TJ happy to be springboard for others' skills

T J Weistra could not have cared less that guest speaker Valerie Adams was not sure how to pronounce his surname.

The Olympic shot put champion was not the only one in the room - in fact she was probably among the majority - who had not heard of the Sporting Personality of the Year when she announced him as the winner at last week's Waikato Regional Sports Awards.

But the 37-year-old Weistra, a former Dutch international, has been instrumental in not only developing the region's badminton talent but also helping other sportspeople to excel.

When prolific Silver Ferns netballer Laura Langman went up to receive her Sportswoman award she made a special mention that Weistra was very deserving of the Personality accolade.

High praise indeed, for the man who is the reigning national men's singles champion and who won the world 35 and over singles title in 2011.

After moving to New Zealand in 2004, Weistra began as regional coach with Waikato Badminton, before he left in 2007 for a year and a half to take on the high performance manager and national coach role with Badminton New Zealand.

Near the end of 2009 he came back to Waikato Badminton through his mobile coach business but, after a restructure of the organisation, last month he was properly brought back on to the payroll, now as coaching and association co-ordinator.

Weistra joins Waikato Badminton's three other staff - a full-time KiwiSport officer, a part-time development officer and a part-time administrator.

He had resigned in December last year from his part-time high performance manager role with Badminton NZ, which is based in Hamilton.

Weistra said former Waikato Badminton president David Icke, who left at the end of last year, wanted to ensure something was put in place to keep the organisation growing.

"The organisation recognised that in order to keep moving things forward they needed more formal leadership on a daily basis, a person who would have the time, passion and energy to explore new growth opportunities," Weistra said.

"And I think they were absolutely maximised using just volunteers and knowing that everybody is busier and busier.

"So he was very keen on establishing this position and asked me if something like that would interest me."

Now Weistra is keen to get stuck in.

"No pressure now, I've got to make something of it," Weistra said.

In his previous mobile coaching gig, Weistra played a key role with WILSS (Waikato Institute for Leisure and Sport Studies) and Sport Waikato.

He also up a high-performance programme and selection policies for Bowls Waikato and worked with top netballers on footwork, agility and co-ordination.

"I've been all over the show and it's been really enjoyable," Weistra said.

In badminton, he has been a player/coach in Waikato's hat-trick of national Wisden Cup titles over the past three years and also has been instrumental in bringing on junior players.

"I still believe that we've got one of the best coaching programmes in the country," he said. "We do not compete with Auckland in terms of numbers, so there will always be that population struggle. But I think it's what we do with the numbers that we have that makes a difference.

"We focus very much on the individual athletes and developing their skills - not just their badminton skills but also their life skills.

"We're trying to keep developing the players because if we don't look after that area of the game we might compete for another four or five years and be very successful at Wisden Cup and then we'll just fall into a big hole.

"We've got to be conscious of that. We can't let that happen."

Waikato Times