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Taiwan baseball needs fundamentals

Taiwan baseball needs fundamentals

Taiwan's baseball and other athletics have no choice but to return to the fundamentals of basic techniques, conditioning, coaching professionalism and proper working conditions if the evident erosion in the quality of our international performance in world competitions is to be stemmed.
The collapse in the quality of Taiwan baseball was starkly shown last Saturday when the "Chinese Taipei" national team was crushed by China's national team and eliminated from the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo in the first victory ever for the People's Republic of China in the WBC as well as the humiliation of the 8-7 defeat in extra innings at the hands of the Chinese team in the Beijing Summer Olympics last August.
The claim by the Chinese Taipei coach that the our team's poor performance in the WAC was due to "immaturity" of the players fails to respond to the question of why our players were "immature" and why the Chinese team players were well drilled in fundamentals and clearly won because of their mastery of the basic building blocks of the game and their greater "maturity" in judgements in the heat of action.
No quick fixes
In response to the defeat, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan instructed the Cabinet-level Sports Affairs Council to draft a plan by the end of the month to offer local companies, government organizations, and military units incentives to help establish new baseball teams, but Liu's instructions give the impression that the Cabinet is engaging in another "three minute" passion.
The addition of new teams or incentives to form them will not address the reality that the sorry performance of the Taiwan national baseball team in the Beijing Summer Olympics and the WBA, as well as the poor harvest of Olympic medals generally, is symptomatic of fundamental illnesses in the body of Taiwan's athletics and not simply a matter of individual contests.
This lack of basic training combined with the lack of effective physical conditioning and a transparent lack of "passion" among players and athletes, with exceptions such as Olympian taekwondo star Su Li-wen, shows that what is needed is a bottom - up effort from elementary school onward to "get back to the basics."
Instead of spending taxpayer funds to encourage the establishment of more professional teams that may be subject to the same weaknesses as the existing troubled Chinese Professional Baseball League, the top priorities of the SAC and other government agencies should include the integration and more effective application of existing resources for a through reconstruction of Taiwan's athletics systems from the ground up.
As shown by the last week's fiasco in Tokyo, another major weakness lies in the lack of professionalism, training and talent in Taiwan's coaching system, a result of the lack of systematic education and career planning to boost the quality of coaches who should be professionally trained instead of simply plucked from the ranks of players.
We indeed should "have no pride" and must devote greater resources, including funds, to attract world-class coaches, trainers to either take over management of teams or to hold intensive seminars to help upgrade the quality of Taiwan professionals in these key fields at all levels.
Moreover, the frequent inability of Taiwan athletes to demonstrate the maturity to perform in "clutch" situations or to manifest any genuine passion for their competition points to the need for an unified and consistently applied training program that will include not only basic skills but overall physical conditioning and mental training.
Such training and coaching at all levels requires a supply of professional coachers and trainers which in turn is dependent on the provision of career opportunities and effective career planning as well as the unification of basic quality standards.
Related to this priority is the need for an upgrade in the working conditions, compensation, pensions and protection of basic work rights for professional athletes, which are necessary conditions for both ensuring stability in the retention of professional talent as well as to cure the affliction of gambling in professional baseball.
Naturally, taxpayers will wonder where the funds for such efforts will come.
At least part of the answer will be restore the true purpose of the Taiwan Sports Lottery and devote all of its revenues into sports instead of diverting such funds to other purposes.
In sum, what Taiwan baseball and other athletics needs is not another attempt to provide a quick fix but greater effort, passion and professionalism from the grassroots upward and the effective integration of resources and talent and, last but not least, a commitment to upgrade quality instead of cutting costs.
What our society needs to learn from the successive defeats in baseball is not the defeatist complaint that "Taiwan no longer has anything that it can do better than China" but that Taiwan may indeed lose all of its advantages, including our democracy and economic competitiveness, if we do not go back to the basics and work hard to upgrade our quality and defend with passion our hard-won and precious treasures.