Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pioneer and Dutch Junior Open '06
I had the pleasure of taking some of the Malaysian kids to the above tournaments recently, 4 boys and 3 girls. We were the last group of Malaysians to leave the country as there were 2 other groups who left earlier for a playing tour of the UK. We were supposed to meet up in Cologne for the Pioneer.

Arrived in Cologne and checked in the hotel. I think that we do a better job for accommodation here in Malaysia. Rooms were poor for the prices we paid and no air-con, it was summer as well. We were put in another building, next to the actual hotel. They said that it was their apartment type rooms. So my team were the only people there while the rest of the Malaysian team was in the main building.

The courts where most of the matches were played had 16 courts. The ACR sports centre is about 15 minutes from the hotel and was quite nice. That was still not enough and they had to use another 2 more centres to accommodate the whole tournament. All the centres are very nice, they are clubs that have paying members. Lunch and dinner was packaged into the entry fee as well. What a good idea! The food in Germany was so much better than the Dutch. Got fat there eating too much....hahaha.

The tournaments were basically screwed up before it even started due to the seedings. The European Squash Federation (ESF) used their points system to seed the players. This meant that those who have played in any of the European Junior Circuit would have collected some points.
Thus, only the Malaysians who played in the British Juniors had some points but insufficient to get a good seeding. The Egyptians and Hongkies were in the same boat with us.

So in both tournaments, the good players played each other in the early rounds and the so called top 8 seeds were bundled out early if they met an Egyptian, Hongkie or Malaysian. There were some people saying that unless the ESF start doing something about the seedings, most of the foreigners will no longer support the events. That would be a big shame.

How did the Malaysians do? I would say quite well. Some of the players showed that we are at par or better than the Europeans and can match the Egyptians. As for my group, it was a learning trip for them. They did do well in their own way and hopefully build on what they have learned there.

My only grouse was that there was no interaction between the national coaches and my group of kids. Not only that, there was not much discussion between them and me as well. Felt like there was 2 Malaysian teams there. They don't realise that the group I took will eventually be in the national squad some day. So why aren't they spending a fraction of their time with the kids? I have no idea. I'll leave that for another time.

Till next time, happy reading and squashing.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Education Department sports division organized squash every year in both state and national level. So this year's national level tournament was held in Ipoh, Perak. The place for taugeh chicken.......white coffee and the claimed beautiful girls (yet to meet one yet...hahaha). So Ipoh it was. I had to get there from KL....immediately after the Milo All Star.

What a shock when I got there!!!! Went with a few parents to drop their kids at the hostels, but something told me to checkout the conditions of the place 1st. We checked the girls place 1st and the toilets were in no condition to be used. Dirty, stinky unpleasant.......minor words to describe it. Dorms were no better either, dirty rooms and mattresses were there to be seen. And that is for the girls.

The boys place was far worse.....Toilets had no doors, broken beds and way to describe it..not fit for humans. Maybe 30 years ago it might have been okay but not now. There need to be a minimum acceptable standard for school hostels and maintain it!!!!. Mind you, the schools were supposed to be good schools in Ipoh.

So, we asked if all the players were willing to move to a hotel on their own cost, all of them agreed to. Mind you, I was there as an observer not an official. The teachers were in charge but they dare not or just didn't want to do anything. So we moved the kids the next day to the hotel. They had to cramp up but at least a lot better than the hostel especially the hygiene part and air-con as well.

That didn't go too well with the teachers and there was an air of displeasure from their part. But I didn't bother and took the responsibility in ensuring that the players were there on schedule and their safety as well. A planned trip of 2 days turned to 4 days........had to move my trip to Singapore to later and cut it short.

The tournament was runned quite well and smooth. I would expect that after 5 years of learning. Matches were on time and efficient. Again, refereeing was a big issue here. Some of the teachers never played squash and were refereeing. They were atrocious!! The cheeky players conned their way to wins and the referees let them. Disgusting standard.

I also noticed that there were a lot of teachers there but were not doing anything to help their teams or the tournament. Looks like they were there for a holiday and some even brought their families. CHOGM- Cheap Holiday On Government Money.....that's the term they use. What a waste of public money!!!

As for the team, their performance was disappointing. With the absence of the top guns who were in Singapore for the Asian Junior Championships, I expected a few of them to stand up and be accounted for. But they didn't and couldn't. Maybe that is why they are not up there with the cream of the country. Given the opportunity and they can't grab it. That were my older players.......they younger one did very well and seemed very hungry for success. The confidence and focus level of these younger kids are superb, much better than the older ones. Guess it's time to focus on the younger ones now.

Asian Junior Championships in Singapore
Missed the earlier rounds due to the MSSM debacle. Only managed to reached there for the finals, where Wern managed to get through. The rest of the players were out by the quarterfinals and so much was left hanging on her shoulders to be the Asian champ since Nicol. I reckoned that she should be tired by now as it has been 4 weeks of squash non-stop since Sukma. She was up against a Hongkie that won the World Junior team title last year.

And how true it was as she started on the wrong foot. She lost the 1st game 9-1 in just over 5 minutes. I was like thinking well there goes our chance again. You see, although she has made much progress over the years, we will always be reminded by the higher authority that she missed out on the British Junior Open a few times, coming close but missing at the last hurdle. And so, you can't blame me for having to dread the "I told you so" lectures from them again and the "we can do better than you" comments.

But knowing Wern so well, a slow start doesn't mean the end of things. Slowly but sure she started getting int the match with some encouragement and cheering from the crowd. Managed to squeeze the 2nd 9-7 and the 3rd 9-6. Almost there........but could she that she was knackered. Will there be enough left in her tank to do it? Thank goodness there was and she duly won it 9-5 in the 4th, capping a fine month for her.

Finally, a major title that has been eluding her and to silence the higher authorities for a while. Hoepfully that will give her a massive boost for this year's British. Kudos to my coaching staff who have worked their asses of to finally reap the rewards of their hard work. For the rest of the Academy players that went there, well done but there's still a lot of work left to be done. Keep working harder to get what you want.

More updates to come........among them the newly announced pay structure for coaches by he government and updates on the players.