Modern Thai Sports Participation
Submitted by Charles Temple, MEd; Michael Fredrick, PhD; William Edwards, PhD; Fred Cromartie, EdD
Many Americans are unaware of the popular sports in Thailand such as Sepak Takraw, Muay Thai (also known as Thai Boxing), international football (soccer), table tennis, badminton, swimming, diving, and weight lifting. Recent success in Olympic weight lifting has lifted aspirations for expanding Thai performance to other sports. On the rise is the international awareness of two unique and highly athletic sports originating in Southeast Asia, Sepak Takraw (http://www.sepaktakraw.org/) and the often-considered national sport of Thailand, Muay Thai.
Thai climate, culture, interests, genetic makeup and physical size of the people allow opportunities for willing participants to excel in certain sports in international competition. National and international organizations such as the Sports Authority of Thailand, Olympic Council of Asia, and the International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF) promote national and international competition in sports such as Sepak Takraw. Progressive facilities such as natatoriums and international football (soccer) arenas (e.g., the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok accommodating up to 65,000 fans, built for the Sports Authority of Thailand and the Asian Games of 1998) reflect a progressive emphasis on Thai performance in international and Olympic competition. National organizations, modern facilities, and innovative training by committed and successful coaches increase the chances for Thai success on future international medal stands.
Sepak Takraw is popular in Southeast Asia, similar to volleyball, and is commonly referred to in Thailand as Takraw. Origins of Takraw date back to over a century, with the first set of rules drafted by the Siam Sports Association in 1829. Takraw is played on a court similar in size to a badminton court, and is becoming increasing popular throughout the world. The net is approximately at the same height as badminton, but played with a rattan ball. The sport is a mixture of football (soccer) and volleyball with the athletic moves of kung fu and gymnastics. To contact the ball, three teammates on a side can use feet, knees, head, shoulders and elbows but not hands. The objective is to keep the ball in play within the rules until the ball either goes out of bounds, into the net, or falls to the ground, while placing the opponent at a disadvantage. A simple description of the game would be a combination of volleyball and soccer with a maximum of three touches per side. In Takraw, leaping foot kicks with the feet over the head often send the rattan ball toward opponents at lightning-fast speeds.
Muay Thai is often considered the national sport of Thailand. Muay Thai is a combat martial art with strong punches, kicks, and strikes with the elbows and knees as a combination of the Western boxing and Asian martial arts. The official world governing body is the World Muaythai Council (WMC ) with 128 Member Nations, 82 of which have been recognized by their Highest Sporting Authority or National Olympic Committee. The WMC is a fully recognized member of the Olympic Council of Asia. With worldwide popularity in countries such as Australia, Muay Thai emphasizes hard training to test skills while having fun delivering blows with pads on (Serenc, 2014) and never retreating. In the United States, Muay Thai is increasing in popularity as a competitive sport and for personal health. American fighter Leslie Nipkow loves the punching and feeling of power inside the ropes. Nipkow used Muay Thai training to assist recovery from stage 3 breast cancer. She was uncertain if she would ever practice again. She said, “Everyone has a moment when you realize what truly matters …I was the one who got to decide whether or not cancer would take away what I loved most – and the answer was no. For those 8 months, Muay Thai gave me a good reason to get out of bed every day…it was those first few kicks that gave me hope”(Nipkow, 2014).
Competitive strategies in Thai team sports such as Takraw may include written notes as part of a unique psychological formula for winning. The notes motivate and focus team confidence and unity prior to competition. For example, the Takraw team has an innovative motivational technique before key contests where teammates exchange notes of encouragement (e.g., “We will be the champions this time and we will trust…Let everyone see our smile as the Games champions when we go home. We can do it.”) (Masand, 2010). Positive self-talk techniques for instilling team confidence are successful when thoughts are written and communicated in a team atmosphere beforehand. Approaches such as these in Thai sport have a positive impact on team unity and focus with an effective winning formula.
Masand, A. , (2010, November). Written notes – Thailand team’s secret weapon to winning. Hindustan Times. Retrieved September 5, 2014 from: http://www.hindustantimes.com/sports-news/athletics/written-notes-thailand-team-s-secret-weapon-to-winning/article1-628121.aspx
Nipkow, L., Lieberman, B., & Onken, N. (2014). If breast cancer knocked you down, could you get back up?. Prevention. Retrieved September 5, 2014 from: http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/muay-thai-gave-one-woman-breast-cancer-reason-fight
Serenc, M. (2014, June). Fighters young and old match up for Cairns BBQ Beat Down.” Cairns Post, The. Retrieved September 5, 2014 from: http://www.cairnspost.com.au/sport/local-sport/fighters-young-and-old-match-up-for-cairns-bbq-beat-down/story-fnjpuwsz-1226959527681
Mr. Charles Temple is the current project director for USSA in Malaysia. Mr. Temple has worked as a high school and college teacher, coach, athletic director and taught sport management in Bangkok, Thailand for the past two years. Dr. Fredrick is the Chair of Sports Studies at USSA, and holds a doctorate in sport psychology and a 1st degree black belt in Chinese Kenpo. Dr. Fredrick has completed teaching assignment(s) in China and Malaysia while visiting Thailand and Singapore. Dr. Edwards is the Chair of Sports Exercise Science at USSA, has completed a teaching assignment in Malaysia, and visited Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. Dr. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at USSA and has completed teaching assignments in Thailand and Malaysia, respectively.