In appointing Chua Yong Joo as its first local-born chief coach, the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) said it was not so much taking a leap of faith as it was choosing a familiar face who has proved his commitment and calibre over more than a decade.
The SBA yesterday announced that Chua, currently its director of team performance, will double as coach of the national team from October. He takes over from Liu Qingdong, who is resigning after a year and a half at the helm.
Liu, a Chengdu native who is now a Singapore citizen, had expressed a desire to spend more time with his family but will stay on until October to help with the transition. He told The Straits Times that he will take a short break before looking to coach in schools.
Despite having turned to foreign expertise for more than a decade - former director of coaching (1999-2002) Hamid Khan was the last local-born coach - the SBA did not consider any foreign coaches this time.
Said SBA chief executive officer Ronnie Lim: "Yong Joo has shown over the last few years he's able to help our team get good results."
Chua has filled in as doubles coach since May last year, contributing to results such as the men's doubles silver medal at last year's Commonwealth Games.
Added Lim: "(Yong Joo) has understudied coaches we've had before from China, Indonesia, and we feel that he has all the experience needed for this job.
"So we did not look for somebody else."
One trait that worked in Chua's favour, said Lim, was his ability to communicate with a team that consists of players from various backgrounds. This includes the foreign-born players who hail originally from China, Indonesia and Thailand.
Lim added that Chua, having been a part of the SBA set-up for 14 years, also has a unique perspective on the needs of the players and association.
Chua told The Straits Times: "I've been through this system as a player, and through the positions that I've had within the SBA. I can understand the struggles that the players are facing."
Despite going through yet another coaching change - Liu was appointed last year when former chief singles coach Luan Ching and doubles technical adviser Yoo Yong Sung left before their contracts were completed - national players have welcomed Chua's appointment.
Said doubles player Vanessa Neo: "Yong Joo has been with the association for very long and knows the local scene extremely well.
"He is very approachable. As a player, I feel that is very important as there must always be understanding and trust between a player and a coach."
That viewpoint was reiterated by singles player Derek Wong: "Yong Joo is the right man for the job... He has the experience and knowledge to help our players and he knows us inside out."
The SBA, meanwhile, noted Liu's contribution to the association.
Said SBA president Lee Yi Shyan: "Coach Liu has contributed much to Singapore badminton. (He) has built a cohesive team culture among the players and coaches."
This article was first published on July 30, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.