The player coach relationship is an interesting one. In many cases it’s similar to a parent-child relationship, with many of the same ups and downs. As a player you want to be loyal to your coach, especially if you have a good relationship with them, and if you have produced some good results under their guidance. However, there comes a time where every player needs to make the decision whether the need to go elsewhere in order to grow further as a player. This can be a touchy situation, and many coaches can feel slighted when their players move on.
As a junior I had a few different coaches at my club, but the one I spent the majority of my time with was Wang Wen. Like many of my peers that played with my during my junior years Wang is like a second father to me. We spent a lot of time traveling to tournaments across the country, talking about badminton, and about life. It’s fair to say that he was one of the biggest influences in my life. So much of my badminton game has come from his teachings. When I was 14 he took me from losing first round at the nationals to being a contender for national titles the following year, and many of our club’s players have had similar experiences as countless numbers of our players have won national titles under his guidance. However, when I was in my last years of juniors Wang told me that in order for me to take my game to the next level I would need to go elsewhere, that he had taught me all that he could. At that point I had planned to move to the national training center, but was sidelined with a knee injury which ended those plans.
Many of the best players have had similar paths. They reach a point towards the end of their junior careers where they have maxed out what their current coach can offer them. The best coaches recognize this, they leave their own egos out of the equation and allow their players to go out and explore what other coaches have to offer. Unfortunately a lot of coaches are more interested in their own results, and building their reputation, rather than allowing their players to grow.
My opinion as you can probably tell is that a player should eventually move on, but there are arguments for both sides. If you stay with the same coach through your career you know you’re with someone who knows your game well, and perhaps they have a good idea of where they want to bring you for the long term. They also probably know how to motivate you, what your limits are and so forth. However, they bring only one perspective to the table. When you bring a new coach into the mix you get a whole new perspective on your game. They see things in a different way which is the most valuable thing you can do. This goes hand in hand with sparring with new players as well, but I’ll get into that in another article some time later.
An ideal situation is if you are moving from your home club, to a place with a high performance coach of some kind. Someone who deals almost exclusively with high level players. This ties in with the environment that you’re going to be in as well. A high performance training environment means that everyone there is serious about being a really good player. However, if that option is not available to you, there still is some advantage of working with a new coach simply for the fact that they have knowledge and opinions that your previous coach does not, and that always has value.
What do you think? Should you stay with one coach? Will working with another coach mess up your game? Or is it better to go off and bring your game in a new direction, with a new coach?