Good coaches can be smashing figures wherever they choose to be

Wong Choong Hann having a word with Chin Eei Hui (left) during the Malaysian Masters in January this year

WHEN Wong Choong Hann was named as the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) coaching director in late 2018, he was welcomed into the family with thunderous applause.

The former world No. 1 men’s singles shuttler did not waste any time, hitting the ground running.

He probably is one of the better supremos compared to the many who have come and gone.

In the last two years, he has been working his butt off. He is always there at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara, planning, assessing, reviewing, attending meetings, entertaining media, including yours truly, and talking with the coaches and players – and let me tell you, Choong Hann can talk!

Even when he was a player, dedication, diligence and discipline were his trademark.

He also believes in two-way communication and values people relations.

That’s why it came as a shock when he announced, out of the blue, the departure of three coaches Rosman Razak, Chin Eei Hui and Wong Pei Tty. No reasons were given, just a statement saying their contracts will not be extended.

Was it a shortage of funds?

Not likely, because within two weeks, the BAM had hired Tan Bin Shen as one of the replacements in the men’s doubles. And more could be joining the stable.

The association are also one of the few who continued to manage their 100 over shuttlers (seniors and juniors), about 40 coaches and staff even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even at the height of it all, they have announced the hiring of Robert Gambardella as the chief executive officer for the ABM. The American has yet to arrive here but I’m sure he does not come cheap.

Was it because of the lack of results then?

That’s a tall order, considering that there have not been any tournaments for the coaches to test their players for almost 10 months.

Rosman, for instance, rejoined the BAM only in 2018 after working with professional club Sports Affairs for more than a year. When he took charge of the women’s doubles, Olympian Woon Khe Wei quit the team, leaving him to start from scratch.

He did pretty well in the short time to stabilise the department, and even guided his players to a few titles in 2019.

Eei Hui, the 2016 coach of the year, has been moved around between the mixed and doubles department a few times, but she kept giving her best. In fact, she is one of the few coaches who has a winning relationship with her players.

Even if these coaches had to go, couldn’t this decision wait until after the deferred Tokyo Olympics in August next year?

Or was there external pressure on Choong Hann to let these coaches go?

Only Choong Hann knows. I understand his predicament. He has a huge responsibility on his shoulder to revive Malaysian badminton, and it’s tough to make tough calls.

While Rosman, Eei Hui and Pei Tty may not have their places in the national team any more, it was nice to see several other former players throwing their support behind them.

Former women’s No. 1 singles player Ng Mee Fen wrote on her Facebook page that changes could do a world of good for them.

She encouraged them to follow the path of others like Jeremy Gan, Tan Kim Her, Lee Wan Wah, Wong Tat Meng, Yap Kim Hock and Lim Pek Siah, who have gone abroad to coach, or start an academy at home or even move on to a different path completely.

Former national No. 1 Ong Ewe Hock did not want to see these talents go to waste.

He called for the BAM to use the services of these coaches, who had devoted most of their lives to badminton, in other departments – national junior squad or states or schools.

It’s a good call by Ewe Hock. Imagine having these national coaches in states, with renewed determination and with a good salary too. They can do wonders.

Fortunately, Ewe Hock’s cry caught the ear of the BAM’s development committee chairman Datuk Ng Chin Chai. He is open and willing to give these coaches options to serve at the grassroots level.

But Chin Chai is right – it’s up to Rosman, Eei Hui and Pei Tty now, whether they want to go to a lower level.

Leaving the national team is not the end of the road for the trio, there are endless possibilities and opportunities out there, even in tough times.

With their wealth of experience and their love for the game, they will be a smashing figure whatever they choose to do.

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