FORMER national badminton player turned full time sports consultant Daphne Ng, 29, went above and beyond for the national deaf badminton team when she was asked to prepare them for the 23rd Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey, next month.
Generally, deaf athletes are just as able as normal athletes and are only hearing impaired, presenting communication challenges when it comes to training and strategy.
But Daphne’s court experience from her days as a national player, along with a degree in sports science and masters in sports psychology, proved to be valuable assets that have helped her in her commitment to the team.
In her three years of coaching, Daphne has racked up considerable experience, leading University Malaya’s team in the Malaysian and Asean University Games at the same time managing a coaching academy Duo Sparks at various primary, secondary and international schools with another former national shuttler Sabrina Chong.
When the Malaysian Deaf Sports Association (MSDeaf) approached Daphne last August, they were unable to make any arrangements due to a lack of funds.
But when they reached out again in April, she said to them that they should start training first and leave the issue of money aside.
After considering their proposal, she made the decision to invest herself in the team.
“I was just touched when they first approached me to help prepare the team but explained that they could not afford the five-times a week training.
“At the time, the whole thing was more than just about a three to four months project for me. It’s not just the coaching, but the need to analyse each player and work with them, and that takes time away from my day-to-day responsibilities.
“But I just wanted to help them,” she said with a light sigh when she recalled the meeting with MSDeaf.
At the beginning, her strategy was to come up with a way to communicate with the players in order to develop an understanding to make the most of their time.
Giving instructions verbally during training was something she was used to doing, but this time she had to do it without words for everyone to be on the same page.
“They learn a lot through watching. So there were a lot of demonstrations to show them each step of the way.
“I had to learn some badminton terms in sign language so I could tell them what to do during training. This was interesting and made me a more patient person.
“Then, the main focus was on physical training to really get them in shape and working through the fundamentals to tighten up their technique,” she said.
According to her, they have improved 20% to 30% from when they started in May.
From fitness and individual skills, she shifted the focus on how to employ competitive strategies.
“They have shown initiative and took my advice seriously. They are also a determined and persistent bunch.
Daphne expects all the teams to be competitive the Deaflympics, so she tries to give them a taste of the games at that level by arranging for sparring matches.
“Sometimes I rope in my coaching partner Sabrina, who is a doubles and mixed doubles specialist and we spar with them,” she said.
As a former national player herself, she understands the pressure that comes with high expectations from people.
Knowing first hand, and having studied sports psychology, she helps the players manage it by talking to them and teaching them breathing techniques and visualisation.
“I have really tried to apply what I learned on them individually,” she added.
With just under a month to go, Daphne believes the players can still improve and will strive to bring out the best in them for the challenge.
“This money-can’t-buy experience has been something completely new to me, and I have learned a lot as well,” she said.
“I am trying my best with them, and if I can help them play their best; and if they can win medals at the same time, that would be my greatest satisfaction.”