We are a nation of sports fans and sports players. Interest in watching sports continues at a high level and recreational participation in sports continues to grow.
Some of those who participate in amateur sports dream of becoming paid professional athletes, coaches, or sports officials but very few beat the long and daunting odds of making a full-time living from professional athletics. Those athletes who do make it to professional levels find that careers are short and jobs are insecure.
Even though the chances of employment as a professional athlete are slim, there are many opportunities for at least a part-time job related to athletics as a coach, instructor, referee, or umpire in amateur athletics and in high schools, colleges, and universities.
Expanding opportunities are expected for coaches and instructors, as a higher value is being placed upon physical fitness in our society and this was further emphasized in the recent 2006 budget unveiled by the Prime Minister.
Malaysian’s of all ages are engaging in more physical fitness activities, such as participating in competition and joining clubs, and are being encouraged to participate in physical education.
Employment of coaches and instructors also will increase with expansion of school and college programs and growing demand for private sports instruction.
Sports-related job growth within education also will be driven by the decisions of Ministry of Education.
Population growth dictates the construction of additional schools, particularly in the expanding suburbs.
However, funding for sports programs is often one of the first areas to be cut when budgets become tight.
But the popularity of team sports often enables shortfalls to be offset somewhat by patronage of the fans as is the case for football in the country.
The need to replace many high school coaches also will provide some coaching opportunities.
Competition for professional sports jobs will continue to be extremely intense.
However we could well do without the government at times over relying on foreign expertise when the locals are quite capable of doing the same jobs.
If the locals are not been given a chance to prove their worth, then we will continue to be in the backwaters when it comes to administrative skills.
Though some might disagree, the words of wisdom from OCM Hon. Secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi is something worth pondering upon.
For Kok Chi had lamented that if we pay peanuts we get monkeys and if we pay bigger peanuts we tend to get bigger monkeys.
How true, for there is a tendency to overpay the foreigners whereas when the locals apply for the same position, they tend to be given a lower salary thus there is no fair play or justice.
Sometimes it tends to make these capable administrators feel that it is sin to be Malaysian.
The authorities must change their perception and start relying on the locals to head the committees or special projects that have been earmarked towards gaining international excellence.
A friend once said that the prophet is often not believed on his own land and that is no longer a myth but a reality in the Malaysian sports fraternity.
As for the athletes, the opportunities to make a living as a professional in individual sports may grow as new tournaments are established and prize money distributed to participants increases.
Most professional athletes’ careers last only several years due to debilitating injuries and age, so a large proportion of the athletes in these jobs is replaced every year, creating some job opportunities.
However, a far greater number of talented young men and women dream of becoming a sports superstar and will be competing for a very limited number of job openings.
Education and training requirements for athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers vary greatly by the level and type of sport.
Regardless of the sport or occupation, jobs require immense overall knowledge of the game, usually acquired through years of experience at lower levels.
Athletes usually begin competing in their sports while in primary school and continue through high school and at times college or universities.
They play in tournaments and on high school and college teams, where the best attract the attention of professional scouts.
Most schools require that participating athletes maintain specific academic standards to remain eligible to play.
Becoming a professional athlete is the culmination of years of effort. Athletes who seek to compete professionally must have extraordinary talent, desire, and dedication to training.
But all of these will count for nothing if we continue to sidelines the locals in the decision making process.