Traditionally the schools had been the breeding ground for talents. There were sets of teachers from the late Ho Koh Chye, R Yogeswaran, K Machap, Vincent Fernandez, Brian Foenander, Noel D'Oliveiro, the late N Valupillay, V Sivapathasundram, Teja Singh, S Kesavan, P Poonenderajah, Chakaravathy, Rajakulasingam, Leong Hor Cheng, P Sambanthan and many others who toiled in the daily sun and at times in the rain to create breeds of players who were proud to don their school colours. This permitted a culture to blossom that permeated into them ie the ultimate pride - to play for the nation.
It was not the teachers alone per se but there were others in smaller numbers who did the very thing these teachers were doing. Namely people like Lawerence Van Huizen, William Fedelis, Michael Yan, the late Sheikh Ali, Titus Havelock, the late Abdul Hamid Aroop , V A Raja Naidu and some others like them who invested years and years of their time with the students. All these people did it for the love of the game and the schools they supported. This itself developed the sense of loyalty and pride, which became the fundamental source of inspiration for the players of yesterdays.
Today such dedicated people are lacking. The numbers are not there although the likes of Roslan Mohamad, Leo Vincey, Mokhtar Baharudin, K Sunderasen and a few others in the mode of Johnson Fernandez plus Vivekananda, all of whom seem to have the dedication to continue the struggle to produce the talents. They are not widespread and therefore the materials produced are limited, thereby restricting the aspect of choice both in terms of quantity and quality.
Essentially, with time things have changed. The modern distractions like Internet, channel television, shopping malls plus the quest to achieve academic performance combined with hours of tuition, all help to keep students away from the playing fields. The "old days" of expecting the young kids to come in numbers have drastically reduced, more so in urban areas. The out of town and rural areas still act as a fairly good breeding ground for discovering talents. Even then the "fall out" rate to succeed is high and therefore the ultimate numbers get reduced limiting the numbers in talents.
The key question is whether we can continue the usual way to "fertilise" the schools to become the breeding ground for our future talents or do we have to approach the whole issue in a different way? Maybe it is not about numbers, rather spending the time in creating sufficient quality players. Maybe schools should be a place for kids to enjoy sports and learn the idea of keeping fit. Maybe it is after the age of 16 or 17 they should be allowed to pick the game they are ideally suited for, thereby committing to become full time sports persons. Maybe this could provide one of the impetus for the growth of the sports industry.
Yes! there are a number of questions and a number of answers that need to be found. One thing is for sure, we cannot continue in our traditional way as things have significantly changed. We have to move with time, technology and people's aspirations. Lets put our efforts and resources into strategically planned programmes recognising the prevailing conditions and how best to extract the optimum results, thereby paving the way to develop world class players.
It can be done but it needs the WILL, the RIGHT PEOPLE with the INTELLIGENCE to pursue the present for the future.