Finding the right coach is a bit like striking gold. A good relationship between coach and a player makes it easy to communicate, identify problems and find good solutions.
I was introduced to my first coach, a former Malaysian national player, through my dad’s work mate. When I first showed up to training, I was the classic newbie girl wearing glasses, street sneakers and a long-sleeved crew top. Fortunately it didn’t deter me. I’m quite stubborn.
My coach’s style was to show instead of describe and he put the most emphasis on footwork. He demonstrated techniques and let us run through the drills while making some corrections along the way. I learned by watching then imitating and adjusting. My coach was a decent chap and one of his best recommendations was to watch professional matches online. I also watched online badminton coaching videos.
A long-lasting benefit of group training is that I don’t mind who I play with, because I remember what it’s like to practice with a range of abilities and let go of my ego. There were also disadvantages. I had to ask for feedback otherwise it was seldom given and I’d unknowingly continue making the same mistakes. I was often the only young adult in a group of boys and felt sometimes I was placed with the naughty kids so they’d focus back on training. My coach and I had a good relationship but it wasn’t close. Given the circumstances, this was inevitable.
Different coaching styles
My Malaysian coach was critical of social games, and believed the time would be better spent training. When I sheepishly admitted to him that I hit my partner with a shuttle, he groaned and face-palmed “I didn’t teach you that”. We laughed, couldn’t help it. His co-coach also shook his head and smiled. The co-coach was supportive and introduced me to his club where I could practice. He gave me individual pointers on things I could improve and spent time with me practicing shots and discussing the strategy of game for which I cannot thank him enough. I’d say communication is the most important skill in a coach’s toolbox. The world’s best coaching technique and methods cannot be 100% effective without good communication skills.
After I came back from a trip to the US I wanted to get back into training. I asked around and found a coaching club near home. I booked a two-on-one training session and it was purely by luck that one of the coaches pulled out and my current coach filled in. I’ve stuck with him (and he’s stuck with me) since then.
He explains things well. When he notices errors he demonstrates the right technique and patiently explains the arm or wrist movement. Now when I train I always strive to understand and master the technique in order to gain his approval. His expressions range from disapproval (shake of the head, pursed lips) to amusement at my lack of ability (a grin at my helpless look) to approval (nod of the head, “good”).
The advantage of two-on-one training is that a coach can give tailored feedback and you’re accountable for progress. Yesterday my attention was scattered because I had a job interview. I tried to get myself together to execute the drills the way he demonstrated. It wasn’t easy but he was super nice about it. He said, “if you feel unsteady it means your muscles aren’t strong enough. Try doing some exercises at home otherwise you might injure yourself”. When I got home I did 100 squats and 100 sit-ups. So I guess right now, I feel in control of my progress.
Badminton is like music: everybody has their style of play. Every coach wants to help their athlete to reach their goals. The coach-player relationship develops over time. It’s a journey. The main qualities I appreciate about all my coaches is that they were good listeners, were willing to share their knowledge and supported my goals. I’m grateful to them.
It was a wise choice to get professional coaching. I started playing the same time as my high school friends and coaching has made a big difference. The effort I put into training and practice has yielded results. I feel a sense of accomplishment but I’m still hungry for improvement. The journey with my coach continues and I’m looking forward to it!