While far from the normal setup, the badminton industry in the Philippines is starting to pick up again since strict lockdown and measures were imposed because of the spread of the coronavirus.
In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News, former national team player and now badminton coach Kennie Asuncion revealed they have started to open the badminton courts for trainees and players although with restrictions and limited number of participants.
According to Asuncion, badminton is one of the few sports allowed to conduct face-to-face games despite the ongoing pandemic.
“Lately, badminton has started to be busy again. Kasi allowed namin kami to play. But of course, in limited number of players lang on court and strict protocols naman ang venues when it comes to mga guests nila na pumapasok,” the former UAAP champion said.
In their business, the Asuncion Badminton Center, they started to hold on-court games and trainings at the start of 2021. She said one of the adjustments they made was to not allow parents or guardians of trainees inside the court or gymnasium.
“ ’Yung mga kasamahan or nakaupo syempre nili-limit na nila for example kami we conduct our face to face training in a specific venue sa may Pasig, even the parents cannot go in the venue. Even yung mga kasamahan, yung mga kasama nilang naghahatid sundo sa kanila, will have to wait outside sa may parking area,” Asuncion shared.
The ABC, which has been in operation in San Juan for over 18 years, was forced to close last August 2020.
But despite the reopening of the courts, it has not yet lured that many people to enroll for badminton training sessions.
When the nationwide lockdown was implemented in March 2020, Asuncion acknowledged her center lost all its students, which usually numbered more than 200 leading to the school break.
“Malayo talaga. Kapag summer time is the best time. We’d have 200 students and up. Since last year nga, ang start ng pandemic ay pa-summer, so that time talaga zero. As in wala,” she said.
The Ateneo badminton coach also recalled how the community missed the tournaments.
“Very sad ang community kasi we can't really hold mga tournaments. E ‘yung mga tournaments talaga yung kumbaga nilu-look forward ng mga bata even adults those club tournaments. Kumbaga ‘yan ‘yung mga pinagte-training-an ng mga tao,” Asuncion quipped.
Adapting to new normal
Since the crisis will not be ending any time soon, Asuncion said they had to adapt with the “new normal” setup, and shifted their sessions online, just what everybody else did.
According to her, her team thought of strategies that will not bore trainees who are only watching through their screens.
“There was a time especially nung start ng lockdown, kasi ang initial thinking natin, short time lang siya. Sige let’s keep fit, let's stay fit lang. Pero nung humahaba siya nang humaba, nagpo-prolong na, even our programs we do our best to make it more interesting and fun,” she said.
She went on to say that while face-to-face sessions were still prohibited last year, she and her assistant coaches continued to conduct virtual coaching.
“For me and the teams that I handled, we never really stop. What happened was online lang siya. So I also have mga assistant coaches and I have other coaches with me, we would conduct online trainings,” she added.
Online training usually lasts for 1 hour to maximum of 2 hours to avoid her trainees from being exposed to mobile or computer screens for a long time.
She also had her YouTube channel where she uploaded tutorial videos for everyone who wants to learn the sport. Asuncion said it was created even before the pandemic.
“I started with this online, kumbaga it's my way, my family’s way, kasi my family is all into badminton. It's our way of giving back to badminton what it has given to us. So parang free, openly sharing information that can make other people get better,” the former UP badminton player said.
Asuncion added that their camp has to adjust with the number of participants allowed on the court so they can revive the industry amid the COVID-19 threat.
She also called on other badminton camps and coaches not to increase their fees so they can encourage more trainees to attend sessions again in the sport.
“We all have to sacrifice a little. I mean, trainings won't be like before na big groups sya. It will be smaller groups. I hope also people who train, or play, they also understand that coaches have their costs. Sana parang tulungan tayo in that aspect,” she said.
“Same with the coaches, everybody is having a hard time. Some parents are trying to get their kids into sports, wag din naman natin i-up yung prices natin ng sobra. Let’s keep it at a good...where we can meet halfway. Para at least we can keep the sport alive and going.”
Right now, even celebrities are starting to return in badminton courts including the most-sought loveteam and real-life couple Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla.
Asuncion also had the chance to teach and play with KathNiel's mothers and even actor Joshua Garcia.