Jeff Tho, National Senior Coach at Badminton Australia is someone who is used to dealing with adversity, challenge and change. Jeff has represented Australia at Commonwealth Games 2010 & 2014, as well as coaching at the most recent World Championships in 2019. Jeff found himself in a unique situation where he was able to coach during Melbourne’s multiple lockdowns, however it wasn’t as easy as rocking up to the courts and training.
“The tricky part of training during the lockdowns was the fact that planning wasn’t really a realistic option. What I mean is that we could plan but the chance that things would change between Monday and Wednesday was very high and so I found it fairly frustrating when we had to change things last minute”. Jeff went on “It wasn’t only frustrating for me but also for the players because they had to deal with these last minute cancellations or limitations on numbers of players allowed to attend. Ultimately it showed us how lucky we have been in being able to train the way we had before, and, that overall we were lucky to train full stop because there were plenty of athletes that were unable to train at all”
Another challenge that arose during 2020 was the lack of tournaments and opportunities to compete outside of the training group. Not a problem unique to badminton at all but a problem not ever experienced by many, “I tried to keep focused on what we were working on so that it didn’t get too repetitive for the players. We mixed up the sessions so that there was a bit more variety when it came to training, but as a whole it did begin to feel a bit repetitive after a while. Rather than just let that simmer we went to the players directly for their thoughts and how they thought we could improve their training. They came back with some great solutions that helped us get through a tough period and helped motive them more, but now we’re on the other side and things are looking up”
After going through that period Jeff was pretty clear on key learnings that he took away after some reflection, and these ideas can be applied to any coach at any level. “For me three tips for developing and improving after looking back at 2020 are to trust your instincts when it comes to what’s important for the athletes. Even though 2020 was different, the goals don’t change, so you just need to adapt. Being open to feedback and grabbing ideas from other coaches as well as asking your athletes is key to progressing your skills as a coach. We’re not all born with coaching knowledge, the great coaches are great learners who are constantly filling up their toolkits, and to always be learning is to always be improving. Finally, asking for help when you need it, the sign of a great coach is someone who knows when they’re out of their depth and need some help, so never be afraid to ask”.
Jeff is looking forward continuing to work with many of the high performance athletes and all now have an eye to tournaments returning, both within Australia and internationally.
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