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Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals
Sports Science Prospects In Malaysia: An Intern's Confession
Is sports science a viable career option in Malaysia? Jaideep Patel quizzes Jeremy Chor for his honest take on the topic.
Jeremy Chor is not your average Malaysian student. An avid footballer and all-round geek for anything related to the sport, he decided to pursue sports science abroad. He is currently studying for a Bsc Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Bath, UK and has recently landed an internship with Stoke City Football Club as an academy match analyst intern – an impressive feat by any standard.
I asked him a few questions about sports science as a career choice, and this is what he had to say.
Q: How great are the opportunities for sports scientists in Malaysia?
A: I think the opportunities for sport scientists, both in research and in practise, are improving and will continue to improve.
Elite sports is getting more competitive and without sport science, we risk getting left behind. The extent of which the field is being utilised by the governing bodies are unknown to me but what I do know is that there are institutions that participate in research. I suppose the whole idea of someone going into a sports related career is still received in a lukewarm fashion given the cultural desire for other forms of success along other career paths, which might be result in the lack of supply to demand in this field.
However, seeing how sports teams have been investing in foreign players, coaches and/or sports staff, especially Europeans, they can no doubt raise awareness of the importance of the field in improving performance. This should spark an interest in further probing the limits to which we can achieve athletic success.
Exposure of our local athletes to the international scene also serves to broaden their horizons, which helps out in the same way.
Q: Can sports science graduates study the subject and find work locally?
A: I remain skeptical about these possibilities, at least for the next 10 to 15 years or so. While scientific articles are being published in sport science by Malaysian researchers, they frankly don't seem to be asking the right questions or approaching it in the right way when compared to their foreign peers. We build on the work set by others, and so far haven't managed to create something original for others to develop or look into. This would probably be a barrier in setting up a renowned academic institution in sport science in Malaysia.
In relation to employment possibilities, they are definitely out there. Strength and conditioning practitioners ie personal trainers in your local gyms seem to be getting paid well as long as they keep their practise private. However, I am not aware of how governing bodies such as FAM see fit to reward their staff. The way I seem to see the picture is that the government would rather invest their money in other areas of nation building other than sports. So employment in private sport companies would be far more rewarding than those in government bodies.
Life On The Job: Nutritionist
Yap Fui Fong, Founder at The Leaf Wellness tells gradmalaysia.com readers what it's like to be in her shoes!
What does a nutritionist do?
The general day-to day job of a nutritionist is to perform diet screening and basic physical screening and then plan meal programmes, supervise food choices and food preparation as well as oversee the serving size of meals according to patients’ needs.
A nutritionist prevents and controls diseases by promoting healthy eating habits and recommending diet habit modifications.
How do I know if being a nutritionist is right for me?
To be a nutritionist, you need to excel in biology and science and graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics or nutrition and community health or food science and nutrition, or equivalent. Those who have an interest in human health and well-being will certainly find a career in nutrition appealing.
Being confident yet sensitive towards others and having patience plus good interpersonal and communication skills are very important as nutritionists work closely with people every day. In a country like Malaysia, the ability to converse in multiple languages certainly helps when communicating with patients of different ethnic backgrounds.
What is the most enjoyable part of the job?
The most enjoyable part of this career is to see yourself making a positive change in a patient’s life, which makes the patient appreciate your knowledge and respect you. During this process, you will build friendships.
Who will employ me?
All health centres
There is an increasing demand for nutritionists to join nutrition support teams in helping to develop and implement medical nutrition therapies for patients. Most government clinics employ nutritionists to provide diet counselling for patients.
The government also employs nutritionists to assess, evaluate, develop and supervise community nutrition programmes especially for the underprivileged in rural areas.
Business and industry
Nutritionists can be found in slimming and beauty centres, sports and fitness centres, pharmaceutical companies, nutritional supplement marketing companies, health food cafés and restaurants as well as health food retailers.
Nutritionists are also required in cafeterias, for healthcare facilities, nursing homes and sometimes schools and prisons to supervise large-scale meal planning.
Nutritionists can also practise privately or be contracted with gyms and healthcare facilities to provide nutrition counselling.
Universities and institutions
Nutritionists can also conduct research and work as academicians.
How much will I earn?
A fresh graduate nutritionist in Malaysia can earn a starting salary of approximately RM2,000 monthly. The ability to write and speak different languages enhances your value.
Life On The Job: Sports Dietitian
Tania Lee, a sports dietitian tells gradmalaysia.com readers what it's like to be in her shoes!
What does a sports dietitian do?
The main goal of a dietitian for athletes would be to help them achieve optimal performance in training and in competition through nutrition. The dietary needs are individualised and nutritional interventions are tailored specifically to every athlete eg dietary plans, rehydration strategies, macronutrient requirements, etc. This is because the metabolism of athletes varies from one to another, hence, it has to be individualised to meet their specific demands.
How do I know if being a sports dietitian is right for me?
For this job, you have to be really proactive. That is requirement number one. Of course, being physically active is a plus-point, as you will be running around quite a lot. You will need to approach people, visit training venues, travel out of state (and out of the country as well) and work odd hours.
Being flexible is also crucial. There’s a high chance of having to work odd hours to provide services to athletes. For example, there might be athletes competing in a country with a different time zone, and they might require dietary counselling or immediate advice on nutrition’.
You are also required to be quickly adaptable to the requirements of the athletes, coaches, and the support team. Plans such training schedules and travel itineraries change very quickly, and you will have to be able to also change your plans quickly to fit into theirs to provide them the best possible service.
How much can a fresh graduate sports dietitian earn?
Depending on the location and qualifications, the starting salary can range anywhere between RM2,100 to RM2,500. This applies to local and overseas graduates – the salary scale is about the same for both.
How can I work towards being an expert in the field?
Being passionate about what you do is very important. Sure, the working hours and salary are fixed, but there will be plenty of instances where you will be required to do more than what you’re supposed to do. If you’re not passionate about the job, you won’t be happy doing it, nor will you go the extra length to help the athletes.
Ask yourself: why do you want to work as a sports dietitian in the first place? You should want to go the extra mile for athletes!
Malaysia Boleh!: Swimming With An Olympian
Jaideep Patel caught up with national swimmer Khoo Cai Lin to quiz her on her life as a national swimmer.
Flashing a wide smile, Khoo Cai Lin introduced herself to me. The 27-year-old’s genuine bubbliness melted my nervousness away. No one could blame me for my initial anxiety – it was a natural reaction. I rarely ever get the chance to interview professional athletes, let alone a two-time Olympian. Now, there was one talking to me. We hurriedly exchanged pleasantries and it became apparent very quickly to me that Cai Lin was the classic girl next door. Even with a string of lofty sporting achievements to her name, she had kept her feet firmly on the ground.
‘I didn’t like swimming’, she admitted frankly and openly, her smile catching the light of the intense mid-day sun. Truth be told, that was not the first thing I expected to hear from a national swimmer. ‘It was only because my sister had really bad asthma when she was about three years old. Our family doctor suggested that she start swimming to get over her condition, so our mom made sure we got into the pool’.
‘It really felt forced in the beginning. Then, when I was around 11 years old, I started winning competitions. That really picked up when I was in my Standard 6 and Form 1. I kept on winning interclub meets and also the Majlis Sukan Sekolah Selangor (MSSS) events. When I was in Form 2, I received an offer letter to join the national team, and I’ve been with the team entering my 14th year now’.
Cai Lin’s achievements
200m, 400m and 800m freestyle
Olympic Games participation:
Olympian of the Year (2007) by The Olympic Council of Malaysia
Selangor Sportswoman (2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013)
Grinding out a result
Cai Lin’s main aim in 2016 was to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics, but it wasn’t meant to be. ‘Unfortunately I didn’t make it. So I’m probably going to take some time off for the rest of the year. I’ll rest and work progressively towards getting my body back in shape, and keep that momentum going until the KL SEA Games next year’, she explained. Her words rang with a generous amount of optimism. It was clear that she wasn’t going to let this setback dampen her spirits.
She added that not making the cut to Rio has actually given her some time off from an otherwise hectic schedule. ‘From now until the team returns from Rio, I have the chance to wake up later, which is usually between 8am to 9am, and have breakfast with my mom. Depending on what day it is, I also get to indulge in some of my new hobbies, including muay thai and rock-climbing. Although this is my downtime, I picked physical hobbies so I have the opportunity to keep my fitness levels high throughout. So I make sure I’m doing some form of training from Monday to Saturday. Sunday is rest day, I shut down completely’.
Cai Lin explained that even the downtime took some getting used to. Among other things, her newfound hobbies are forcing her to remain physically active until after 6pm, which is her usual cut-off point for training. ‘I’m not used to exercising after 7pm,’ she elaborated. ‘The other day I went for indoor cycling and it started at 8.15pm. I actually felt sleepy during the class! It’s been fun trying out new things, but I can’t do most of these things when I’m back in my training routine. It depletes my energy and in some cases these extra activities can lead to injuries’.
Standing on the podium
It wasn’t long before I got to asking Cai Lin about her Olympic experiences. Ever indulging, and always willing to share, she proceeded to paint me a picture of what’s it like to perform at the pinnacle of sporting events.
‘There were a lot of nerves! Beijing 2008 was my first Olympics, so you can imagine the wonder. It didn’t really set in until I got around to actually paying attention to the scale of the Beijing National Aquatics Center, what many people call the Water Cube. It took my breath away. It was the biggest stadium I’ve ever seen in my career. Then there’s the section for the media. It was a part of the stadium closed off to everyone else but the reporters and photographers. But because it was the Olympics, just the media personnel alone outnumbered the crowds you would see at games back home, such as the Malaysian Open. It all felt like it was on a different level completely!’ she divulged, genuinely excited to relive those priceless moments for me.
Upon listening to more of what she had to say, it was clear to me that Cai Lin seems to be able to tap into a seemingly bottomless reservoir of positivity. Even her omission from the Malaysian contingent to Rio didn’t seem to faze her. She credits this to the people around her. ‘From day one, I’ve been blessed with excellent teammates, supportive classmates and a loving family who has stood by me’.
The big game plan
Judging by what she revealed to me thus far, I could safely assume that Cai Lin already has her game plan for next year sorted out. When the Malaysian contingent returns from Rio end of this month, she will reunite with her coach and teammates and set that plan into action.
‘When the team is back from the Olympics, we will start planning what the rest of the year leading up to the SEA Games will be like. Part of our training will include identifying the peak periods, the rest periods, and which competitions should we take part in to qualify for the SEA Games. Although KL is the host nation next year, qualification is not guaranteed to all Malaysian athletes. Taking part in the right events will help us qualify, but we also need to take part in certain competitions to gain the exposure. It’s a trial and error thing to see what’s best for you. You need to get used to the different factors of competing both locally and internationally’.
This girl next door has her eyes set on the world, and is sparing no time to claim her spot under the big lights.
Life On The Job: Technical Director Of Football
Steve Darby, a technical director of football tells gradmalaysia.com readers what it's like to be in his shoes!
What do you do in your job?
We can talk about a day in the life of a technical director of football from two points of view: at the national level and at the practical level.
At the national level, I can speak of my experience as the Technical Director of the Lao Football Federation. A typical work day can include meetings with government agencies such as the Ministry of Sports or Ministry of Education, to discussions with sponsors such as FBT (Football Thai Factory Sporting Goods Co Ltd) which is the supplier of the team kits for the Laos national team.
On a more practical level there is talent identification, which the most enjoyable part of the job because it actually involves coaching players!
What do you like most about your job?
It can be well paid! But you have to accept it is not a reliable job. You can be sacked in a day for nonsensical reasons and may not get another job for a year. But money isn’t everything. You can’t beat the feeling of walking out in front of 100,000 people at Bukit Jalil for a Malaysia Cup Final or coaching the Thailand national team against the team you grew up supporting, in my case Liverpool.
You will also develop lifelong friendships with players and other coaches, and these are certainly things money can’t buy. You get to love the daily relationships with great players, the humour and sometimes the sadness. The dressing room can be a wonderful place.
On the other hand, the challenges are quite simple. The media! It’s a big pain having to deal with people who are trying to provoke you to get a headline, or people who just basically tell lies. Some journalists are great and have professional ethics, but others have very poor standards and make coaches and players reticent to speak to them. Hence you get the bland monosyllabic responses from the players.
What skills do you consider essential for your job?
It does help if you have played at a reasonable level, but that is not always the case (Jose Mourinho comes to mind). Most of all, you must know your football. Players at a professional level are ruthless and will find you out if you try to bluff them. You must be organised and know how to plan long and short term, and you must have player management skills. Honesty and consistency are two values that help out in this area.
A more recent “skill” is to learn to manage upwards. How you deal with, say, presidents and owners? That is not always easy in Malaysia. I have had to deal with high flying CEOs, federal politicians and the royalty. The reality is that football is dictated by funding. You must deal with the money-providing people to maximise the resources for your players.
You must also hate to lose, but learn how to handle it with intelligence and dignity as you will lose games.
You will also have to be a decision maker and once you make a decision you will upset someone and you have to deal with that.
Most of all, do not be ashamed to be in love with the game!
Firstly, play as much football as you can. That’s the greatest learning experience. Watch as much football as you can, at all levels. Then start the qualification trail and try to do graduate studies in sports science or physical education, and then undertake the coaching licences. It is now nearly impossible to get a coaching position without a coaching licence so start early. I started my licences while at university and it was so much easier. As a student your mentality is still very much in learning mode. It’s harder as you get older!
In closing: love the game. It can be obsessive and almost a narcotic. But the rewards are fantastic.
Life On The Job: Sports Psychologist
Philip Lew, a sports psychologist tells gradmalaysia.com readers what it's like to be in his shoes!
My daily work depends on the coaches and the athletes, whether they require me to be with the team or not. On the busiest days you will see me waking up around 5am so that I can get to the training grounds at 6am. This is when the athletes train for about 2 hours.
After the training sessions end around 8am, I usually have some debriefing with the athletes, and I might have a discussion with the coach for an hour and a half until around 9am to 10am. After that I head back to the office to do some research and paperwork, and maybe get some of the reports done. Around 4pm I’ll head back to the field with the athletes who will be in their training session until around 6pm to 7pm. This is how a typical day looks like being in my shoes.
Do you like to communicate with other people?
Do you want to sharpen your counselling and leadership skills?
Do you have the patience to talk people through their issues?
Do you have the ability to perceive the changes in emotions in people?
Do you like sports?
Do you like to travel?
If you answered ‘yes’ to the questions above, then being a sports psychologist may be a good career path for you!
Studying sports psychology (or psychology in general) doesn’t mean you will be limited to being a psychologist. Many of my colleagues are working in HR, while some of them are working in recruitment too. Some of my friends have become policemen, doing something that is completely different! I think a psychology degree provides you with a lot of skill sets. How you want to use your skill sets is entirely up to you.
One thing to think about is that there is still a stigma about psychology in Malaysia. The questions ‘What do psychologists do?’ and ‘Where do I get a job?’ are not answered. At the moment, there isn’t an act that helps to regulate and propagate the psychology industry, unlike counselling which has the Counsellors Act 1998. This act helps people undergo the proper procedures before they can be qualified counsellors, but there is no such system like that for psychology in Malaysia.
I have a motto that I use a lot: ‘Every effort is a step closer to success’.
The effort part of it is for aspiring youngsters who want to step into our shoes, or into the sports world. You need to do what the national athletes do – train every day! Sometimes it’s about getting qualifications or getting more skillsets into your toolbox, that is very important.
Another thing is to never be complacent, always keep trying. I would say that opportunities are everywhere; it’s all about you taking the initiative to look for it and to try to do it. Sometimes we think that things might not work, and that might deter us from trying.
Submitted by jaideep.patel_3... on Tue, 2016-12-20 13:33
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