By Tony Mariadass who was recently in Trivandrum, Kerala
The Yogendran and Sugita show in Trivandrum
Former national badminton players, husband and wife team of K. Yogendran and K. Sugita are making waves in Trivandrum, Kerala with their Yogendran International Badminton Academy (YIBA) set up last November.
YIBA is the latest addition to Sports Hub Academy training partnership network in Trivandrum. The key objective of the academy is to develop badminton in Kerala and India at large with the support of the Kerala Badminton Association.
It is the first of its kind international academy focused on high performance badminton coaching.
Nestled inside the 34-acre world-class campus of Greenfield International stadium in Karyavattom (Trivandrum, Kerala), the facilities offered includes 16 well-lit courts with gym, Olympic size swimming pool facilities, squash courts, basketball courts along with hostel, food, nutrition guide and physiotherapy facilities.
The Sports Hub Academy is the center for sports excellence for grassroots and talent development in India. The Academy grassroots level programmes are scientifically designed to help train and mold an aspiring child into a wholesome and successful sportsman. Along with the world-class facilities offered, the linear series of training programme levels enable children to improve their skills by folds as they progress across multiple levels including introduction, development, intermediate, emerging, advanced and professional. Currently training programmes are offered for cricket, swimming, football, basketball and badminton.
The badminton academy is driven by a dedicated team of local and international coaches who are handpicked and trained by Yogendran.
Yogendran, needs no introduction having been part of the Malaysian National Team along with the greats of the game such as Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Hafiz Hashim. He has played at the highest levels of the game and has participated in tournaments such as All England and World Championships. He was ranked as high as 32 in the world and was a well-known singles player with several international titles. He has trained under badminton legend Morten Frost from Denmark, Chinese coaches Li Mao and Zhou Kejian, Malaysian greats Datuk Misbun Sidek, Datuk Tey Seu Bock, Wong Tat Meng and Indra Gunawan from Indonesia.
After successfully completing a long span of playing career and winning many notable international titles, he started his coaching career at New Vision Badminton Academy Malaysia (NVBA) Malaysia, which he started alongside former Malaysian international player Yeoh Kay Bin and childhood friend Manojkumar. Ten years into its operations, NVBA is one of the best badminton training centres in Malaysia and players from all over the globe train at the centre in Petaling Jaya.
In the last decade, Yogendran and NVBA have played a strong role by creating Olympians such as Jacob Maliekal from Africa, Yara Azad from Iraq, Lino Munoz from Mexico. Many players qualified for the prestigious World Championships, such as Jacob and Julien Paul from Mauritius.
Having produced many world class players from Malaysia, he decided to move to India in 2016 to tap into a larger pool of talented players to produce the next world champion.
For this, he had partnered with former player and badminton coach Alex Tharakan and badminton enthusiast and entrepreneur, Sreekumar Gopinath to start this academy called YIBA.
After two years in Chennai, he moved to Trivandrum on the invite of Kerala Badminton Association to form a partnership with KSFL Sports Hub.
With its state of art facility at Greenfields Stadium Karyavattom, the centre aims at being first of its kind international high-performance badminton training centre in India.
Having players and coaches from across the globe, it is one of the only few elite centres in India where players from all over the world come to train.
From the time they began, they have hosted the Mauritius national team, players from Uganda, Malaysia and United States to train at the centre preparing for various international tournaments. Along with the international players, they also have players from almost all the states in India who have come to achieve their goals.
“YIBA’s main objective is to create champions in badminton and to be among the best training institute in the world. For this, we would work hard towards training our players, equipping them to compete in the top tournaments such as Olympics and World Championships,” said Yogendran when met at his centre in Trivandrum.
“Our immediate goal is to prepare our elite international players to compete and win in tournaments to qualify for the upcoming Olympics. We believe in collective responsibility, where in coaches and players work hand in hand to achieve our goals,” added Yogendran who is also the chief coach of Mauritius National Badminton Team since 2017 and had his contract renewed for another two years recently.
“The reason we choose Trivandrum was because of their state-of-the-art facilities - 16 wooden courts, Olympic sized swimming pool, fully equipped gym and the world class cricket stadium, which makes the venue recognised.”
During his playing career, Yogendran, used to coach part time in order to earn money as well as improve his own game. It was during this time that he developed a passion to train and produce an Olympic champion.
On why he decided to move to India, he explained: “The opportunity and support given by the state government to and YIBA was the main reason. Access to state-of-the-art facilities and the opportunity that allowed me to challenge myself to become a better coach and to be able to produce world-class players from a country with a population of billions of people.”
At YIBA, Yogendran is assisted in by Alex, who has vast coaching experience and his wife Sugita who has played in the All England, Swiss and French Open badminton championships and in the Thomas/Uber Cup competition in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2006.
Sugita is also the backbone of the YIBA as she is responsible for the management of the Academy.
The other coaches in YIBA coaching staff setup are all locals - Kamaldeep Singh (senior coach), Raja M, Vishnu VG, Varghese KC, Marisamy G and Agilan A.
Yogendran is always in the lookout to improve the standard of his Academy and there is a strong possibility that in the coming months, a list of high calibre coaches will be joining the coaching team in YIBA
YIBA also have an alliance with an academy in China headed by legendary badminton coach, Li Mao and Malaysian international player and coach, Yeoh Kay Bin.
“Some improvement has been implemented in sports hub since we came in partnership in the last 8 months - we have installed new light system for the entire badminton courts (16). Started installing rubberised courts.
“We have also hosted the All Kerala Sub Junior (Under 11, 13 and 15) 2019 (400-500 participants) as well as the All India Junior Under 19 Ranking Tournament 2019 (1000 participants). We also hosted the Trivandrum District Badminton Tournament from the 7th – 10th June 2019.”
Yogendran said some notable players who have had training stints in the academy include Chou Tien Chen (Chinese Taipei), Hu Yun (Hong Kong) and Deng Xuan (China),
International players currently and intermittently training in YIBA, include Goh Giap Chin, Sim Wee Peng, Lim Xuan and Letshanaa Karupathevan from Malaysia, Julien Paul from Mauritius, Aisha Nakiyemba from Uganda and the Mauritius National Team (Men and Women).
Julien has qualified for the World Championships 2019 in Switzerland and is in contention for the Olympics next year.
Yogendran said he has 101 beginners and 91 intermediate and advance trainees for a total of 192 trainees with his Academy.
“Our junior boys were top 10 in the state have started winning titles since joining us. We are pleasantly surprised and excited to see what the future holds for our players,” said the 37-year-old Yogendran, the same age as his wife.
Yogendran and Sugita and their two children – four year-old Mischa Anne and three year-old Roen Dhavin, together with Yogendran’s parents, are all relocated in Trivamdrum since last year.
Indeed, Yogendran and Sugita have done Malaysia proud internationally with a well-established and managed Academy.
Asked whether he plans to play a bigger role in Malaysia besides his Academy which is run by this other coaches, he revealed that he was invited to a Townhall Session sent to clubs by the Ministry of Sports in March to discuss current Malaysian badminton hierarchy; the role of BAM and State BA, relationship between BAM and clubs invited for the Townhall session and the role of Badminton clubs in development of Malaysian badminton.
The Sports Minister and his deputy, Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria (BAM president), Datuk Wira Lim Teong Kiat (Dep BAM president) and Datuk Ng Chin Chai (Gen Sec BAM) attended.
Following which, a few who attended the session were asked to join a task force committee.
“I attended the Townhall Session and was asked to join the Task Force and attend a meeting end of July, which I could not because of my overseas engagement,” said Yogendran.