Why sack Loh Chan Pew, asks reader in Straits Times online forum

The letter:

This letter appeared in The Straits Times’ online forum three days ago. Which is a pity because it would have had more impact and read more  if it had been published in the actual paper instead.

Thought I’d share it here:

WHY REMOVE ATHLETICS COACH (The Straits Times, 9 Feb 2008)

I AM sad to learn from last Friday’s report, ‘Loh axed in revamp’, that Mr Loh Chan Pew, Singapore’s one-time sprinter and coach to many young athletes past and present, has been removed from the national coaching team to ‘make way for new blood’.

The report makes one wonder if the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) has, in the circumstances, overlooked the interests of athletes and succumbed to bureaucratic expedience. Or worse, as the grapevine has it, it is wallowing in personality clashes.

While making way for new blood may be appropriate at times, one still has to establish, first, that the ‘old blood’ is no longer useful, and second, that the new blood is indeed better. By all accounts, the first does not apply to Mr Loh: He has been a successful coach, maintains good rapport with athletes under his charge and apparently has what it takes to produce champions, notwithstanding his Level 2 coaching certification. As for the second, we just don’t know, do we?

I am reminded here of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s formula for success in China’s socialist market economy: ‘It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.’ Such pragmatism would be equally useful in track and field to achieve good results rather than over-reliance on theoretical knowledge.

Anyway, why does the SAA harp on academic qualifications? Is attending high-level courses a prerequisite to be an effective coach? Do proven results not count for anything? What about the close bond between the coach and his athletes?

Perhaps Ms Ann Siao Mei, a member of Mr Loh’s record-breaking 4x100m junior relay team, said it all: ‘Ours is a partnership which works. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?’

I hope SAA officials are listening.

Lee Seck Kay


Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

P/S:  In answer to your question at the end of your letter, I don’t think they do at all, Mr Lee. And this, despite the fact that the organisation survives on public funding.

Why do you think Singapore athletics is in the state it has been in for the past 20 years? Which is also why I am advocating that our women sprinters take matters into their own hands.

If you want change to take place in the SAA, then you’ve got to do something that catches the eye of the Singapore Sports Council and the Ministry for Community Development, Youth and Sports.

Related links:

9 Feb: A piece of advice to the national women’s 4x100m relay squad

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