Badminton tour is giving young coaches a unique insight in SE Asian culture

Nicolai Juulsager stands in a badminton court, Thonburi Bangkok. Photo: Lasse Henriksen
Young coach Nicolai Juulsager stands at a badminton court in Thonburi Bangkok. Photo: Lasse Henriksen

Evaporating sweat and the sound of squeaking shoes fill the air in the toxic green badminton center. Young Danish badminton coach Nicolai Juulsager has just finished a training session with a group of Thai children and he is very impressed with their dedication.

“The other day the children walked around the courts practicing their swings without shuttlecocks for 3 hours straight. Kids in Denmark would never do that,” he says.

Nicolai is part of the Danish Badminton Inspiration Team. The team consists of 12 young badminton coaches that travel around Southeast Asia to teach and play badminton. According to project leader Mette Therkelsen the hope is that the young badminton coaches will return to Denmark with new inputs and energy.

“When it comes to badminton, Denmark is one of the only European countries that can compete with the Asian badminton nations. But the way we train in Denmark is very different from how they do it over here, we hope that the coaches will be inspired and share their new experiences when they return to Denmark,” she says.

And there has been plenty of experiences. The team has been playing anywhere from the Danish Embassy in Beijing to orphanages and private backyards.

A couple of Danish coaches instructing Thais in Thonburi. Photo: Lasse Henriksen
Danish coaches instructing Thais when verbal communication fails improvised sign and body language takes over. Photo: Lasse Henriksen

Surprised by the diversity

Just out of high school Nicolai, as many other Danish graduates, wanted to travel the world before continuing his studies. This trip has given him the chance to travel and some insight in the SE Asian cultures.

”The most exciting thing about the trip has been to experience the diversity in the countries we have been travelling in. In China they are stiff in their behavior and they are very structural, all decisions have to go through a hundred persons,” Nicolai says and adds, that he found Thais, Vietnamese and Cambodians more easy going and western on and off the badminton court.

Nicolai has no intentions of becoming a full-time Badminton coach, but is keen to continue coaching in his spare time. Danish Badminton Inspiration Team mainly chooses the participants by their ambition to become good coaches, but they have to be talented on the field as well. Their badminton skills have come in handy a few times, for example in Cambodia where the Danes were training with and playing against the national team.

Whiney Danish kids

After seeing the commitment from badminton players throughout Southeast Asia, Nicolai will be bringing home some more discipline to the children he coaches.

“If there is no discipline there will be too much sloppiness and the children won’t get the optimal training. Kids in Denmark tend to whine, whenever we make them do something hard or boring,” Nicolai says.

He is confident that Danish children will benefit from a little more discipline.

“All children want to be good at something. I want to help them get better.”

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