Tuesday, May 24

Looking for the next Lee Chong Wei in Miri

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Liaw shows the trainees a video on proper racquet grip.

A training session in progress.

Trainees about to embark on a training drill.

Time to relax at the end of the camp.

A UNIVERSITY degree, a stable job with decent pay and a secure future – these are the building blocks of a successful life that parents hope their children would strive to attain.

But for James Liaw, the ‘ideal life’ has a different meaning – it is to follow one’s dream and making it come true.

So, despite graduating with a Bachelor of Marketing, the 23-year-old has decided on an unexpected career path – a full-time badminton coach.

“There are many badminton talents in Miri yet to be discovered. More importantly, I believe finding the next Lee Chong Wei is not impossible,” he told thesundaypost.

Badminton has been Liaw’s favourite sport since he was young and his passion for it has not waned.

He believes realising one’s dream is the best thing that could ever happen to anyone.

Support from family and friends also spurred him to chase his dream, “You could say I am living my dream (to coach badminton). Moreover, doing the thing I love as a business makes all the challenges worthwhile.”

First step

His first step was setting up a badminton academy to reach out to more young talents.

After the academy became operational in May, he organised a badminton camp to promote the game to locals, especially among the young.

A former state player, Liaw also holds two coaching Level 1 certificates, recognised by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) and the Badminton Association Malaysia (BAM).

He started playing for Sarawak from the age of 11 but of course he started playing earlier.

“It’s always better to start young,” said Liaw who was one half of the pair who made the Under-18 boys doubles semi-finals in the Malaysian School Sports Council (MSSM) championships – his highest achievement as a player.

His academy’s recent 12-day camp from May 28 to June 20 involved 18 trainees, aged six to 12.

“It’s important to nurture and groom young talents if we want to regain our badminton supremacy. There are many potential young players in Miri. With proper support and training, discovering another Lee Chong Wei in our midst is not impossible,” he again stressed.

Talent development

Liaw pointed out that badminton is not just about a racquet and shuttlecock as it also involves talent and training.

“I drew up programmes to suit individual trainees. Group activities at the camp were conducted to lay the basic foundation. I also tried to make it fun and interesting.”

The activities included showing participants the proper playing techniques and stamina training.

Liaw noted that while developing technical and tactical savvy is important, building up stamina and fitness is necessary as well to help the body cope with the stress and strain of competition.

His immediate goal for the camp is discovering and bringing up young talents to be the next generation of Sarawak badminton champions. So far, he has spotted a couple of potential players.

The feedback from parents of the trainees has also been encouraging.

“I was told by a lot of parents that after attending the camp, their children are now much better than before. That’s a big confidence-boosting first step for me. Every thousand miles begin with a single step and I’m looking forward to the next camp,” he said.

Liaw noted that such camps are not common in Miri. He wants to provide an avenue for promising young players to achieve their full potential. And the approach he takes during training is a page out of the lessons he learned as a young player.

“Rather than merely sticking to certain training methods, I’d rather try different ways. Effective two-way communication with reasoning and explanation and treating the young trainees like adults seem to work well.

“Children nowadays mature faster. Reason with them and they will understand. It’s very much like talking to adults,” he added.

The next camp will be held in early December when he aims to follow up on his search for potential shuttlers who will one day represent Miri, Sarawak, and Malaysia.