PETALING JAYA: It’s not easy to be the right coach for an athlete but Hendrawan seems to be the one with the Midas touch.
The 48-year-old Hendrawan has not only guided players to win titles but he knows how to help players rise from the ashes – he did it with Lee Chong Wei and he has done it again with Lee Zii Jia.
Players trust and have good relationships with him and all these credentials have indeed made Hendrawan one of the more successful coaches in Malaysia.
Hendrawan, who has been a coach for 17 years since he quit playing for the Indonesian national team after the Athens Olympics in 2004, said the relationship between a player and coach was important to him.
“I’m a positive person, so naturally, I try to instil all that is positive in my players, ” said the soft-spoken Hendrawan.
“Players deal with so many things, so I do my best to take away their pressures. I keep many things to myself and say only what the players need to hear.
“I just want to work. I’m glad, over these years, I’ve built a good relationship with Chong Wei, Zii Jia and other players too.
Last week, Zii Jia defeated two world champions – Kento Momota of Japan and Viktor Axelsen of Denmark en route to winning the All-England men’s singles title.
The title came just two months after the 22-year-old had been in the dumps, experiencing one of his low points, having lost to lower-ranked players in tournaments in Thailand.
Zii Jia was given a show cause letter to buck up and fans hurled all kinds of hurtful criticism via social media.
World No. 10 Zii Jia withdrew into a dark place, where he allowed self-doubt to eat away at him.
Fortunately, all the pep talk and encouragement from Hendrawan and several others in the team helped Zii Jia to come back with renewed determination to prove himself.
“There is no perfect player. Everyone has their ups and downs. It’s about working hard, taking their chances well and not giving up easily.”
Hendrawan was also with Chong Wei when the latter had to deal with a doping issue in 2015. Chong Wei was banned for eight months but Hendrawan did not abandon him – he stood by him and eventually, Chong Wei went on to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and garnered his third silver medal.
The former world No. 1 went through a tough spell but returned to win his 12th Malaysian Open title in a convincing fashion in 2018 by crushing Kento Momota of Japan in the final.
“I had to look into Chong Wei’s age and his training had to change. Instead of focusing on power and speed, we used a different approach to beat Kento. Zii Jia is a young player, so the way I deal with him is different. It’s all about building his confidence.”
Hendrawan also did the same when he coached Sony Dwi Kuncoro, Simon Santoso and Maria Kristin between 2004 and 2009 – all of them were in the pits but he helped them to bounce back and become successful players.
2001 world champion Hendrawan, however, admitted that his years of coaching in Malaysia came to a boiling point in January this year.
“The coaches have their moments too... I wanted to be just a coach and did not want a position, so I resigned as the chief coach but BAM’s coaching director Wong Choong Hann did not accept it, ” said Hendrawan.
“I had been under pressure too from all corners. I’ve been a coach with Malaysia since July 2009. I’ve done my best with every batch of players I was given.
“Every two years, I will get a different set of players. I think, the longest I’ve had a player under me was Chong Wei for five years.
“Of course, there were expectations. When our players don’t do well, I get hit too by fans on social media. I was asked, ‘you have been in Malaysia for 10 years, what have you achieved?’
“When Malaysian players do well, I get bombarded by the Indonesian fans. They ask me to return home and question my nationalism.
“I’m okay with it, it’s part and parcel of my job. I just don’t read all the comments so much.
“But when Zii Jia won, I became emotional. I did not realise that I had bottled up everything – my pent-up frustration, pressure, joy... I just broke down. I know the win meant so much to everyone.”
Zii Jia called Hendrawan from his hotel room in Birmingham after the All-England victory.
“Coach I did it, he said. I was very proud of him. I told him to cherish it. Even my name is not on the All-England trophy, ” said Hendrawan, whose best was a semi-final finish after losing to Ong Ewe Hock in 1998.
“I, however, reminded him that the job is far from over. I told him to enjoy for a few days before the hard work starts again. There are other major events to focus on.”
Hendrawan said his goal had not changed and that was to produce a world champion, Olympic champion and help Malaysia win the Thomas Cup.
“I set these goals when I joined Malaysia and it has not changed, ” he said.
“When BAM gave me the job as the chief coach, they told me the focus should not be only on Zii Jia. They want other players to step up too and I’ve been working towards that, ” he said.
“Zii Jia’s next big event is the Olympics in Tokyo (July) but we also have the Thomas Cup in Denmark (Nov). I can’t just have one Zii Jia to win the Thomas Cup, I know that we need at least three good players.
“We have the pool of players, Zii Jia has improved and we will get the others to catch up too.”
Besides Zii Jia, the others with potential are Cheam June Wei, Leong Jun Hao, Lim Chong King, Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin, Ng Tze Yong.
“I may be the coach but I believe, without team work, we will not go far.
“There was a great team work behind Zii Jia’s recent success – the fitness team, science experts, teammates, BAM, coaches, former coaches. Everyone is part of it.”