August 15, 2011

Goodbye Uncle Wong

I just got the news from my brother that my badminton coach of 10 years had passed away, although he doesnt know yet what was the cause.

He had taught and coached me tirelessly since I joined his sessions at age 7. When I first joined (and even held a badminton racket) I was a chubby and lazy slob of a boy. Well actually I got slightly chubbier until about 10 years old. I never really joined because I wanted to learn, but just because my parents wanted me to get some exercise. So then every Sunday (okay maybe not ALL, I'll admit skipping quite a number of days), for two hours, I learned how to hold a racket properly, how to swing properly, how to move around the court properly. I remember how I used to run out of breath and get dizzy when we ran 4-5 rounds of the hall as warming up during my first few years. Later on he would teach us about techniques and deception, and on my own I started to learn how to "jump" smash (I use quotation marks because it's not really much of a jump).

 These memories however, are only made special because of Uncle Wong. When I was out of breath, he would calmly tell me to take a seat and rest. When training was about to start he would ask if I'm okay and ready to go. For a brief period when I had troubles with my service he gave me an entire box of used shuttles and asked me to practice against the wall. When we practiced techniques and did them well he'd say "Yaahh, good!" with that tone of encouragement, and if we didnt, he'd say "Nevermind, keep trying!". My favourite memories of him are when we played a match and we scrambled and ran all over the place and he would sportingly shout "Run run run!!", and if the point was long and tense enough or ended in some epic/funny way, he would laugh and/or clap at the end. He knew how to share the light moments with his students.

Likewise, if we were struggling, we wouldnt hesitate to give some on-court or off-court guidance, and always he did it softly but making sure he gets his point across. Work aside, Uncle Wong was a really friendly man; we would sit down between games, have casual chit-chat (although this only came towards the end of his training days), I used to see him talk with some of the other kids' parents. We even used to play a few games together, and despite being on the shorter and slightly plump side of the scale, this man could play.
Over the 10 years being under him, an unbreakable bond formed between the teacher and this loyal student. I started out playing badminton just for the sake of it, but the longer I was with Uncle Wong, the more I improved, the more I began to love the game. And I have to thank him (and not forgetting Aunty Wong) for his kind yet purposeful ways of training that kept me going back for more. He never deterred or criticised his students, but always helping and guiding them. I have undying respect and appreciation for this man and what he along with his training sessions have done for me.

I couldn't imagine my life today without badminton, without my almost-torn shoes or my favourite black Yonex shirt, diving and "jump" smashing on court and eagerly waiting for the next badminton outing with friends, or even gluing my eyes to the TV to watch Chong Wei and Co during competitions. Even if I dont have championship-winning capabilities, but learning badminton from him and knowing him in person has opened up my world and taught me so many positive values, especially his patience and gentleness in teaching. I owe it all to this man, but I can never repay him enough.

Thank You Mr Wong, for all your contributions and services, and for being such an amazing coach to all of us. I will always remember your most memorable and last words to me:

"You must master the basics, that is most important; before you can be good in anything"

"Whenever you want to have training again, just give us a call"

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