Editor’s Note: This is the speech given by Dr. T.J. Rosandich, the Academy’s vice president and chief operating officer, during the convocation Oct. 19, 2013 in Kuala Lampur to the first Malaysian teachers to graduate from the university’s International Diploma in Physical Education and Scholastic Sports (IDPESS) program.

Your Excellency, distinguished guests, faculty, students, ladies and gentlemen, I bid you a warm welcome to this convocation honoring the United States Sports Academy graduates of the 2012 International Diploma in Physical Education and Scholastic Sports (IDPESS).

While saya besa bechara sidikat bahasa Melayu, my Malay language skills are not up to delivering this address in the Malaysian language. And, so I beg your indulgence to allow me to do this in English.

Academy Vice President and COO Dr. T.J. Rosandich (bottom row, center) with the university's faculty teaching the second year of its P.E. and scholastic sports training program to Malaysian teachers.

I welcome you all to this convocation ceremony. Speaking on behalf of my faculty seated here behind me, it is a pleasure for us to be here and to participate in this event. This is all about you and we’re pleased to share in your success.

It is important for you to know and understand what this program is all about. You see the Academy has been working in Malaysia since the early 1980s providing training programs and working with many organizations in the sports structure of the country from the municipal to the national level. We have always recommended that these sports structures and the Ministry of Education (MOE) find a way to work together. That is only natural because the beneficiaries of both national efforts are the same: the youth of this country.

All of us here in this room understand the central role that the schools play in the development of the youth. It is you that give these individuals the foundation of learning and skills that prepare them to be productive members of society. Through your efforts, these children learn math and science and social studies with which they develop their intellect and the socialization that will guide them through a long and productive life.

But there is another side to youth development that is often overlooked or minimized in the school curriculum and that is physical education and sports. All too often, PE and sports are considered by parents and schools administrators to be “fun and games” and a distraction from the serious business of learning academic subjects such as math and science. Parents pressure school administrators to add more time for these serious subjects, and this is often done at the expense of PE and sports. All too often, when a school expansion is needed, play grounds are sacrificed and this space, so important for socialization of the youth, is lost.

However, PE and sports are far more than “fun and games” and I do hope this is a lesson that you all have taken away from the Academy’s program. Properly conducted PE and sport programs contribute to the development of youth in many ways both physically and mentally and sometimes in ways that are surprising. For example, research has shown that those students who are physically fit perform better academically than their less fit peers. There are both physiological and psychological reasons for this fact but this can be a powerful argument against those who would end physical education and sports programs.

Beyond contributing to the well being of youth, the ILO found through a meta-study that aside from formal education, there is no better means to prepare youth for productive roles in society than can be accomplished through sports participation. Very simply, sport builds character attributes, such as self-discipline, teamwork and playing by the rules. These and so many other attributes can best be conveyed to the youth through sports participation. All of these attributes contribute to developing productive members of society, who enjoy better health and longevity so long as the lessons they learn are internalized at an early age.

So what you learned through this program and what we hope you will apply in the field is important to us all.

One man clearly understood this and had the vision to understand that the “status quo” had to change. There was a need to reinvigorate the physical education effort and interscholastic sport effort in the schools. That individual is Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the program that he developed is the “Satu Murid Satu Sukan” program. I believe that you are fortunate to have in one person an individual who has seen both sides of the coin as the Minister for Youth and Sports and as the Minister of Education. More than that, an individual who with the courage of his convictions, was willing to go forth and make this happen.

The IDPESS program is one of the expressions of this ideal. He understood that both formal education and sports are uniquely human endeavors and to do these thing right, those who implement them need to be trained and have an understanding of what this is all about. It is very simple: one cannot translate a vision to reality, or more fundamentally understand how to go about implementing a program, unless you have the skills to do so. Out of this understanding, this special education program was born. This has been a cooperative effort that has been years in the making from concept, to program structure, to getting the MQA approval, to finally implementation. And the proof is in the pudding, as we say in English, sitting here before us.

Implementation is what it is all about and already the program is beginning to bear fruit. On a practical level, those of you sitting in the audience participated in a very important piece of research this past year when you went out and administered the physical fitness test that was taught in the classroom. Tens of thousands of test scores poured into the Office of the Bahagian Pendidikan Guru (BPG). The Academy’s faculty and staff reduced, analyzed and provided a report on the test results. For the first time, there is a physical profile of the youth of the country, boys and girls, urban and rural, and all age groups. The results of this pilot test have been shared with the senior administration of the country who have found it to be interesting for a very simple reason. When you have good data, you can make good decisions. So your efforts are providing the information to make informed decisions from the tactical level, such as talent identification, to suggestions to curricular modification at the strategic level. An example of the strategic is how the fitness of youth today will eventually play into the health care expenditures of tomorrow. So in a very real sense, your efforts are already beginning to have an impact.

We consider you to be alumni of the United States Sports Academy. We’d be pleased and proud to have you join us in the Alumni Association. I’m a member and many of the faculty members seated here behind me are alumni as well. You can join the alumni association by simply going to the USSA Alumni Facebook page and asking to join.

In closing, I do wish you good luck as you pursue your career as teachers for the Ministry of Education here in Malaysia. I sincerely hope that you apply the lessons learned in the classroom to help your students in the field. You can truly make a difference in these young people’s lives and it is my hope that you do so. Thank you.