The challenges of representing badminton’s players; communicating with peers who speak different languages and the possible benefits of continental athlete representatives – Emma Mason sums up her two years as Chair of the BWF Athletes’ Commission.
Q: How would you look back on your term as Chair of the BWF Athletes’ Commission?
A: I look back on my term as a great opportunity for me to give back to the sport that gave me so much and to work with BWF to make positive changes for my fellow athletes. It would be remiss of me not to mention that my time on the BWF Council has also been an incredible learning opportunity for me to work alongside the leaders and decision makers in our sport. I have been privileged to serve my sport alongside people who I believe are leading our sport in a dynamic and exciting direction. While my current term with BWF Council has now come to an end, I look forward to seeing the developments in our sport in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and beyond.
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced?
A: It is practically a very challenging (and time consuming) role to try to represent the views of such a diverse (and large) group of people such as all the international badminton players. I would say my greatest challenge was trying to obtain sufficient feedback from a representative sample of the players to feel as if I was honestly representing the players’ opinion on important decisions that are being made at BWF level. I believe during my term we made good inroads into improving our interaction with the players through the use of social media and our current playing members. It is very important to make sure that the playing members of the Athletes’ Commission are actively seeking the feedback of their peers on key issues. I have been exceptionally grateful for the work that Yuhan Tan, Lee Yong Dae, Greysia Polii and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus have done in this respect.
Q: How easy or difficult is it to get busy top-ten players to attend meetings and be involved in the affairs of the Commission?
A: I’m very lucky to have had three top-ten players in the Commission: the Vice-Chair Hans-Kristian Vittinghus; Greysia Polii and Lee Yong Dae. All three of these players have made an incredible effort to attend and be involved as they believe, like I do, that it is vitally important that the players’ opinions are heard at BWF level. A special mention must go to Hans-Kristian who has really taken the role of engaging with the players face-to-face to a new level in his time as Vice-Chair and has been instrumental in obtaining some of the best feedback the Athletes’ Commission has ever been able to provide to BWF. I know the Commission is in good hands with Hans-Kristian remaining on for another two years at least.
Emma Mason (seated far left) and fellow members of the BWF Athletes’ Commission listen to an address by BWF Secretary General, Thomas Lund.
Q: Did you face communication issues between members of the Commission since some are not fluent in English? How did you solve them?
A: There are naturally communication barriers when not all the members speak the same first language. However, there are always ways and means around this. Greysia and I communicate well via instant messaging which we find easier while Lee Yong Dae and I communicate through his translator. Both methods have worked well and are good evidence that there are a number of ways to tackle this issue. It is very important that the Athletes’ Commission is able to represent the views of all players which is one reason why I am so pleased to see three continents represented in the new candidates for the Commission.
Q: How do you address issues of communicating your deliberations to the broader player community?
A: I believe I have answered this slightly in my answer to the question above but primarily I would say we have achieved this by increasing our social-media presence and activity, increasing the use of polling/questionnaires and increasing our activity on the ground at tournaments.
Q: What key issues faced players during your tenure as Chair?
A: The two biggest things I have been a part of were the proposed changes to the scoring system and the entry of para-badminton into the Paralympic Games. Each was ground-breaking for our sport and our athletes, and I was very pleased to be able to represent the ‘athlete opinion’ and to know it was listened to each time on both issues.
Q: Do the same issues affect elite and lower-ranked players and, if not, how do you manage having such a large constituency with varying needs?
A: The Chair has to be aware of and attentive to the different needs of top players as well as players on their way up the ranks. Like any sport, players at different levels have different concerns and it is the role of the Commission and specifically the Chair to try to address both sets of players’ needs.
It is therefore a great help if the Commission has active playing members at all levels of tournaments so they can feed relevant information back to the Chair. It is important that we assist in improving our sport at all levels and for all levels of players so that we can continue to grow and truly develop badminton as a sport for all.
Q: What advice do you have for the next Chair of the Commission?
A: If I could give the new Chair of the Commission any advice it would be to carry with you the enthusiasm and passion you have for our sport into this role, work hard to make yourself known amongst your fellow players and work constructively with BWF to make positive changes to our sport.
I would also make the recommendation that the new Chair look into the possibility of creating continental Athletes’ Commissions as I think this would assist greatly in improving the feedback which the BWF Athletes’ Commission gets from the players and consequently improve the level of feedback the Commission Chair would be able to provide to BWF. To my mind, this would be great for the development of our sport and for our players.
NOTE: Players competing in the Vivo BWF Sudirman Cup in Dongguan, China, will tomorrow (Tuesday 12 May) vote for two new members for the BWF Athletes’ Commission. Three persons are elected every two years to serve four-year terms on this rotational body. Tang Yuanting of China has already been elected automatically as the only female nominee this year. Five men are vying for the other two seats, including Korea’s Lee Yong Dae who, along with Mason (Scotland) and Rodrigo Pacheco (Peru), has just completed a four-year term. The other three members are Yuhan Tan (Belgium); Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Denmark) and Greysia Polii (Indonesia) who are at the halfway stage of their four-year term.