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Wan's Column - Kidsí Athletics Program

On 7th June 2006, it was reported in the New Straits Times that the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) launched the Kidsí Athletics Program. This program is endorsed by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and it forms an integral part of MAAUís development blue print. Please see NST report attached.

I do have some experience in a similar program in the seventies when I was in secondary school at the Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur. We had a very structured system in our athletics program in school and the intention is to get every student in the school to take part. We have eight houses and each house is allocated students on a random basis when they join school in form one. The school has a student population of about 1,600 and each house has about 200 students. We have a benchmarking system for all the athletics events that each student is taught during Physical Education classes during form one.

The event that need to be taught are throws like shot put, javelin and discuss, the jumps; long jump, high jump and triple jump; the sprints; 100m, 200m, 110m hurdles and 400m. The middle and long distances are 800m, 1,500m and cross country of 3.5 miles. We were not taught pole vault as we do not have the equipment or the technical know how to do it. I recall Mr. Rajasingam, a certified athletic coach was our PE master and he took the trouble to teach us the technics of each of the above event. The school sets benchmarks for each of the above events with two benchmarks; basic and senior. For example; say 100m Under 13, the 100m basic timing is 15.0 seconds and the senior timing is 14.5 seconds.

If an Under 13 student clocks within the basic timing, he scores one point for his house and if he clocks a senior timing, he scores two points for each event. The two other categories are Under 16 and Under 20 for the older students. We call this series of athletic events, Standard Sports and it is compulsory for all students to take part, save for those sick with medical certificates. The discipline was so stringent that very few dare to miss the events for the fear of stern punishment. In this way we had the opportunity to participate in all the events. I did not score points in any of the sprint events during my years in school but was able to get points in the middle and longer distance events, the jumps and the throws. Cross country was my favorite event that I got close to getting a top 10 placing as I had great stamina as a school basketball player.

There are several plus points about this system and they are;

  1. Every student gets to take part in the whole series of the event and therefore learn the basics of each event. With such a large pool of students exposed to athletics, we could easily select the better ones for the school team. (I never made it to school team for athletics)

  2. The Champion House from the school sports day is determined by the strong participation of the masses as against the performance of elite athletic students alone. This help to cultivate a strong sense of belonging to our houses and the sports day is such a great joy for us.

  3. It inculcates an interest in athletics at a young age; 13 years old in my case. Prior to joining Victoria Institution, my only other athletics experience is running one round the Prison Field at Jalan Hang Tuah during sports day at my primary school.

I hope the kidsí athletics program will be sustained and introduced to every school. The school ought to teach 3 basics sports; athletics, swimming and gymnastics. These three basics sports are good foundation to any other sports that the children may take on in their later years. I understand that the Russian schools emphasize on these three disciplines as the basics in sports development. Letís hope this program can sustain and help to build up the school childrenís interest in athletics.

Wan Yew Leong
29th June 2006


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