Nurturing the shuttling stars of tomorrow

By HT Brand Studio | August 28, 2019

PNB MetLife, in association with its NGO partner CRY, is ensuring that aspiring badminton players at the grassroots level get the training required to reach greater heights.

Aspiring badminton players (left to right) Marufa, K Swathi and Saheb were trained by professional
coaches for the tournament. Source: CRY/PNB MetLife

The golden girls of Indian badminton, PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, have changed the face of the sport in the last few years. Once treated as a form of recreation, it is now being viewed as a professional sport, especially with the country’s stupendous success on the global platform. Recently, Sindhu defeated Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in the women’s singles final to become the first Indian to win Gold at the BWF World Championships.

In India, badminton is the next most played game after cricket—it’s common to witness children take over gullies, with or without nets, and play for pleasure. Many of these budding sports stars possess great talent, but do not have the right platform to showcase their skills.

This is where PNB MetLife’s Junior Badminton Championship (JBC), in association with CRY, takes a lead in nurturing the right talent at the grassroots level and work towards realizing dreams of young children from humble backgrounds. As a part of this championship, the children hone their badminton skills and get training from reputed professional coaches and nutritional tips, so that they can become champions of tomorrow.

The initiative reasserts PNB MetLife’s brand positioning, ‘Milkar Life Aage Badhaein’, which aims to help people at different stages of life. It extends across all of its CSR initiatives, including PNB MetLife Junior Badminton Championship. Recognized by the Badminton Association of India (BAI), this is one of the biggest open junior badminton championships for children aged between 5 and 17 years.

There are many inspiring stories that instill the belief that talent shines through, whatever your situation may be. K. Swathi, a 9th grade student from M.P. Devadoss High School, Chennai, was on the verge of dropping out of school, when her fortunes turned around. Her father, once a load man, has been bed-ridden for a while now, while her mother struggled for years to make ends meet. Swathi decided to leave school to help her mother, which is when she was identified for her tremendous potential in sports.

Her skill in the game led her to victory - she was selected as one of the 16 kids, who secured an annual scholarship for pursuing badminton in 2018 under PNB MetLife Junior Badminton Championship – 4. Her coach and sports academician, Franklin J, believes that the training she received helped her evolve her game and put her practice into shape. The nutritional supplements further boosted her stamina and prepared her for regular training. With her skyrocketing confidence and a smashing story to share, Swati aims to motivate other girls to play badminton.

Swati is not alone, there are many like her. Saheb lives with his parents and two sisters under a flyover in Khidirpur, Kolkata. With no proper shelter, the family is living under constant fear of being evicted. His father works at a bag factory and earns a menial Rs 12,000 to support a family of five.

A student of Class 9, Saheb loves studying Bengali and History, but his passion lies in sports and travel. He was a member of the football team nurtured by CRY, which also happens to be the NGO partner of PNB MetLife for its Junior Badminton Championship. His coach selected him for PNB MetLife Junior Badminton Championship-4. While Saheb had no exposure to badminton, he picked up the game in no time and spent hours practicing and refining his skills every single day. Today, his stamina is at an all-time high and he plays the game with such undying passion. Moreover, he has become disciplined and has also developed leadership skills.

His coach, Pradeep Kumar Keshari, adds, “His interest in the game has grown by leaps and bounds. He plays remarkably well and knows the game in and out. Being left-handed, he has mastered strokes like service, smash, toss, drop shot and also net play. He can also defend well. There is a sense of discipline that I have observed in him”.

Keshari trains another young shuttler, whose life changed after she got selected for PNB MetLife Junior Badminton Championship.

She is Marufa Khatoon, a 13-year old from Khidirpur who mother and grandmother work as domestic helps. A first-generation learner who goes to school, Marufa has always been passionate about sports and would often play with her friends in the community.

Regular practice and nutritional support has tremendously helped her health, and has made her confident like never before! Her attention span has remarkably increased and her interest in academics has also improved. After all, games don’t just boost physical health—they also promote mental fitness.

Keshari says, “Previously, Marufa wasn’t too attentive and had little control over her reflexes. She had problems following instructions and was unable to play full court. These areas have witnessed a sea change as she started practicing for JBC. Her confidence in her abilities has shot up; she has developed very good control over her reflexes and also the aggression that is so needed to play the game. She has now better serving skills and can also toss”.

The launch of PNB MetLife JBC has ensured that the next generation of ‘Sainas’, ‘Sindhus’, and ‘Srikanths’ receive all the support in the form of professional coaching, rigorous training and nutritional requirements.

In the last four editions, the tournament has given out scholarships to talented children across different age groups. Under PNB MetLife Junior Badminton Championship-5, as many as 100 children from across the country were trained to participate in the tournament. The top 32 of the lot will get one-year scholarships to pursue the sport.

While there might be a lot of talented players in the country, they don’t always get access to training resources. For them, an online tutorial channel, such as the PNB MetLife JBC Boot Camp, is the perfect solution.

On this YouTube channel, experts such as PV Sindhu, Vijay Lancy, and Anup Sridhar hand out tips to players to sharpen their skills. The platform has been helping youngsters across the country to avail of training free of cost.

With these initiatives undertaken by PNB MetLife, the day isn’t far when we’ll see many more badminton stars emerging from our country. We’ll see many more children realizing their dreams of becoming champions at the sport, as the brand ethos emphasizes, ‘Milkar Life Aage Badhaein!’