Cheah, a renowned player in her own regard, had a highly successful tenure as a NAIT Ook, capturing four consecutive ACAC provincial championships and two CCAA National championships.
Taking the coaching job shortly after her playing days were done, Cheah never doubted that she would be able to translate her game sense to highly effective coaching. Heir-apparent as she has received multiple ACAC Coach of the year honours and in 2018 received the honour of being named the CCAA National Coach of the year.
She began coaching right away after her playing was done. She addressed the concerns of the short age gap between her and her players.
“It was harder the first year [of coaching],” said Cheah.
“I know a lot of [the players] in the competitive circuit outside of NAIT. It’s not that hard to set boundaries of friendship and the coach-player dynamic.”
Cheah’s demeanor is one of keeping the game fun for her players, but she knows to be successful the game of badminton requires an intense commitment.
“My only expectation for them really, is that 85 per cent of the season,” she said with a laugh.
“Their focus and their intent in practice [should be] to get better and improve.”
Given her successful track record, it could be that Cheah is all too aware of how important that 15 per cent of leeway is.
“On our team we have the mandate that it’s family, school, then badminton. So there’s not really anything much that should be in between that.”
Patel, a first year studying data management information technologies, is very eager to prove himself amongst the collegiate competition. A graduate of McNally High School and winner of cities playing for Edmonton’s B-Active badminton club. Patel has a deeply ingrained love for the sport and is excited to prove himself on Cheah’s team.
“The team is really committed and dedicated. Nobody misses a practice at all, no matter what,” said Patel.
“Everyone on the team is great, supportive, and enthusiastic. It’s motivating.”
Patel has competed at provincials and nationals with club badminton, and looks to translate that to his collegiate career.
“I’m looking forward to nationals this year. Obviously I have to finish top two in provincials first but I’m looking forward to nationals,” said Patel.
Outside of playing at NAIT, Patel coaches at the B-Active club, and is hoping to coach high profile badminton athletes when his collegiate playing days are done.
Walsh, a fourth year veteran of Cheah’s tutelage is the epitome of a team player.
When he first came to NAIT he fancied himself a singles player, with a lateral quickness to keep him in the game no matter the competition. However, as he’s progressed in his collegiate athletics career, Walsh has opened himself up to the needs of the team as a whole Focusing on the doubles game and working to adapt his shot making from the tight shots of singles play into the more tactfully placed shots characteristic of hitting for space with two opponents across the net.
“It’s just about slowing down my game in some aspects and speeding up my game in certain aspects,” said Walsh.
A graduate from St. Francis Xavier from the west end, and a fourth year in the bachelor of business administration program at NAIT, Walsh shines a whimsical smile talking about badminton and carries himself like a true competitor.
Part of the provincial winning team in 2015, Walsh has been through the thick and thin of ACAC badminton, but he never loses his passion in the pursuit of glory on the court.
“Hopefully by the end of this season I can get my mindset into making the right shots for the team.”