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Birdie: Coaching Revolutionised

Birdie is a Bengaluru- based Badminton Start-Up, revolutionising the way sports are taught and learnt. In an interview with Sameer, the Co-Founder of Birdie, he describes Birdie as a unique and holistic experience, which differentiates itself by being more a “service-business” rather than a conventional badminton academy. Founded in 2016, Birdie provides coaching services to a diverse age group, who are passionate about learning the sport, through in person training and online resources.

Sameer first played badminton when he was  eight years old, going to the Karnataka Badminton Association, but didn’t find any particular interest in the sport. However, a few years later, at age twelve he revisited the sport through his apartment community. Due to academic rigour, his father started coaching him, and he quickly reached top ten in the Karnataka Under 19 rankings. Realising the benefits of his father’s style of coaching, Sameer and his father founded Birdie,  an innovative and personalised Badminton training programme.  

Sameer has been teaching since he was sixteen, beginning with a single student from his apartment. Since then, Sameer has earned a degree in sports coaching from Deakin University and Birdie now has 243 students, in four different locations in Bengaluru. Sameer believes that a large part of Birdie’s success comes from having a strong foundation and curriculum that focuses on finding the right coach for  each student. Keeping the energy and passion for the sport alive and being dedicated towards providing the best service possible is what makes Birdie unique. 

Birdie, unlike other sports training centres, focuses on multidimensional teaching. With a vision of moving away from orthodox methods of teaching, Birdie has collated a vast amount of training techniques through extensive research, making their coaching more engaging and creative. Birdie divides its various methods by age group, where younger players are taught using analogies and fun ways to help grasp the sport quickly. For example, the motion of defending a net shot can be likened to being pulled forward by a dog on a leash. 

Further, for adults, Sameer finds that being more theory focused and content heavy is the most effective. Additionally, Birdie also has Badminton Textbooks and online course material to study from, facilitating skill development beyond the court. The first instalment of the Birdie Curriculum teaches badminton through the life-cycle of a bird. This adds another level of understanding and variety to the learning process. 

When asked about the general mistakes that students make, Sameer responds that most mistakes generally stem from the coach, rather than the student. He found that most coaches make the mistake of being “instructional” rather than truly coaching the students. 

“What coaching really means is making the player think about their own game and heading them towards a journey of personal mastery, to help them become their own coach.”

Sameer feels that rather than rote playing, there are four steps to every training session: Playing, reviewing, analysing, and practising. This approach focuses on both mental and physical conditioning, rather than just playing and practising. The additional steps emphasise growing from experience, to avoid repeating the same mistakes as this often leads to loss of confidence and fear of failure. Sameer also highlights the importance of focus and understanding one’s current mental condition. 

Sameer believes that playing sports is important for newer generations, who often feel anxious and isolated in their daily lives. More than working out,  sports help in creating a sense of community with like-minded people. He finds that playing sports can be a time to truly focus on ourselves as people. 

Sameer, talking about his relationship with badminton says “Badminton is like my first love and it's always been there. I’ve been playing it almost all my life”. Since he has engaged with the sport on every level possible, being a player, trainer and content creator, Sameer’s relationship with badminton is diverse, currently focusing on entrepreneurial and managerial responsibilities, that is, ensuring that Birdie functions smoothly. 

A big question for most athletes is how to actually transition into becoming a professional? Sameer answers that the parents of the player are the first and most influential push. It is crucial to have a strong support system, which is dedicated to consistency over multiple years. He also emphasises on the importance of participating in open tournaments, to place themselves in a larger pool of players. Where training is the “studying” of the sport, Sameer finds that competitions are the “exam”, that teaches the player how to handle pressure, losses, and test their progress. 

One professional badminton player that Sameer finds is a good role model is Viktor Axelsen, the current number one male singles badminton player (as of February 2024). He says that “Axelson has really managed to keep the fun of the sport alive, he still plays trick shots, he is friendly and has really done a lot to create Badminton content” . In addition to being extremely disciplined and successful, the Danish player has helped spread more progressive attitudes towards the sport, showing that the quality of the sport can be maintained without being extremely rigid. 

Sameer also compliments the Indian Badminton scene, which has seen a huge growth in the past few years, with the emergence of talented young players like Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, and Lakshya Sen. He also spoke about the immense scope of Badminton due to the growing Badminton culture in Indian cities. The government of India has also opened the first Center for Excellence for Badminton, showing that there is more sponsorship and support for Indian aspirants than ever before. 

Lastly, Sameer believes that staying motivated and believing in the process is what makes great players and sustains a healthy relationship with the sport, something that Birdie is passionate about making a reality for their players. 

“Believe in the process of compounding, even if you don’t see progress I don’t think the player should get demotivated by that, you have to just keep putting in the work every single day.  Even though there may be days where you don’t feel like doing it, if you're able to instill energy and go for coaching on those days, I think it makes you really mentally strong and helps you continue the sport for a longer period of time. Just be consistent and disciplined, that's all it takes.”

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