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By R. Vikneswaran
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 -- Clubs and academies must equally share the responsibilities of developing badminton in the country by increasing the talent pool across the nation, said former national shuttler Jeremy Valberg.
Jeremy, who now owns the Valberg Badminton Club and Academy, said the clubs and academies play a pivotal role in identifying and grooming young players from the beginning to have the competitive edge.
He underscored that once the foundation is strong, the structure and roof will be stable, meaning that when the grassroots talents are groomed well, they will eventually move up to represent the district, state and enter the national team.
“Maybe not everyone will manage to enter the national team and become a world beater, but when the number of talents is high, they will keep pushing those in the national team to be at their best form or be replaced.
“Sad to say, currently the gap between the players are huge. After Datuk Lee Chong Wei’s retirement, we are still waiting for his successor to win titles at international level, while the gap between (current national number one) Lee Zii Jia and the next best men’s singles player is still far,” he told Bernama.
Jeremy, who was part of the TUKOM (Thomas, Uber Cup and Commonwealth Games) project created in 1996 ahead of the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Thomas Cup campaign with the likes of Wong Choong Hann and Pang Cheh Chang, served the national team from 1995-1996 as a men’s doubles player with Fadzli Mat Aris.
The 44-year-old, who was assisting former national player and three-time Thomas Cup medalist Ong Beng Teong for a while after been dropped from the national team, kept abreast of the sport and eventually decided to start his own academy in 2016.
Starting off the academy in Champion Badminton Court, Petaling Jaya, it grew and thereafter he opened up his own hall in Rawang, called Victor Arena, with the goal to produce the next generation of players.
“What we wanted to do is keep developing talents from as young as five so that these kids can step up into the school, district and state level competitions. We groom them from zero since not everyone is born with natural talent by teaching basic skills, discipline and determination required in the sport.
“Once they reached a certain level, the clubs and state teams will absorb them to develop into a better players and might have the chance to be called up for the national team.
"Even if they did not made into the district, state or national team, they will give those in the team a run for their money, which ensures competitiveness from school level itself,” he added.
Jeremy stressed that though clubs and academies must be involved in creating the talents, Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), as the governing body of the sport in the country, must draw a clear blueprint on how the system should work to ensure these talents are developed into world beaters.