Kento Momota of Japan is one of the up-and-coming players at the Maybank Malaysian Open. While countries like Japan, Indonesia and Denmark are moulding their juniors into badminton stars, Malaysia is floundering.
ONE of the highlights in the Maybank Malaysian Open was when Kento Momota of Japan defeated Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in a battle between two former world junior champions in the opening round on Wednesday.
These youngsters showed class, power and flair. They both definitely have the makings of future stars.
Malaysia too have Asian and world junior champions in the mix. Unfortunately, the handful of them are still struggling to raise their game at the senior level.
Why is it that our juniors are struggling while others seem to have got their plans somewhat right?
Frankly, it’s not that we lack the talents. It’s just that we lack the right people to manage these budding talents.
Kento and Axelsen’s progress from the junior to the senior level did not happen overnight.
The national coaching directors of Japan and Denmark – Park Joo-bong and Finn-Traerup Hansen – took some time to have an insight into their shuttlers’ strengths and weaknesses before drawing proper training plans with their coaches.
The coaching directors also have very good communication with the development team as well as a good support team, who seem to know their job scope clearly as they execute their plans.
Li Yongbo and Rexy Mainaky are doing a similar job for China and Indonesia respectively.
All these countries also have a workable system at the grassroots level, one suited to their own demographic and cultures.
Sadly, this is what’s lacking in Malaysia.
We still have a fragile coaching and training structure, one that doesn’t have a good strategist leading the way.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), under the leadership of Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Arif, are in a mess because the roles of the coaches and officials are not clearly defined.
And their plans are just as hazy!
Even Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin could not resist taking a swipe at the BAM leadership on Thursday, especially for failing to nurture new talents.
The BAM council are holding their first meeting of the year on Saturday – and herein lies the opportunity for them to make some positive changes.
Here is what they can do:
- Lessen the burden on Tengku Malaleel by appointing a new Talent Management Group (TMG) director and coaching and training chairman.
Who can they appoint? Well, there are few former internationals with the right credentials, although they lack experience.
But the council should not be afraid to throw them into the fray, set KPIs for them to achieve and see if they can deliver. This is, after all, how they do it in the other countries.
- Identify all the potential players and kick start a new 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games programme.
The council must be bold and name the shuttlers that they think can be turned into world and Olympic champions. And then, invest – time, money and effort – on them.
- Focus on grassroots development. The future is in their hands.
- Get council members, who are the presidents and secretaries of the State BAs, to play a more active role to revive the sport at the lower level.
The current sad state of affairs in the sport is not the fault of one man. Every one of the council members is to be blamed.
The days of just sitting quietly and passively, comfortable with whatever position you have been offered, and letting the rot set in are over.
Stand up and speak up. And save the sport.