Article by Christine Ulmer, Team BC Communications
When Abdul Shaikh landed in Toronto he had 80 dollars in his pocket, two suitcases, two children, and his number one supporter by his side, his wife.
The year was 1967 and Shaikh was one of India’s premiere badminton players. Nearly 50 years later, he has become one of B.C.’s most celebrated coaches in the sport. The Canada Games Council inducted him into its 2015 Hall of Honour class on Feb. 12, recognizing his dedication to sport, as well as his excellence and leadership.
On Wednesday he will coach Team BC into three bronze medal matches in badminton: men’s doubles, women’s individual, and men’s individual.
“I’m glad our team has played so well,” said Shaikh. “They have tried very hard and I’m very proud of them. We are an up-and-coming team and we are in a very good position for the next Canada Games.”
At age 81, one might wonder just how long Shaikh is planning on dedicating his time to the next generation of badminton players.
“I will coach as long as I can,” he said. “Forever – why not? I can walk, I can see, I might not move like a young man but it’s my passion. Our future is in our young people and I want young people to be involved in sports so I remain involved in sports.”
The experience Shaikh brings to the sport is unparalleled. He was India’s national badminton champion and played internationally against competitors from Malaysia and Thailand. He won countless titles, including India’s state mixed doubles championship with his partner both on and off the court, his wife.
Before coming to Canada Shaikh was a textile engineer. After settling in Toronto he found work as a labourer but it wasn’t the right fit for him. He spent his spare time sparring with national badminton players in Toronto and two years after landing in his new country, Shaikh was hired by the Vancouver Lawn, Tennis and Badminton Club as the assistant to the head pro teaching badminton, squash and tennis.
He’s been working there as a racket sport pro for 30 years and couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities that position has afforded him. He’s worked with hundreds of athletes of all levels of the sport. His first Canada Games was in Saskatoon in 1971 as a badminton athlete on Team BC. He served as coach of the Olympic team in the 1996 Games in Atlanta and his first coaching role for the Canada Games came in 2003.
“Coaching comes very naturally to me,” he said. “I can bond very fast with my players. I actually don’t know how I do it, I think it just comes from my heart.”
Shaikh has spent the past five decades working with athletes of all skill levels. He knows first hand what it takes to become great.
“Attitude is essential,” he said. “You have to be willing to learn, willing to take chances, willing to work hard. Yes the other pieces are important – agility, balance, coordination, technical work – but you must do it from your heart and then it becomes very easy for a coach.”
When it comes to his own coaching philosophy, Shaikh says patience is everything.
“Some players pick things up fast, others are a little slower. You must never give up on a player though.”
It’s that dedication and commitment that earned Shaikh the Canada Games Council honour earlier this month and that same dedication that keeps players coming back year after year to work with the legendary coach.
“Being recognized by the Canada Games Council was such a shock for me,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. It is another reminder though that when you work hard you do get recognized, so I’m very grateful.”