Family that plays together: Ramdhanis on navigating badminton and family

The Ramdhani family
The Ramdhani family

By Jemima Holmes

There are a few words or phrases that you can think of and relate another to it almost instantaneously. At this time of year, those relations can go like; pepper… pot, garlic… pork, ginger… beer and black… cake. In the world of sport, there are many names that could relate in that way to a particular discipline. But when you think of badminton, only one name comes to mind; Ramdhani.

In humblest opinions, the Ramdhanis exemplify what it means to be passionate about a sport and oftentimes, from that passion comes success in every venture.

The father, Gokarn Ramdhani, began playing the sport in 1980 while attending Queen’s College, where he fell in love with the sport.

“I started to play and it somehow attracted me. I then started to compete and after winning the National Junior Champions I continued to go further and got more seriously involved,” the older Ramdhani said, reflecting on his earliest days in the sport.

While he went on to achieve much greater things, like becoming the President of the Guyana Badminton Association (GBA), Head Coach of the Olds’ College Broncos (Canada), Guyana’s delegate to the World Badminton Federation and 2nd Vice President of the Central America & Caribbean Badminton Associations, the reminder of Gokarn’s beginning still lingers in the Queen’s College auditorium, where badminton courts are painted and refreshed ever so often on the ground.

How is that important? Well, more often than not, the beginning of a story tells a lot about what the resolution may look like. In this case, the humble beginning at QC has spiralled into producing two of the most decorated badminton players Guyana has ever seen.
At a tender age, probably even before they could recall, Narayan and Priyanna Ramdhani were introduced to the sport, while attending their father’s practice sessions or tournaments.

“Going to practice at Yonex Badminton Club it was only natural that the kids came with me at the early ages in the pram and as the years go by they eventually got on court to have some fun. They both had a shuttle hanging on their crib mobile,” Ramdhani fondly recollected.

So, what is the family dynamic like, having your father as coach and your mother a part of the sports administration?

“Coaching them was like coaching any other players. They had no special treatment but judging from their natural ability, I knew they would have gone far. They also went through all the disciplinary actions when needed as the rest of the team, sometimes even harder,” the elder Ramdhani answered.

The Ramdhani family

For 18-year-old Priyanna, who can still be considered the reigning junior sportswoman of the year (Since the awards were not hosted in 2020), the mentorship from her father was a source of comfort and familiarity.

She stated, “Having my dad as a coach is great because he trained me for most of my life and I feel more comfortable training with him because he’s my father. He pushes me to do my best and after practice, he tells me what I’ve been doing wrong and how I can improve. He knows how to separate being a dad and a coach and that is very important. I enjoy being coached by my father.”

On the other hand, Narayan (former junior sportsman of the year) answered, “I couldn’t imagine playing badminton without my dad. He has been my coach as long as I can remember and without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

If a closer look is taken at the siblings’ view of the support they received throughout their competition lives, it can be inferred that they are very appreciative of those circumstances.
“Having my family as a support system in playing Badminton is all an athlete can ask for.

With my family’s approval and willingness to assist me financially etc plays a big role for me to be successful in my badminton career. It also makes it easier when I have the support from my family because they would understand what I would need and how they can help me in the best way possible. I am grateful to have them by my side because they encourage me to give it my all on and off court,” Priyanna shared with this publication.

Meanwhile, Narayan’s views were expectedly very similar as he disclosed, “It’s been really good because in my family badminton has always been the priority and my parents always pushed me to be the best player I can be as well as badminton giving me the opportunity to study and train in Canada.”

As sibling rivalries go, a certain level of competitiveness would be expected from the two former students of Marian Academy.

“Yes, sometimes I tried to be more competitive playing against my brother in a fun way, but playing alongside each other I was not competitive. As I grew and matured throughout the years, I understood that he’s my brother and I will support him no matter what. If he achieves more prizes than me, it would not affect me at all and I will support him because we both worked hard to become what we are now and we would forever support each other because we are family,” Priyanna candidly shared.

Her older brother expressed similar sentiments, highlighting that it was more fun than competitive on most occasions.

“Not necessarily because when she wins it’s like I am winning as well also my sister is younger than me so I don’t think she can beat me anytime soon,” he joked.
While Emily Ramdhani, their mother, did not coach, she was always actively involved in their upbringing in the sport.

Emily Ramdhani, while being involved in the administrative arm at the Guyana Badminton Association (GBA), never missed an opportunity to be courtside, in support of her husband and children. This practice, for the siblings, has been the cause of a number of affectionate memories of their competition days.

“4 or 5 years ago I played my dad in the doubles finals of a local tournament in Guyana and it was all over in the papers as well as people coming out to watch the match. It was a cool experience, my sister and my mom watched alongside all the other badminton players but of course, my dad lost and I beat him,” Narayan told this publication.

“There are a lot of good memories I have of my family while playing/competing. One that stands out most to me is that every time before a tournament, my mother and my father would buy me a Gatorade and make sure I eat properly and make sure I am okay, and my brother would help me to warm up before I play because I can be nervous sometimes before the competition. The little things tend to mean much more at times but having your family support you at all cause is amazing,” the younger Ramdhani divulged.

For mom and dad, it is always a proud moment seeing their children succeed but the ultimate goal remains – the Olympics.

“My emotions seeing them succeed is something personal as I was a player and in my days we could not get the opportunities that they get now to take their game to the highest level possible and also my dream is to see Guyana Badminton at the Olympics. So far, I have taken our sport to every level leading to the Olympics,” Gokarn Ramdhani shared.

The Olympics are set for the summer of 2021 and with the Ramdhani siblings actively competing at their respective schools, Narayan at the King’s University (Eagles) and Priyanna at the Olds’ College (Broncos) in Canada, they are on track for Olympic qualification.

The shuttle remains in their court, with a healthy dose of family support. After all, as the saying goes “The family that plays together, stays together”.