KUALA LUMPUR: Kedah's success in developing junior squash champions can be emulated elsewhere by extending the reach of the sport to rural areas.
Eight-time world champion Nicol David highlighted the need for sports in general to move away from concentrating talent development in urban locations.
Kedah-developed players S. Sivasangari, Aifa Azman, Aira Azman and K. Sehveetrraa won all four of Malaysia's titles at the British Junior Open last month.
"Raw talent can be found all over but you have to give them an opportunity and the support," said two-time world junior champion Nicol, 34, who hails from Penang.
"You lose that when you focus only on cities, so to branch out to other areas and get them the training they need or get the coaches there will be a big difference for development.
"We have a lot of junior circuits in the country organised by SportExcel and CIMB Foundation, so the combination of these tournament has built a competitive advantage in kids.
"They get to travel and play and see that they can become better. That helps them to compete at the highest level."
Besides the SportExcel circuit and the CIMB National Junior Circuit, the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) will also hold a regional championship involving eight district school centres under a programme with the Education Ministry.
These eight schools nationwide are equipped with three squash courts and coaches. They are mainly located in rural areas such as Miri, Setiu and Sungai Petani, with about 20 to 30 active players at each school.
"These eight schools are over and above the junior development programmes run by each state for schools not in this programme," said SRAM director of coaching Mej (rtd) S. Maniam.
"Combined with the national junior circuits, we are quite well covered on the development side."
Maniam said SRAM are in discussions with the Education Ministry to add eight more schools to the programme.
"We aim to finalise the list of the eight additional schools by the end of the first quarter before appointing a national development official to oversee the 16 schools," said Maniam.
The eight schools under the programme are SK Seri Indera, Kangar (Perlis), SMK Seri Pagi, Senawang (Negri Sembilan), SMK Dato’ Haji Ahmad Badawi (Penang), SMK TPP Tengku Muhammad, Kuantan (Pahang), SK Jalan Bintang, Miri (Sarawak), SMK Bukit Nenas, Setiu (Terengganu), SMK Tunku Ismail, Sg Petani (Kedah) and SMK Jelapang Jaya, Ipoh (Perak).