Think sports and what comes to mind are trophies and prizes. Afterall, isn’t sports all about winning?
Yes and no, says Dato Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, Director of National Sports Institute (NSI) of Malaysia. During Urban Health’s exclusive interview with this orthopaedic doctor-turned-director, he gave us a far wider perspective of sports than we ever imagined.
True, winning is a great motivator for athletes and sportspeople, he says. But it also proves to be their downfall when people only think of them as winning pawns who have to bring back medals to make the country proud.
Too often, this makes people forget that athletes and sportspeople also have their own lives, including families, relationships, hobbies and ambitions. If sports is only about winning, what happens to sportspeople and athletes who are no longer competing? This is where we need to look at the bigger picture, says Dato Ramlan, a former student of Malay College in Kuala Kangsar, Perak.
“Winning is important, yes. But in sports, as in Life, you win some, you lose some. What’s more important is to quickly learn from your mistakes so that you can improve. That is the pathway to success,” he explains.
SPORTS FOR ALL
With so many sporting bodies, governmental and private, it is easy to get confused on who does what. Dato Ramlan, however, is very clear on the direction on NSI.
Guided by the motto ‘pemangkin sukan negara’ (national sports catalyst), he places NSI as the prime contact point for sports science and technology. A quick check on their website (www.isn.gov.my) shows that NSI provides various sports-specific services such as games analysis and counsel on nutrition, sports technology, exercise physiology, sports psychology, sports biometrics and social research.
More importantly, most people are unaware that NSI serves as a ‘matchmaker’ who bridges sporting events with the relevant parties. The recently held Larian 1Murid, 1Sukan event that was jointly organised with the Ministry of Education was one example.
“These activities form part of our efforts at Talent Identification,” explains Dato Ramlan.
Under the Tunas Gemilang (Bright Start) programme, NSI trains school teachers and multilateral developmental coaches on how to conduct sports testing to recognise potential national players among primary school children.
Selected students will be trained for three years, following which they will be sent for the Mencari Johan (Champion Seeking) programme involving coaches from the National Sports Council or respective sports associations such as the Badminton Association Malaysia (BAM), Football Association Malaysia (FAM) and others. If they display genuine talent for a particular sport, the association will take over the grooming, guided by NSI’s coaching expertise in sports science.
Plans are also in place for NSI to collaborate with National State Councils and Ministry of Youth & Sports to conduct weekend workshops where sports-specific tests are done on participating students as part of the Program Pelapis (Succession Programme).
“Certain sports such as golf, archery, badminton, bowling, gymnastics and diving require specific techniques, which must trained at a young age between 9-12. We also assess the athlete’s suitability for the sport, such as the body shape and size,” says Dato Ramlan.
Once they are on the programme, NSI counsels the parents involved on how to take care of their athletic children, such as giving the proper diet and ensuring quality sleep. Coaches only spend a few hours with the athletes, he points out. Parents need to monitor the other aspects of their children’s lives such as their time management, schoolwork, nutrition and rest.
NATION-BUILDING THROUGH SPORTS
Dato Ramlan is quick to refute that NSI caters only to elite athletes, the lucky ones who are faster, fitter and stronger than most of us. “Sports are for everyone! One person on a badminton court means one person off the streets. So it’s not just about training champions, but more about increasing awareness of the importance of playing sports.”
He points out that in international competitions, we cheer as one country, never as a Malay, Chinese, Indian or Iban. Whenever a Malaysian wins, sports shops see an immediate increase in the winning sport, such as the sudden surge in badminton racquets whenever Lee Chong Wei brings home a medal. “The impact upon society is immeasurable,” he adds.
People who are active in sports are also healthier and happier generally. Sports are also known to reduce crime rates and increase discipline because in players in team games are trained to practise fair play and good values.
Sports is not something where you can demand immediate success, stresses Dato Ramlan. Ultimately, it takes time, training, the right physical, mental, emotional coaching as well as playing techniques to be a winner.
“Our job at NSI is to incorporate the sporting culture into Malaysians. We are still evolving as a young sporting nation. We try not to focus on the outcome of our sporting abilities but on the process so that we can apply best practices to make it work,” he concludes.
About National Sports Institute
The National Sports Institute (NSI) was established in 1997 to provide sports science, sports medicine, research and development towards achieving excellence in Malaysian sports. As a centre of excellence for sports, NSI serves as a central source of information and knowledge for coaches, sports scientists and athletes in providing systematic training programmes.
With an information centre that collect, store and disseminate information relating to sports, NSI works with local universities, institutions and also international institutions in the field of sports medicine and sports science. They are also responsible for identifying talents of children and young athletes and help them achieve optimum performance. NSI has 12 Satellite Centres throughout the country.
For details, please tel: 03-8992 9600, visit www.isn.gov.my or email firstname.lastname@example.org