Fri, Sep 15, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Assistance needed for athletes who have retired

By Charles Yu 余宗龍

During her election campaign, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) pledged to double state funding for sports within eight years. Following this year’s Taipei Summer Universiade, Tsai further promised to allocate a budget of NT$10 billion (US$332.2 million) over the next four years to support developing sports in Taiwan by investing in human and physical resources, teaching, training, prizes and subsidies.

However, no mention was made about resolving the long-standing problem of assistance for athletes who have retired from competition.

Just after the Universiade, a “Taiwan’s heroes parade” was held in Taipei to honor the nation’s athletes, drawing big crowds of onlookers onto the streets. However, now that the spectacle is over, has there been any improvement in future prospects for outstanding athletes?

If it is unclear what job opportunities athletes will eventually have, how can parents feel confident about supporting and encouraging their children to enter the world of sports? If not enough people train to compete in sports, how will Taiwan be able to make its presence felt at international sporting events?

When Taiwanese athletes win medals, the government and public are eager to give them extra honors and rewards, but when those same athletes really need help to find employment, no such help is forthcoming.

Research has shown that outstanding athletes have much in common with successful businesspeople. Athletes have greater-than-average potential for doing well in business due to their devotion and perseverance. This potential is recognized by the Singaporean government, for example, which brings together government and schools to provide assistance to retired athletes, offering them guidance, advice and courses.

The government should offer substantial help to athletes who have made such strenuous contributions and retired from competition. For example, depending on how great a contribution they have made to the nation, they could be provided with interest-free or low-interest start-up business loans.

Retired athletes should be guaranteed positions as full-time sports coaches in schools, where they can foster Taiwan’s sporting talent. This idea, which would form a positive cycle of personnel management, has long been discussed, but never implemented.

Coaches are like legendary horse trainer Bole (伯樂) during the Spring and Autumn Period. As talented as athletes are, they could never become medal-winning racehorses without a coach’s sharp-eyed selection and skillful training. The existing system of full-time coaches in schools has been in place for decades, but funding remains insufficient.

As the saying goes: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Society should encourage outstanding athletes to apply their hardworking and determined spirit and personal characteristics to become future entrepreneurs, thus forming a virtuous cycle in which they can give back to the society that supported them and the sporting world that nurtured them.

Legend says that a horse that Bole picked for Duke Mu of Qin (秦穆公) would never have become such a fine steed if Bole had not been there to spot it.

The nation must let retired athletes give full play to their strengths. When these modern-day Boles enjoy stable pay, conditions and work environments, they will be more able to focus on discovering, teaching and training the next generation of fine steeds — great performances in international competitions and Olympic medals will naturally follow.

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