitness program on track - 03 July 2018

    7 things youth sport coaches should know - 25 June 2018

    Who is responsible for athlete performance: Athletes, coaches, or committees? - 18 June 2018

    Creating a culture of achievement in sport - 05 June 2018

    Sport development in the headlines (sort of): Is Malaysia really serious about revamping their sports system? - 28 May 2018

    Why can't the SEA Games have a core list of sports? - 21 May 2018

    Some ideas for Malaysia's new sports minister - 14 May 2018

    The daily mile: Can this simple yet brilliant idea help improve fitness at your school? - 07 May 2018

    The Podium Program: One of the bright spots in Malaysian sport - 01 May 2018

    Who won the Commonwealth Games? A points analysis of the Gold Coast games - 23 April 2018

    Is it possible to win the Commonwealth Games? Why '10th place or better' is not a good goal for the Malaysian team - 09 April 2018

    Kaizen: Improving sport administration will improve performance - 02 April 2018

    Is anybody really interested in the medals target for Malaysian athletes in the Commonwealth Games? - 19 March 2018

    Living inside the bubble: American football seems tone deaf to concussion fears - 12 March 2018

    What can Malaysia learn from Norway about sport development? - 05 March 2018

    More efficiency tips for coaches: Dealing with more than one email address and other communication ideas - 26 February 2018

    Efficiency tips for coaches: What can you do to work more efficiently? - 19 February 2018

    What kind of fun do you have in sport? - 05 February 2018

    Is public investment in E-Sports a good idea? - 29 January 2018

    LTAD: Training to compete - 22 January 2018

    Sport clubs are the lifeblood of national sport development. They need help from sport associations to do their job. - 15 January 2018

    YES! Malaysia is starting to talk about sport structure! - 08 January 2018

    Why are there no local coaches to take Zhuliang's place? - 25 December 2017

    Sometimes taking risks is the only way to improve: Take a chance! - 18 December 2017

    How we calculate age can have benefits, and consequences, in youth sports - 11 December 2017

    What is bio-banding? Can it help reduce the relative age effect in sport? - 04 December 2017

    Three problems facing Malaysian sport - 27 November 2017

    Understanding the role that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation play in the athlete development process - 20 November 2017

    Great expectations: Expect more, get more! What we learn from raising the bar in sport performance - 14 November 2017

    Malaysia's sibutramine incident offers a glimpse into the complexity of the drugs in sport issue - 06 November 2017

    Want to lose weight? Try the USSA Malaysia 1-month, 'Choose Water' challenge - 30 October 2017

    Swimming disputes in Sarawak highlight governance, development, and data issues - 23 October 2017

    You're out! BAM eliminates players from Super Series and Grand Prix Gold tournaments unless they join BAM program - 10 October 2017

    Is American football about to meet its Waterloo? - 02 October 2017

    Why process is far more important than outcome in a learning environment - 25 September 2017

    Sport associations are embracing physical literacy training - 18 September 2017

    Creating a true sport development system in Malaysia - 11 September 2017

    Who won the SEA Games? - 04 September 2017

    KL2017: Reporting individual sport results deserved better planning - 29 August 2017

    Is the SEA Games event program too big? - 21 August 2017

    Bicycling safety tips - 14 August 2017

    Can we please forget about ways to identify talent and just work on getting more athletes? - 07 August 2017

    The difference between sport and energy drinks - 31 July 2017

    Using the team selection process to boost motivation and increase athlete participation - 24 July 2017

    Physical education is not the same thing as physical activity - 17 July 2017

    LTAD: The Train to Train stage - 10 July 2017

    Training for performance vs. exercising for weight loss. Yes, there's a difference! - 03 July 2017

    LTAD: The Learn-to-Train stage - 26 June 2017

    When it comes to fitness, ROUTINE is the magic word - 19 June 2017

    Athletic training for youngsters - 12 June 2017

    Visualization and imagery in sports - 05 June 2017

    Young, single-sport athletes suffer more injuries and do not reach their full potential - 29 May 2017

    Transformational vs. transactional coaching - 23 May 2017

    Happy Teacher's Day! - 16 May 2017

    Footballing in Pyongyang? - 15 May 2017

    Will they come back tomorrow? The most important KPI for youth sport coaches - 08 May 2017

    Advice to parents of young athletes - 01 May 2017

    Need to lose weight? Stop drinking sugar - 26 April 2017

    Some thoughts on the National Football Development Plan - 18 April 2017

    Talk, Show, and GO! Long descriptions in PE class hinder learning - 03 April 2017

    Is VIP leadership of sport associations a good idea? - 22 March 2017

    PLKN Training of Trainers completed in Malaka - 13 March 2017

    Pre- and post-testing for 6 fitness elements in PLKN camps - 06 March 2017

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    Every Student, Every Day: Let's make physical education part of every student's school day - 20 February 2017

    Malaysian schoolchildren study illustrates relative age effect - 13 February 2017

    What is the anaerobic threshold? - 06 February 2017

    "Naturalization is the key to sport success." Really? - 30 January 2017

    Knowing the difference between a sports program and a sports team is the difference between high performance and poor performance - 23 January 2017

    "Where do athletes come from?" A paper presented at the Kuching sport psychology conference - 16 January 2017

    Understanding sport talent pathways - 09 January 2017

    Make 2017 the year of the growth mindset - 02 January 2017

    Individualism vs. collectivism in sport - 26 December 2016

    Performance Data Project releases percentile tables for International Physical Performance Test - 19 December 2016

    Teaching physical literacy skills in youth sport practices - 12 December 2016

    Developing sport from the ground up: How does the process really work? - 05 December 2016

    A focus on professional events and Hollywood production values can hinder real sport development - 28 November 2016

    Pay for what you want: Why less government funding may be the best strategy for sport development - 21 November 2016

    The 10,000 hour rule: "Not for the faint of heart nor for the impatient" - 14 November 2016

    Parent involvement in their child's sport participation sometimes backfires - 07 November 2016

    Physical literacy or physical education: Which is it? - 31 October 2016

    How to do the measurements for determining peak height velocity (PHV) - 24 October 2016

    A foreign coach is not always the answer - 17 October 2016

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    The attrition and transformation models of sport development - 05 September 2016

    Solve for <X> - 29 August 2016

    Parental support is vital to sport success - 22 August 2016

    Artificial elimination of athletes from training and competition hinders sport development in Malaysia - 15 August 2016

    A sport development system vs. just being lucky - 08 August 2016

    Time is the most important factor in talent development - 01 August 2016

    The IOC is wrong: Russia should have been banned from Rio - 28 July 2016

    Building pyramids: A lesson in goal setting - 20 June 2016

    What if opportunity never knocks? - 13 June 2016

    The long-term athlete development framework offers youngsters a chance at sport success and an active and healthy life - 06 June 2016

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    It's time to stop talking about BMI - 24 May 2016

    Happy Teachers' Day! - 16 May 2016

    USSA Malaysia at official Khidmat Negara 2.0 launch - 27 April 2016

    Changing the SEA Games event list ignores key sport development principles - 16 April 2016

    Welcome PLKN trainers! - 25 March 2016

    Malaysian youth are not overweight, but they're not active either - 15 February 2016

    Cycling coach hits the nail on the head - 5 February 2016

    What does a declining population mean for sport? - 2 February 2016

    McClung launches Healthy Lifestyle book at convocation ceremony - 01 January 2016

    Almost 500 graduates attend convocation at the Institut Latihan DBKL - 09 December 2015

    REMINDER: Deadline to register for convocation is 27 November! - 25 November 2015

    Convocation registration is now open! - 20 November 2015

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    USSA Malaysia teaching Fit4Life module in Khidmat Negara pilot - 26 October 2015

    IDPESC convocation set for Thursday, 3 December - 29 September 2015

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    Physical literacy: The Holy Grail of health, wellness, and sport development - 1 September 2015

    Selamat Hari Merdeka! - 31 August 2015

    IDPESC '14 grades are available in student portals - 29 August 2015

    IDPESC students should verify their personal information in the student portal - 26 August 2015

    Convocation lists for IDPESC 2014 are being finalized - 22 August 2015

    Ten minutes to aerobic fitness - 17 August 2015

    Revisiting the 10,000 hour rule: Practical thoughts on talent and practice - 10 August 2015

    The one-minute exercise program - 01 August 2015

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    20 things a physical education teacher knows that you don’t (part 2) - 13 July 2015

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    Ban the sit-up - 09 June 2015

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    Age and sex of performance testing subjects are determined by their IC number - 23 May 2015

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    30 May deadline for second batch of IDPESC assignments - 12 May 2015

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    How we calculate age can have benefits, and consequences, in youth sports - 11 December 2017


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    Is American football about to meet its Waterloo? - 02 October 2017


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    Sport associations are embracing physical literacy training - 18 September 2017


    Creating a true sport development system in Malaysia - 11 September 2017


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    Is the SEA Games event program too big? - 21 August 2017


    Bicycling safety tips - 14 August 2017


    Can we please forget about ways to identify talent and just work on getting more athletes? - 07 August 2017


    The difference between sport and energy drinks - 31 July 2017


    Using the team selection process to boost motivation and increase athlete participation - 24 July 2017


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    LTAD: The Train to Train stage - 10 July 2017


    Training for performance vs. exercising for weight loss. Yes, there's a difference! - 03 July 2017


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    Transformational vs. transactional coaching - 23 May 2017


    Happy Teacher's Day! - 16 May 2017


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    Will they come back tomorrow? The most important KPI for youth sport coaches - 08 May 2017


    Advice to parents of young athletes - 01 May 2017


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    A foreign coach is not always the answer - 17 October 2016


    Tips on creating an effective coaching environment - 10 October 2016


    What is a therapeutic use exemption and is it cheating? - 03 October 2016


    Peak height velocity and aerobic development: Using simple measurement data to inform training decisions - 26 September 2016


    Early sport specialization is still not a good idea - 19 September 2016


    What kind of data do we need to develop sports? - 12 September 2016


    The attrition and transformation models of sport development - 05 September 2016


    Solve for <X> - 29 August 2016


    Parental support is vital to sport success - 22 August 2016


    Artificial elimination of athletes from training and competition hinders sport development in Malaysia - 15 August 2016


    A sport development system vs. just being lucky - 08 August 2016


    Time is the most important factor in talent development - 01 August 2016


    The IOC is wrong: Russia should have been banned from Rio - 28 July 2016


    Building pyramids: A lesson in goal setting - 20 June 2016


    What if opportunity never knocks? - 13 June 2016


    The long-term athlete development framework offers youngsters a chance at sport success and an active and healthy life - 06 June 2016


    Early sport specialization is not a good development strategy - 30 May 2016


    It's time to stop talking about BMI - 24 May 2016


    Happy Teachers' Day! - 16 May 2016


    USSA Malaysia at official Khidmat Negara 2.0 launch - 27 April 2016


    Changing the SEA Games event list ignores key sport development principles - 16 April 2016


    Welcome PLKN trainers! - 25 March 2016


    Malaysian youth are not overweight, but they're not active either - 15 February 2016


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    What does a declining population mean for sport? - 2 February 2016


    McClung launches Healthy Lifestyle book at convocation ceremony - 01 January 2016


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    REMINDER: Deadline to register for convocation is 27 November! - 25 November 2015


    Convocation registration is now open! - 20 November 2015


    Coaching 'flow' - 11 November 2015


    The coach's role in creating a deliberate practice environment - 02 November 2015


    USSA Malaysia teaching Fit4Life module in Khidmat Negara pilot - 26 October 2015


    IDPESC convocation set for Thursday, 3 December - 29 September 2015


    When should athletes specialize in a single sport? - 11 September 2015


    Physical literacy: The Holy Grail of health, wellness, and sport development - 1 September 2015


    Selamat Hari Merdeka! - 31 August 2015


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    20 things a physical education teacher knows that you don’t - 06 July 2015


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    Let's stop trying to identify sport talent and start developing it - 22 June 2015


    Account recovery process streamlined - 19 June 2015


    Seeing and listening use different parts of the brain - 15 June 2015


    All IDPESC assignments and performance data is due by 30 June - 12 June 2015


    Ban the sit-up - 09 June 2015


    Assignments highlighted in red need to be resubmitted - 30 May 2015


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    Happy Teacher's Day! - 16 May 2015


    30 May deadline for second batch of IDPESC assignments - 12 May 2015


    USSA-MY gets new look - 11 May 2015


    1. What does a declining population mean for sport? - 2 February 2016
    2. What is the anaerobic threshold? - 06 February 2017
    3. USSA Malaysia at official Khidmat Negara 2.0 launch - 27 April 2016
    4. How we calculate age can have benefits, and consequences, in youth sports - 11 December 2017
    5. Three problems facing Malaysian sport - 27 November 2017
    6. Peak height velocity and aerobic development: Using simple measurement data to inform training decisions - 26 September 2016
    7. Malaysian schoolchildren study illustrates relative age effect - 13 February 2017
    8. Creating a true sport development system in Malaysia - 11 September 2017
    9. Time is the most important factor in talent development - 01 August 2016
    10. How to do the measurements for determining peak height velocity (PHV) - 24 October 2016
    11. Early sport specialization is not a good development strategy - 30 May 2016
    12. USSA Malaysia teaching Fit4Life module in Khidmat Negara pilot - 26 October 2015
    13. The long-term athlete development framework offers youngsters a chance at sport success and an active and healthy life - 06 June 2016
    14. LTAD: The Train to Train stage - 10 July 2017
    15. Tips on creating an effective coaching environment - 10 October 2016
    16. Happy Teachers' Day! - 16 May 2016
    17. Young, single-sport athletes suffer more injuries and do not reach their full potential - 29 May 2017
    18. Is the SEA Games event program too big? - 21 August 2017
    19. Malaysia's sibutramine incident offers a glimpse into the complexity of the drugs in sport issue - 06 November 2017
    20. Who won the SEA Games? - 04 September 2017