You’ve seen it many times on TV; a player seemingly unable to make his own decisions on the court, completely relying on coaches to direct the next move of the player. 

It seems match coaching has progressed from the occasional tactical input to a state of point-by-point directing the player’s every move. 

It sort of begs the question: when will we see coaching by robots?

former indonesian open winner (mr.) Chou Tien chen IS TRULY INDEPENDANT

Chou Tien-chen
Chou Tien-chen with Victoria Kao. She is not his coach, but his mentor, cheerleader, and critic. A winning combination.

Match coaching by a physiotherapist

For top player Chou Tien-Chen the decision to substitute a badminton coach with physiotherapist Victoria Kao has worked out well. Of course, Victoria Kao is not just any ol’ physio. She brings an enormous amount of cheerful backing to Chou during matches.

Chou has achieved remarkable results since he parted ways with a full-time coach. Shortly thereafter, in 2019, he won the Super 1000 title at the Indonesian Open, and the Super 500 Thailand Open and recorded his third win at the Taipei Open.  He also took second place at the Super 500 Korea Open and the Super 750 Fuzhou China Open (both times losing to Japanese superstar Kento Momota).

Recently, during the BWF Tour Finals in Bangkok, we overheard a retired, former top-five player commenting on Victoria Kao’s abilities as a coach. He practically ridiculed her. That’s of course wrong. Mostly because he is missing the point.

A mature and highly experienced player, Chou probably feels confident about his own ability to make the right decisions on the court. Victoria Kao is there to encourage him, and, naturally, put her skills as a physiotherapist to good use. Our guess is that Kao doesn’t coach Chou. She is there to motivate him and cheer him on. In fact, we love Victoria Kao and the enthusiasm she demonstrates. It’s contagious.

Match coaching in badminton by robots

We’ve seen many players who take directions from their coach on a point-by-point basis. It gives the feeling that many players are unable to make their own tactical decisions. They seem to completely rely on the coach to tell them exactly what to do – or what not to do.

It sort of gives the feeling that players have become nothing more than remote-controlled robots.

What if badminton players were forced to make do without a coach?

There have been times when circumstances forced top players to compete without a match coach. Anders Antonsen, for example, won the Indonesia Open in 2019 on his own. He did not have a match coach supporting him throughout the final against Kento Momota.

Learning through own mistakes and wrong tactics

There is something about owning up to your own mistakes. If a match goes haywire, who is to blame if the coach is micromanaging every move of the player on the court? For the player, the easy way out is to blame the coach. And vice-versa.

When players are responsible for creating and executing on a game plan, they learn from their mistakes. On the contrary, if players merely are carrying out instructions from their coach, they might not take ownership of the mistakes they make. After all, it wasn’t their own tactical plan.

The best match coaches know when to shut-up

A good coach does not need to communicate at all times. A good player shouldn’t need to converse with their coach at all times. Good badminton coaches know that their role is to step in at critical times. Good players know when to ask for coaching.

What’s more, professional coaches understand that player intuition is important. A badminton player may sense that long rallies will eventually be to their advantage, even if they momentarily are losing the majority of long rallies.


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