Winning: A Process and Progress Towards Self-Improvement story by a high school coach from Mission San Jose HS

Almost two decades ago, Newark Memorial High School Badminton ruled supreme over the Mission Valley Athletic League, netting 15 North Coast Section (NCS), with 11 of them coming consecutively during their dynasty of dominance. In the year of 2000, Mission San Jose (MSJ) High School Badminton broke through and won its first NCS title. Ever since, Ambrish Batheja, the head coach and former badminton alumni, has lead MSJs team to countless achievements, awards and milestones. At this years NCS, he finally grasped the most covetable award, breaking Newarks previously unchallenged record with its 12th straight NCS title. Here is what coach Batheja has learned through his coaching career.

by Ambrish Batheja

Once a coach at Kennedy High School told me that if someone were to cut me, I would probably bleed green, the color of MSJ. Awards and trophies are nothing compared to the experience of coaching and being able to watch my kids grow and mature over the last 15 years this experience is unmatchable.

Year after year kids have challenged me to grow both as a coach and a person. Imagine having the honor of coaching William Cheung, one of the all-time greatest US badminton players in his age group and holding him out of tournaments because I was too insecure as a coach. I wanted to give the kids I coached on the outside a chance to win the tournament. He was one of the most down-to-earth and humble kids that ever came out of the MSJ program. When I first started coaching 15 years ago, the only thing I cared about was winning. I would want to win at any cost. I thought that was the only thing that mattered in life.

At the time when I started, Newark was untouchable in badminton. I used to play against them when I was in high school, and they would crush everyone. I remember walking around as a sophomore in high school thinking, I want to be a coach and, I want to break that streak. When I began coaching, I modeled my training after Newarks program and added John Woodens coaching philosophy to it. That was the turning point. Wooden, the greatest basketball coach of all time, removed the concept of winning and focused on working hard and treating people with love and respect. I brought that philosophy to my kids, and Andy Gouw, who I consider the greatest badminton coach of all time, would come in and help me teach them skills for badminton. I truly believe he has a special gift, as he could spend literally five minutes with a kid, and they would jump three skill levels. Andy would coach out of the kindness of his heart because he wanted to see badminton grow. He would spend five hours on a Saturday just helping the kids with nothing in it for himself.

What I have realized is that winning really means nothing. Winning is just a way to keep score of your progress. Are you growing and working in the right direction? When I get a kid that joins the MSJ badminton program, my goal is to teach them teamwork, hard work, respect for their opponents, respect for themselves and CANI (constant and never-ending improvement). If you arm a kid with the right values and work ethic, winning takes care of itself. Winning at badminton is rewarding, but more importantly these kids will win at life. And thats the true goal of MSJ badminton.

When you get a job and things arent going well, are you going to panic, or are you going to calmly or diligently work through it? When your are trying to accomplish something in life and no one believes in you, do you have the faith to keep going and know eventually with hard work and dedication things will work out. Last year, we had a kid, Alan Chuang, down 13-20 during the 2014 NCS 3rd place match. Even with almost every other school in the NCS cheering against him, he told me after the game that all he kept saying to self was, believe, one point at a time.  This was one of my proudest moments as a coach, not that he won, but the fact that I know when his back is against the wall in life, hell step up and face it. Our team rushed onto the court to celebrate with Alan, and you could hear the sigh from everyone else in the gym it was pretty awesome.

We have become a family at Mission San Jose. Ive gone to these kids’ high school graduations, college graduations and weddings. After breaking the NCS streak, I realized it really doesnt matter. It was never about winning. What matters is the relationships that I am thankful for that I will have over a lifetime. With each and every practice and tournament over the past 15 years, my kids have challenged me to be a better person. Every time I felt like I could not accomplish something for whatever reason, they have pushed and reminded me to work hard and never give up.


Ambrish Batheja

Played at Mission San Jose from 1994-1997. Started coaching at Mission in 1999. Was an assistant coach the one year Yonex had the state championships in 2008. He is now in the clean energy field.

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