Wednesday, July 8

Bid to reinstate Miri as tennis powerhouse

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MDLTA coach with pupils from SK Jalan Bintang Miri during selection for the Tennis Aces Star School Programme.

‘MELENTUR buluh biarlah dari rebungnya’ – this is a popular Malay proverb commonly used to refer to parenting and education development.

It’s a firm reminder of the importance of inculcating good values in children from a very early age.

The Miri Division Lawn Tennis Association (MDLTA) has applied this concept to its current junior coaching and development programme to not only scout for new talents but also bring back the glory days of Miri as a tennis powerhouse in Sarawak.

MDLTA president Han Hipeni wants the association to play a major role in carrying out this programme as a future investment for developing the sport in Miri.

Han Hipeni

He agreed the association should be a venue for members to address issues regarding tennis development in the Resort City.

“For long-term planning, we need to focus on junior development to build up a pool of talents for future tournaments.”

– Three major goals –

According to Han, the association has three major goals for its junior programme under the Sarawak Lawn Tennis Association (SLTA).

The first goal is to draw up a comprehensive development framework for Miri Division, particularly among primary students and at the youth level.

The second goal is to encourage more people to play tennis to ensure continuum.

In this regard, MDLTA will help SLTA by creating a pool of potential players for higher-level competitions.

Pupils from a primary school in Miri attending a presentation of the junior tennis development programme.

The third goal is to ‘upscale’ the sport of tennis in Miri, especially at the grassroots.

– Talent search –

Han said the MDLTA junior programme started in 2016 with a talent search at the Miri Tennis Complex.

A total of 72 students from 10 schools took part in the programme, jointly organised with the Sarawak State Sports Council (MSNS) of Miri.

The schools involved were SK Bintang, SK St Joseph Miri, SJK (C) North Miri, SJK (C) Chung Hua, SK Sayed Othman, SK Miri, SK Agama (MIS) Miri, SMK St Columba, SMK St Joseph and SMK Chung Hua Miri.

“The talent search was the first of its kind in Miri to complement MDLTA’s bid to make Miri a tennis hub in Sarawak,” Han added.

Since 2016, the association has introduced tennis to some 11 primary schools in the Division.

Han thanked Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin and Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Arts Datuk Sebastian Ting for their continuous support to the association and its junior programme.

He said such support through government grants was much needed to see the junior programme through.

– Aces Star Programme –

The Tennis Aces Star School Programme was officially launched by Datuk Sebastian Ting in November 2019.

According to Han, the main objective is to create a new pool of players from government schools in Miri and the three such primary schools involved are the SK Miri, SK Jalan Bintang and SJK (C) Chung Hua Miri.

Some 90 students have now been selected and are training under two Sarawak Sports Corporation coaches from two different sports development centres – Pusat Pembangunan (PP) and Advancement Centre of Pusat Cemerlang (PC).

Han said MDLTA intended to increase the junior players from year to year, adding that the coaches would select 30 more new players each year.

Participants of Mini Tennis Tournament 2019 with officials and guests at an appreciation dinner.

– Play and stay –

The Tennis Aces Star School Programme is adopting the Tennis Play and Stay concept from the International Tennis Federation (ITF), introduced globally in February 2007.

Han pointed out that the aim is to promote tennis as an easy, fun and healthy sport and ensure all beginners can serve, rally and score from the first lesson.

He said slower ‘red balls’ would be used to give the novices a first positive experience playing tennis.

“Our coaches have been using this approach in training conducted mainly in schools for juniors during their physical education period.”

– Young stars –

The MDLTA junior programme has produced new young stars – both boys and girls between nine and 18 years old.

Since 2018, these young players have been exposed to state and national tournaments and brought home many medals.

Twelve-year-old Imaan Belle (left) and Alia Dania, 10, show the bronze medals they won playing for Sarawak in the girls’ team event at the Malaysian Schools Sports Council Tennis Championship 2019 in Kuala Lumpur.

– Programmes on hold –

The association has put on hold the junior programme and the Tennis Aces Star School Programme since the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18.

The lockdowns – from MCO and Conditional MCO to Recovery MCO which will extend till Aug 31 – have not stopped the coaches from ‘remotely’ creating fitness programmes for the junior players.

A junior player keeping fit at home during lockdown.

Although the association is unable to organise activities outside, it doesn’t mean the young players have to take a long break.

MDLTA has drawn up off-court fitness programmes to help the juniors stay in shape.

“We do all this as a future investment to make our dream of turning Miri into a tennis hub a reality,” Han said.