Coach Kowi Chandra has a lot to be proud of these days. When the USA Badminton Junior International Trials took place last month in San Francisco, 10 of 25 of his students qualified to compete internationally later this year. Competitor Bintang Badminton Academy had 11 players qualify while Bay Badminton Center's ten players qualified for more events.
The Indonesian coach and competitive player who came to the U.S. on a visa to instruct youth at the (BBC) in Milpitas has helped raise the level of badminton in the Bay Area to new heights.
"My goal as a badminton coach is to promote badminton in the U.S. to a higher level of sports, because there is potential to take a fledgling sport like badminton and turn it into a medal-winning performance, and I'm excited to help the kids reach that level," he said.
Dawn Kwok, a Cupertino parent, said her son has played under Chandra for six months and has seen a lot of improvements in his badminton skills—and his attitude toward learning.
"Matthias is the youngest among the players," Kwok said. "It's a big challenge for him to play against those 10-year-olds. Chandra definitely helps him to overcome this age barrier by providing him quality and focused training that are commensurate with his level and capability."
Matthias Lai, 8, qualified in the USA Junior Trials in both single and mixed doubles in the under-11 age category.
"Chandra encourages and builds his confidence in believing in himself," Kwok said.
Eric Chang, 9, has played badminton for almost two years and said the training he has gotten from Chandra is effective, because he's learned how to increase his stamina and improve his shot accuracy.
"Coach Chandra tells me not to be nervous, and he tells me to not think about winning or losing, but giving a good fight," Chang said.
Kerry Xu, 11, is in the advanced badminton class at the BBC. Xu practices four days a week and enjoys going to the center, because of the coaches.
"Coach Chandra has been training my physical, and he has been teaching me skills and how to run," Xu said.
Chandra was born in Indonesia and started playing badminton when he was 7. He started playing with his neighbor, but then joined a badminton club. When he was 9, he got into competitive badminton.
"During that time, I trained, like, three to four times a week," Chandra said. "It was intensive."
Chandra played in school competitions then moved onto to city tournaments. When he was 13, he competed nationally and internationally.
Badminton became a full-time career when he was selected to be in Indonesia's prestigious badminton club, the Djarum Club.
In 2004, Chandra was No. 1 in Indonesia for doubles in the under-19 age category. Chandra then joined the national badminton team in 2005.
Chandra came to the United States in 2006 as a player competing in the USA Open. He started his coaching career the same year in Menlo Park. In 2009, he started coaching at the BBC. He has more than 40 students, ranging in age from 8-17.
"I like coaching, because I experienced playing as a player for almost 17 years until now; even though right now I still compete, I try to focus more on coaching, because I think there is a need, especially in the Bay Area," Chandra said. "The kids here are really serious. They enjoy badminton and they want to become serious players, and a lot of them want to compete nationally and internationally. They want to represent the U.S."
Chandra said the best part about coaching is getting to know each kid's character.
"I think I have a patience for the kids and also I want to see the results," Chandra said. "I want to inspire the kids to be champions, and show them how to face challenges. I just want to help the kids and promote badminton."
Chandra's program consist of body conditioning, technical work and mental preparation.
"I try to make sure they have the foundation, like strength, speed and power," Chandra said. "Then I focus on shot accuracy and strategy. Before tournaments, I give them motivation, but, of course, if they want to achieve something, they have to push themselves to the limit, because if they don't give it 100 percent, the result will not be 100 percent."
Badminton is a unique sport, because there are different techniques that players can use, Chandra said.
"You have to play smart, especially if you get into serious competitions," he said. "There's a lot of speed, power and strategy. It's like chess; you have to think about how you can get the next point."
Chandra's efforts to not only build his students' badminton skills but also their whole being is greatly appreciated by parents of his students.
"He helps them stay motivated, keeps them on target, builds their team spirit, keeps them in challenge and gives them confidence," Kwok said. "Those are the skills that benefit the kids, not only on the court, but their whole lives."
The following junior players from Bay Badminton Center have qualified to the represent the U.S. at the Pan Am Junior Championships.Eric Chang under 11 boys singles boys doubles Matthias Lai under 11 boys singles mixed doubles Helen Ye under 11 girls doubles mixed doubles Julie Yang under 11 girls doubles Maggie Li under 11 girls singles Annie Xu under 13 girls singles mixed doubles Kerry Xu under 13 girls doubles mixed doubles Jessica Chang under 13 mixed doubles Jenny Lu under 17 girls singles Sharon Ng under 19 girls singles Pan Am Junior and World Junior Championships