Talking to the mirror, self-critiquing: BAM deploys new strategies for ‘cultural shift’ among shuttlers

The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) is adopting new approaches – widely seen as a ‘cultural shift’ – in its bid to empower its shuttlers and coaches.

The end game is to create thinking players and coaches, and for the athletes to understand why they win or lose, and figure out ways to overcome their setbacks. This is also the national body’s way of preparing athletes for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

Some of the new approaches adopted include:

  • getting players to analyse their performance immediately after every match.
  • getting players involved in the setting of their own key performance index (KPI).
  • empowering players to make decisions based on data.
  • sending new trainees to boot camp for character building.
  • creating a tournament-like atmosphere during training.

Two weeks ago, BAM national director of coaching, Rexy Mainaky, got the players to analyse their performance after training by having them speak in front of a mirror in the coaches’ room at Akademi Badminton Malaysia. The coaches stood behind them, listening to their self-critique.

The national coaches have also adopted a new strategy, starting from the just-concluded Korea Junior Badminton Championships. In the past, the coaches would immediately meet their players after every match to give their views.

“But since the junior meet in Korea, the coaches have given the players the ‘space’ to think about what they did right or wrong during the match, and to record their analyses with their phones. They do so right after every match, and the audio recording is then sent to the coach,” said Akademi Badminton Malaysia administration director, Michelle Chai.

“I must say that the juniors have impressed us with their self-analyses. They are pretty clear about what they did right or wrong, and express it well. In fact, better than some of the seniors.”

Since the beginning of this year, the players and coaches have also been involved in the setting of KPIs. Three KPI meetings have been held since December 2022.

“The players were quiet during the first two meetings. But four or five of them gave their views at our last meeting in October. It’s a good place for them to review what happened in the last quarter, and what needs to be done in the following quarter.”

The players were also presented with data of their peers – without revealing any names – and were told to drop the worst five performers. This ‘peer review’ gives them a glimpse of how decisions are made, based on data.

Chai added that there are also conversations about recreating a tournament-like atmosphere during training, and that the intensity of training mimics that of a game.

Discipline, and character building are also key components in this new exercise.

“It’s not just about creating badminton champions… it’s also about building character.

“The first batch of young players checked in at Amazing Camp Legacy in Lenggong, Perak, on Nov 29. This is the same camp where our national hockey players went to (just before winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2022).”

Chai said that the shuttlers who are preparing for the Paris Olympics next year were not involved in this exercise so as to not disrupt their current training patterns.

“This is part of the empowerment process, to empower the players and coaches. This is also to create thinking players and coaches who would be able to ask themselves the right questions, and find answers to those questions, in order to move forward.

“This cannot be achieved overnight. It is an educational process. This sort of cultural shift will certainly take time, but it has to be done,” she added.

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