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Wan's Column - Going back to School – OCM Advance Sports Management Course

Note: This case study was submitted as part of the OCM Advance Sports Management Course in 2009

Background

In the middle of January 2009 early this year, I knew I was leaving the bank soon, going on ;early retirement. I ponder what I should be doing and at that moment I received an email from the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) informing that they will be organizing an Advance Sports Management Course, a program started by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is a 16 full day course spread over 8 months from February to October 2009, covering 6 key topics;

  1. Organizing an Olympic Sport Organization
  2. Managing Strategically
  3. Managing Human Resources
  4. Managing Finance
  5. Managing Marketing
  6. Organizing a Major Sport Event.

To sign up for the program, I need an endorsement from the sport organization I represent and I got Rustam Affandi, president of PACM to endorse my registration even though I do not hold any position in the club. Needless to say, I pay my own course fee, only RM150 as the course is heavily subsidised by IOC and OCM to groom sport leaders for the country. Lee Shew Keng (PACM member and Race Walkers Association Committee member) and I were strongly encouraged to sign up by Dato Sieh Kok Chi, Secretary General of OCM. The requirement for the course is stringent, we are required to do 6 power point presentations (one for each topic above) in front of the class and write 2 papers from these 6 topics, each with about 3,000 words for submission to IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland.

I started my first session on 26 February 2009 and the class was impressively diverse, with 27 participants coming from the National Sports Council, the National Sports Institute, national sports associations, state sports associations, clubs and the media. During the ice breaker session I explained that my reason for attending the course is that I had managed PACM on a trial and error basis using management principles I learnt in work and now I would like to learn formally how a sport organization should be managed. It is purely for personal development as I may not use this skill in future.

As we progress with the course, we realized that we are to use our respective sports association as our case study and our recommendations are to be of use to our respective sports organization. There is plenty of cross-fertilization of ideas as we received feedback from our peers and the course directors (Aloysius Lee and Moira Tan). There was additional input from selected participants from last year's course as they shared their experience in carry out their case studies. I have to put in lots of effort to complete my assignments and truly feel that it should be shared with the Committee, club members and individuals who may be interested in better club management. I would strongly encourage Committee members to attend this course next year.

Here is an excerpt from my first 2 case studies on module 1 & 2 drawing on my own experience from 1998 to 2006 when I was in the Committee;

Vision Statement : We aspire to be the role model running club in the country.

I recall when I was first elected president in March 2000, the Star Reporter, Stuart Michael asked me what I want the club to be. I did not say we want to be the biggest club but instead as a role model club for others to follow. At that time the local running clubs were in a weak position, the few famous clubs like SWIFT, LIGHT and JETS had sort of closed down due to problems of their own. The national association, Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU) was having problems of their own and the local athletic fraternity got into the news for all the wrong reasons. I wanted PACM to be a breath of fresh air in the athletic arena.

Mission Statement

  1. We promote running as a sustainable recreational activity among the grass root, catering for individuals of all ages and capability
  2. Act as an internal and external event organizer to support the above.

 

I was very clear in my mind that our club is not going to be an elitists’ club, (unlike MR 25 in Singapore), it will cater for individuals of all ages and capability. It is a very inclusive club, so long you are keen run, you are welcomed. You can be as young as 4 years old or as old as 75, this is the club for you. In supporting our Vision Mission Statement, we will organize events for our members, families and the public who are interested to run. In this regards I always remember the 3 generation relay team formed up by our former treasurer, Chen Kok Siong during the Fathers’ Day Breakfast Run when his father, his son and him formed the 3 generation relay team.

MR 25 is an exclusive club for elite runners in Singapore. To join as a member, each individual must be able to run the McRitchie Reservoir route within 25 minutes.

 

The objectives of the club as stated in the constitution drafted in 1984 and revised once before I took over also clearly state what we are to achieve.

Objectives

  1. to promote, develop and encourage the sport of running in the country
  2. to foster mutual goodwill, understanding and friendship between its members
  3. to promote and / or participate in sports and social activities related to running both locally and internationally
  4. to develop and promote running programs for the benefit of the community
  5. to develop and promote other form of outdoor sports activities amongst its members.


Wan articulating with the help of power point presentation at the OCM Advance Sports Management Course

You can see that our objectives tie in nicely to our Vision Mission Statement. We also need to carry out a SWOT Analysis to determine what are the strength and weaknesses of the club at a micro level and then also to examine the macro environment we are operating in and determine the opportunities / threats. Admittedly, this is something I did not do while I was the president and looking back now, it is an essential exercise that should be carried out each year by the Committee. This is my SWOT Analysis based on current situation I can see from outside the Committee;

The SWOT Analysis

Strength

  1. strong support by members in participation and volunteering
  2. relatively problem free on members relationship
  3. social part of the club very active
  4. strong support by sponsors on club’s activities
  5. strong balance sheet to support members’ activities
  6. good public image cultivated over the years

Weakness

  1. current structure have difficulties coping with the size and added activities organized by the club, in particular external events not owned by the club
  2. inability to attract more capable members to join the Committee as the work load is perceived substantial
  3. job specification not very clearly spelt out and the absence of a clear organization structure and reporting lines

Opportunities

  1. better awareness on the need to exercise to maintain individuals’ health
  2. more new parks built by City Hall and the Municipals
  3. More potential event owners coming to the club for help in event management

Threats

  1. Heavier traffic and poorer air quality (yearly haze) has cause safety concern to runners
  2. Perceived safety problems by female runners and prefer to exercise in safer air-conditioned gymnasium or engage in other activities
  3. Lost some traditional open space for running to development

 

During the period of 1999 to 2005, we drew up strategies to achieve our Vision, Mission and Objectives. Listed below are the summarized strategies implemented and a critic on the success and failure of some.

Initiatives

Status, Review & Recommendations

Increase membership base via Area Group concept. We were a one group club back in 1999, in Bukit Aman alone.

Started in 2000, we now have 12 area groups and the last one added was Putra Jaya. Two groups, Ipoh and Seremban did not do well and were discontinued. Membership has grown from 300 in 1999 to 1,800 now with more than 90% in the Klang Valley.

Effort should be made to reach out to Sabah, Sarawak and the other states in Peninsula Malaysia that we are not represented. One of the two Vice-presidents should take charge of the development of the area groups and also ensure the existing group leaders stay motivated and focused.

Increase membership base by collaborating with running shoes retailers in providing discount to our members

We have discounts from New Balance, Brooks, adidas and Mizuno. Now New Balance has introduced their loyalty cards. Other shoes company like Saucony and Asics do offer discount to our members unofficially. 

Improve quality and contents in our magazine, the Footloose and migrate to magazine format

The Footloose has earned its place with the members and with very fond ownership. All the articles are contributed by the members themselves. It is now a culture that members share their running stories. The Footloose has also become a source of revenue with advertisements from shoes companies and others.

Set up website www.pacesetters.com.my

The website has been very successful with nearly 500,000 visits recorded since its inception. It rank top in Google search on running in Malaysia. It has also become a source of revenue with advertisers taking up banners and buttons at our site.

Introduce E-bulletin to complement information flow via website and Footloose.

After an initial start, the E-bulletin has since stop. Effort should be made to continue this as a complementary tool to the website and Footloose. All four communication modes; website, Footloose, E-bulletin and media relationship should report to one of the 2 Vice-presidents.

Work with the media, especially Metro Star, provide coverage on our activities and members, focusing on the human side of the running community

Our strategy of focusing on the ordinary individuals who run and not the elite was a successful strategy. We even set a target of getting a media coverage once a month as a KPI. There should be an individual in the Committee focusing on media relationship to get better coverage. It should not be ad hoc but on a continuous basis.

Organize wholesome activities like breakfast runs where families can take part.

The club has been active in organizing breakfast runs during the slack period. Certain runs have a theme, like Bonding Run, Fathers’ Day Run, Mothers’ Day Run, Get to know you New Members Run and Fruit Mania Run. Lately, the club even organize a night run at Putra Jaya in conjunction with the club’s 25th anniversary.

This role should be delegated to area groups to inculcate ownership and train organization skills at area group level.

Organize peer support program for members taking part in KLIM, Singapore Marathon and Penang Bridge Run.

Our peer support program was very well participated with more than 150 runners taking part each time. The present Great Eastern Pacesetters 30km was a migration from the 30km practice run for the KLIM.

Facilitate members taking part in outstation runs through ease of registration, transport and lodging

Major events like the Penang Bridge Run and Singapore Marathon are two key events the club support in transport and lodging. The club even organized trips to Hatyai and Songkla in Southern Thailand to participate in their runs. However, since the trouble started in 2003 in Thailand, the club has discontinued this effort for prudent reasons.

Introduce youth group and youth track programs

We started the youth program in Kampung Pandan in 2000 and MPSJ in 2001. I am happy to note that these 2 programs are still ongoing. There should be an effort to extend the reach to other available tracks like Selayang, Klang and Cheras.

In addition, the youth should be organized to form relay teams to take part in the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur open track competition.

 

Organize track meet to cater for track running for all age groups

The track meet started in 2001 with technical support from SAAA and FTAAA. We have moved on with acquired expertise and can now organize it ourselves. However, I notice the participation is declining with certain area groups not interested in promoting the event among the members. There is a need to work on garnering the support of the area groups.

Organize technical talks relating to running to improve knowledge of members on running

This has been done in conjunction with events like the KL Marathon. A one off running clinic was organized in 1999 with 120 participants. This year the club has teamed up with the organizer of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon to initiate a series of talks. This should be a continuous process as there are always new runners joining the club.

Organize team events like 4 x 3km to promote team participation

This event was discontinued after adidas pull out in 2006. The club should find another sponsor to revive this event as it has some historical significance. In the seventies, there is a road relay event in the Lake Garden called the Robert Trophy Relay, very well participated by the local running clubs. The event was discontinued along with many running clubs disappearing from the scene.

Form Racing Team catering for elite runners’ participation in team events like 4 x 3km, Penang Round the Island Run, Round the House Run and Singapore Marathon team event. Selection trials were held and selection based on merits.

After the early years of 2000 to 2002 when a working budget was given by New Balance to fund the racing team activities, we now have a much lower budget for the team. Nowadays to keep within the budget, the club focus on the Singapore Marathon team event.

Organize road events like Pacesetters 15km and 30km to inculcate organization skills on events management and setting standards on events using timing chips and providing photo-certificates.

We have achieved the standards we have set, having acquired lap tops, chip timing sets and has put together a team of photographers. The chip system is under further refinement to be flawless.

Effort should be made to install the online registration with payment module via credit cards to enhance the race administration such that data could be captured online end to end.

Collaborate with a wide range of sponsors to support our needs.

We have successfully worked with the major running shoes brand, namely New Balance, Nike, adidas, Brooks and Mizuno. We also have Milo, Genting, Great Eastern and Malakoff supporting us.

The next phase of sponsorship development has to focus on continuity, especially with title sponsors which should not be on a year to year basis. There should also be some pricing structure on title sponsors, gold and silver sponsor concept. There are still untapped areas in sponsorship now that we have the track record as an event organizer.

 

Inculcate volunteerism in the club to support our activities

The volunteerism spirit is strong in the club. What we need is get things more organized with a database of skill sets to match when there is an event. Now that the club has a strong balance sheet, we should thank the volunteers through a payment of a small allowance and specific function to honour volunteers who have been supporting the club. The human resources policy of the club must be able to upgrade ad hoc volunteers to a more permanent positions based on their capability and commitment.

Incorporate social activities in our program, eg Pacesetters Idols and sports fashion shows during our AGM Dinner.

This area is generally achieved. A further step could be done is to use the club communication medium (website, Footloose or E-bulletin) to publicize members’ initiated social events; eg Nepal tracking trip or KL to Ipoh Cycling Trip organized by members can be communicated to all members at large. This would allow the 5th objective of the club to be achieved without the Committee having to do it themselves.

Give back to society in ways we could; eg the Charity Run in 2000 raising RM107,000 for the Little Sisters of the Poor, Rumah Ozanam and NASOM.

While we have in the past done community work on an ad hoc basis like to blood donation drive for UKM Hospital in 2002, it would be appropriate that the club include in its objectives to do a community project once a year or on a biannual basis. As a large club, we have the resources to reach out.


The class picture taken in the first session in Feb 2009

I would not have enough space allocated to me by Footloose editor, Michael Gan and would discuss the organization structure and its issues in the next article in September 2009.

Live life and run on…………my friends!

Wan Yew Leong
20 May 2009
wanyewleong@gmail.com

 
 

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