Singapore Badminton Association aims to keep producing smash hits

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong taking a group picture with Singapore badminton national players. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong speaking with Singapore badminton national players at the Singapore Badminton Association Awards and Gala Dinner. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE – The past 12 months have been a roaring success for Singapore badminton, with the sport producing a world champion, Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour Finals qualifiers and a pair of Commonwealth Games champions.

But, Lawrence Leow, president of the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA), believes more needs to be done.

At the inaugural SBA Awards and Gala Night held at the Marina Bay Sands on Sunday, he revealed his three-pronged plan to ensure that its recent success will not be a one-off achievement.

The association aims to build a consistent pipeline of high-performing athletes, create a vibrant coaching and competition environment, and establish a self-sustainable business model that will put the SBA on a firm financial footing.

Leow said: “To ensure that the association remains relevant and effective, we undertook an exercise – a health check, if you like – to re-examine, restructure, and reorganise ourselves.”

The Covid-19 pandemic put the brakes on international sport in 2020, but the national badminton players have come out swinging since.

In 2021, Loh Kean Yew became Singapore’s first world champion, while Yeo Jia Min became the first Singaporean to qualify for the BWF World Tour Finals. The doubles players also won a sprinkling of lower-tier titles.

Consistency improved as Loh made it to the 2022 World Tour Finals, while mixed doubles pair Terry Hee and Jessica Tan claimed three titles, including an unprecedented Commonwealth Games mixed doubles gold.

The players were recognised for their achievements at the gala, which was attended by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong.

The SBA is planning to set up a badminton promotion centre at the Guillemard hall next year to encourage more youth to take up the sport, as well as to identify talent. A bursary award scheme is also being explored to support the education of promising players.

Other projects in the pipeline include the setting up of the badminton coaching academy to serve as a centre of excellence as well as a badminton league to raise standards and grow the community.

Leow feels strongly that a robust and viable pathway with a post-career safety net will help attract and retain more players. The SBA’s initiatives include scholarships for further studies, tie-ups with corporations for job placements, and seed funds to help set up academies for those who achieved significant milestones.

“It is imperative that we set out a clear plan with multiple pathways to suit different attributes, needs and preferences,” said Leow, who thanked benefactors such as JK Technology chief executive officer Eugene Ang, who donated $500,000 to the post-career fund.

“Unless and until a robust and viable post-playing career scheme with multiple pathways is in place, we will continue to experience significant talent drain as our players cannot help but be distracted from their game.”

The association also launched the SBA Patrons Club with a founding batch of 20 members in a move to ensure a steady stream of financial resources.

“The capabilities, network and resources they bring to the table will be invaluable to the development of our players and the sport of badminton,” said Leow.

“Our senior players due for retirement can pick up life skills from our patrons sharing their experiences. It is in a way like a form of a mentorship scheme. Through the network of our patrons, our senior players can also tap into diverse job opportunities and smoothen their transition to new careers.”

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