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Talent Identification: A Way For Malaysia To Meet Its Athletic Potential

By Mitchell W. Craib, Ph.D
Consultant for the National Sports Council of Malaysia

Mitchell Malaysia's Competitive Status in Sports
  Throughout the World
One Important Step To Improve Competitiveness
What Will Happen To Identified Talent?
When Will Talent Identification Pay Off?
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Malaysia's Competitive Status in Sports Throughout the World

Malaysia is a nation of roughly 20 million people, not enough people some say to produce athletes capable of being competitive among the world's nations. This belief is false and unfortunate. Nations such as Norway, Spain, East Germany, and Australia, have had substantial success at world- class competitions with athletes from smaller or similar-sized populations.

Some have also suggested that Malaysians do not have the genetic talent to reach the world-class level. There is no way to test this theory, but it is likely to be wrong. Tremendous variations in body type can be found in a population of 20 million. Therefore, there are body types in Malaysia which should meet the physiological profiles required of every sport.

So then, why is Malaysia not yet a world-class sporting power? One can speculate that physical activity for the masses is not yet highly prized. Athletic activities seem to be only mildly supported in the school systems country-wide and people seem to quit sports once school/college is over. Therefore, not many people in Malaysia are exploring their athletic potential. Without widespread appreciation for the benefits of sport (for health as well as competition), it is no surprise that Malaysia has room to improve upon its athletic competitiveness world wide.


One Important Step To Improve Competitiveness

Mitchell The question is, what can be done to improve Malaysia's athletic performances? Must Malaysia change its whole school system and society to focus more on sport or is there an easier way to find people with unique athletic potential? One approach, the approach this article addresses, is to develop a system of talent identification which involves the schools, but requires little commitment in time and energy. Such a system needs to reach out to as many potential athletes as possible, and for Malaysia, that means millions of young candidates. From these millions, dozens of boys and girls will have the potential to be world beaters. They just have to be found.

Leg Speed Fortunately, Malaysia has a well-developed school system that touches the lives of most Malaysian youth. Within this school system, there are physical education instructors who are capable of conducting tests for talent and sending results to experts for selection purposes. Realizing this fact, the National Sports Council, has begun to develop a system of talent identification which will eventually be applied country-wide.

Arm Span Physical Education instructors, associated with the Ministry of Education, are being brought to the National Sports Council's facilities in Kuala Lumpur for training in talent identification testing. Seventy of these instructors have just completed training with the goal of testing 10,000 youth before December. This group, and the talent data they are gathering, make up the first phase in the big plan for testing Malaysian youth. Next year, it is hoped that many more talent testers will be trained and perhaps a hundred thousand, if not a million students tested.


What Will Happen To Identified Talent?

Mitchell Those identified as talented will need to undergo two more stages of testing. Why? Because the tests used to select talent in the first stage are good, but limited in scope. Since masses of people have to be reached, the tests chosen for the first stage are few, simple, and brief, requiring no special equipment. Tests include quick measures of power, speed, agility, and endurance, factors considered essential to the majority of sports. They also include measures of body size.

Mitchell Girls and boys who stand out as remarkably different from the average in the first stage will be invited to undergo second stage testing in their state. Roughly one to five per cent of boys and girls tested initially will enter this second stage. Here, they will be asked to repeat the tests they performed well in (to double check results) and to perform new tests which illuminate other sports characteristics thought valuable to elite sports performance. These tests will include factors such as balance, vision, flexibility and sprint recovery ability. Outstanding boys and girls from these measures will be offered the chance to enter the third and final assessment process.

Arm Span The last stage of talent testing will occur at the National Sports Council's facilities. Sport scientists in Physiology, Biomechanics and Sport Psychology will use sophisticated treadmills, metabolic equipment, force plates, high-speed cameras and biofeedback equipment to accurately assess the calibre of athletic talent. Those deemed truly gifted will be offered support in their efforts to become elite athletes through expert coaching, use of the best sports equipment available, and possibly financial assistance to further their education.

download Click to view videos.
Hexagon Agility Test
Calipers Body Mass Test (3.4MB)
Treadmill Speed Test (2.9MB)

When Will Talent Identification Pay Off?

Mitchell Optimal talent identification for most sports occurs around the age of twelve. It is at this age that many of the physiological factors important to sports are developed to the point where talent can be observed. Once identified, talent requires years of careful training for full development. As a rule of thumb, it takes about 10 years from the time a person begins to seriously train until he/she reaches his/her potential. Consequently, if talent identification begins within the next twelve months, the fruits of that process are unlikely to be seen at international competitions until 2008.

Of course, new talent potential must be found every year if Malaysia wants to reach out and maintain world-class sporting status.



One way Malaysia can become a world sporting power is through systematic assessment of its youth for athletic talent. Physical education instructors in the Malaysian school system can locate talent for the country with simple physiological tests taught by sports scientists at the National Sports Council. Hundreds of gifted children, from the millions examined, can be supported to train for elite sports performance status. In ten years or less, Malaysia can reap the benefits of this process to reach the status it desires.

Stage 1 Talent Identification Training

Performance Factor

Simple Talent Identification Tests

Body Structure

Height, Sitting Height, Arm Span, Body Mass

Explosive Strength (Upper & Lower Body)

Weight Throw (3 kg Shot)

Leg Power (Strength & Speed)

Vertical Jump

Leg Speed

40 m Sprint

Agility & Balance

Agility Hexagon Test (jumping test)


800 m Run

Stage 2 Talent Identification Training

Performance Factor

Simple Talent Identification Tests


Ease of focus, Depth Perception, Peripheral Vision

Abdominal Strength

Variations of the Sit-Up

Muscular Endurance

Lumbar Hold, Front Abdominal Hold, Abdominal Crunches, Wide-Grip Pull-Up

Explosive Strength (Upper Body)

Seated Two-Handed Basketball Throw

Leg Power (Strength & Speed)

Standing Long Jump


Blind-Stork, Rotating-Stork (one-legged standing tests)

Motor Skills

Throwing Ability (tennis ball)

Fatigue Resistance to Multiple Sprints

Phosphate Decrement (ATP & CP energy stores)


Multi-Stage Endurance Test, 1500 m Run

  Sports Training 2

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