Coach Nadhia Borhan showing children the right way to exercise at the launch of the kids’ athletics initiative at Ipoh Padang. (YTTF pic)

IPOH: The country’s first little athletics initiative involving both able-bodied children under 12 and differently-abled children is off the starting blocks here.

The endeavour is the result of a heartening combination of a corporate sponsor, well-wishers who want to see children play sports, and former state and national athletes wanting to give back to society.

It is offered for free and led by private entity Young Talent Track & Field (YTTF) whose chairman, Karu Selvaratnam, described the project as a refreshing chapter in people coming together for sports.

Karu, a former Olympian, said the undertaking will embellish the role of sports as the hidden social worker in neighbourhoods and help in talent development.

He said it was designed for children to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle and to build communities of sport-loving parents and children.

Some 150 children, the youngest aged four – all attired in standard T-shirts provided by YTTF – were exposed to running, jumping and throwing at the launch of the event at Ipoh Padang last Saturday.

Former Perak athlete David Anthony teaching the children the right way to throw a ball. (YTTF pic)

The grassroots programme is supported by the Paralympic Council of Malaysia with redONE, a mobile virtual network operator, as the main sponsor.

A group of former state and national athletes will conduct clinics every Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 9.30am at Ipoh Padang.

Karu said the emphasis will be on physical skill development, and coaches will teach children fitness and instil positive attitudes in them, all while having fun.

He said it was the fundamental right of children to have access to sports and that YTTF will introduce similar programmes in marginalised communities as well.

Karu said efforts were being taken to assist disadvantaged families who relied on support that sports gave them, including providing their children free tuition for some subjects.

“Every child is born to move, play and explore, and as a foundation sport, athletics gives children confidence in their physical abilities.

Two boys trying out the mini foam hurdles for the first time. (YTTF pic)

“As habits learned early remain habits for life, our vision is the same as World Athletics; to use the power and accessibility of athletics to create a healthier and fitter environment for children and to foster social cohesion in communities,” he said.

Perak Para Athletics Association president Noor Hashim said the scheme was a baby step towards talent development in paralympic sports.

He said it was vital to connect children with communal sporting opportunities as it provided unquestioned mental health benefits, built self-confidence and brought people together.

CEO of redONE Farid Yunus said the project was in line with the company’s tagline “Back to basics” and its continued support for junior development in sports.

“We want all children to get out there and get moving so that they live happier and healthier lives,” he said.

YTTF CEO Danny Sritharan said fun competitions would be organised later to develop the potential of each young athlete.

He said every young athlete was different and that the needs of both the competitive ones and those who just wanted to have fun without competition would be met.

Danny said YTTF hoped to roll out little athletics in other states too, with corporate sponsorship that was vital to sustain long-term coaching and mentorship programmes.

He urged parents to play a supportive role in order to keep alive the interests of their children in sports.

Parental obligation, he said, also required them to attend the clinics where they too can keep fit by doing exercises.

Source : Free Malaysia Today

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