‘It’s a New Era for the Team’: Kenneth Jonassen

It will be a special moment for Kenneth Jonassen when the Denmark head coach leads his team to its first-ever Thomas and Uber Cup Finals on home soil.

In this interview, Jonassen talks about the lead-up to the big event and how his team has been shaping up.

How have the last few months panned out, in terms of training and preparations?

Here in Denmark it’s been 19 weeks of continuous practice! That’s unprecedented time for us coaches and national players to practice. We’ve had some summer holidays where we closed the centre for 10 days, and players took some time off, but then we started off mid-July again.

When you work for 19 weeks you go with the mindset of development. You work on your skills, certain areas of the player’s weak points or strong points on and off-court. Suddenly, with five weeks to go, all the details need to come together. It’s a tournament mindset, from the players, supporting staff and the coaches: all the details have to come together. Because soon we need to perform. These four coming weeks are basically what we worked for. This is what we like, we like to work with players trying to get into peak condition for a major championships.

And with tournaments directly after the TUC, that’s an added bonus. It’s also a long stretch, but we’ve practised for a number of months, so we’ll be ready for that as well.

Given the time you had, have you done anything differently that will show during the tournament?

First of all, we’ve tried not to overdo it. We’ve no experience with that many continuous practice weeks. We had to make sure there was enough resting time for players. The goal was that every individual or pair will have a few extra things they’ve been working on that they can use in a game. Obviously in any sport where you push the limits, we’ve had to deal with small injuries, and that obviously sets your development back. But overall, we tried to stay focussed on the detailed work on an individual basis, and then certain special areas for each category.

It is very difficult to see the development when you practice against the same players day after day. All these things I don’t expect they will capitalise from the beginning, because it’s not that easy. But hopefully over time, when players become more confident, they will settle in and move a level up, and become a more rounded player.

Jan O Jorgensen is one of the senior players to have left the national team in recent months.

A number of your senior players have retired in recent months. Is this a new era for the team?

In some sense it definitely is. We definitely have to look in a slightly different manner at the team. We still have world class players there, also players with a lot of experience. Half or more than half were in the team when Denmark won the Thomas Cup in 2016. But younger players are coming in and they’ve heard the stories from when they haven’t been part of it.

I think it’s a slow and big and natural change that some of the older players are not with us anymore. I think it’s a natural step. It’s a positive thing for me, in terms of giving younger players a chance to show themselves at a major championships.

Considering that many of your senior doubles players have retired, are your younger partnerships set, or are you still experimenting with combinations?

I think we’ll be looking at changing up, mix and match, it’s good time to try that at home, but then again that will be finalised over last four-five weeks where everything has to come together to a great plan and then we need to execute it in Aarhus. It also depends on our opponents and so on. We know the group stages, but that’s only step one. We have to be careful there, we have to take our measures to make sure we go through.

Kenneth Jonassen with women’s team spearhead Mia Blichfeldt.

What do you make of your opponents in the group stage? Is it trickier for the women than for the men?

On paper, it looks like a good draw (India, Germany, Algeria) for the men, I won’t deny that. Obviously, we can say we are favourites. But with the changes in our team setup, we have to be aware we won’t have players with that kind of experience which we could rely on earlier.

Algeria I don’t know much about, I have to be honest, but we do know Germany very well, and there’s nothing they want more than to beat us in Denmark. So obviously we need to take care of business when we take on Germany.

With India, they have tremendous men’s singles, so we have to be really focussed, and also their top men’s doubles, they are a tough nut to crack. So I’m looking at it as open, that will tell us how we can fare against the other top eight nations. That’s going to show us where we stand, and the first step if we want to be successful.

In the women’s, Scotland have proved themselves in the European Team Championships; they beat Russia. So we have to be careful about that. The interesting matchup is against Canada. I don’t think we’ve played them many times. The Danish team is a group of very young girls, and with a potential to do well. So we’re looking at this as a long-term investment. More than half the team is 25 or younger, which is quite good for us.

What does it mean personally to you, to lead the team on home soil?

I’m trying to keep my personal emotions in check. Obviously it’s a huge thing. Right now, I’m just putting all my focus into the detailed everyday work with the players, trying to get into peak condition for the championships. But when we get there and when it starts, and there might be a national anthem at some point, I’m going to be hugely proud that I’m a part of this. Being a sportsman, I want to do well, and represent Denmark in the finest manner. It doesn’t always lead to wins – that will be nice – but it’s how we deal with pressure, how we keep on fighting, and how we show what we’re made of as a team, as individuals when it gets tough on court. For me, it’s not always measured in winning, it’s how we deal with the whole situation.

One of the extra pressures on you is that several former Danish players serve as commentators and will be watching you closely at home. Will that close scrutiny bother you? 

The expectations from everybody with the history that Denmark has, the history that top players commentating on how we do our job, or how we should do our job, that’s just normal, but for me, I believe in what I’m doing, I believe in what my team of coaches is doing. I believe in what our association is doing. We are aware that, over the five categories, in some categories, we are struggling, but it’s development. And we’re taking it head-on.

But at a major championships there will be a lot of media and ex-players commentating on how we fare. For me that’s part of life, part of the job as head coach, you have to deal with it. For me, it’s about protecting the players, them not having to face what I would call unconstructive criticism from all coaches, and staying positive and keep believing in the process we’re working on.

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Flaming Dane Set Courts Aglow – 25th Edition World C’Ships

Flaming Dane Set Courts Aglow – 25th Edition World C’Ships

24 August 2019
Crowd Pleasing Superstar – 25th Edition World C’Ships

Crowd Pleasing Superstar – 25th Edition World C’Ships

23 August 2019
Badminton Fan Gets Her Wish

Badminton Fan Gets Her Wish

22 August 2019
Genius of Vintage Invincibles (Part 2) – 25th Edition World C’Ships

Genius of Vintage Invincibles (Part 2) – 25th Edition World C’Ships

13 August 2019
Genius of Vintage Invincibles (Part 1) – 25th Edition World C’Ships

Genius of Vintage Invincibles (Part 1) – 25th Edition World C’Ships

12 August 2019
Born Fighter – Road To Tokyo: Tim Haller

Born Fighter – Road To Tokyo: Tim Haller

6 August 2019
Plenty To Learn Say Lee and Chochuwong – Thailand Open: Semifinals

Plenty To Learn Say Lee and Chochuwong – Thailand Open: Semifinals

3 August 2019
At the Height of His Career – Road To Tokyo: Lucas Mazur

At the Height of His Career – Road To Tokyo: Lucas Mazur

16 July 2019
Badminton Saved My Life – Road To Tokyo: Chan Ho Yuen

Badminton Saved My Life – Road To Tokyo: Chan Ho Yuen

5 July 2019
Coach on a Mission

Coach on a Mission

2 July 2019
Para badminton and BWF Shuttle Time Making Waves in Fiji

Para badminton and BWF Shuttle Time Making Waves in Fiji

1 July 2019
Determined Penty Seeks Success in Minsk

Determined Penty Seeks Success in Minsk

21 June 2019
Lee Chong Wei – A Model of Consistency

Lee Chong Wei – A Model of Consistency

14 June 2019
Key Moments: Chen vs. Yamaguchi – Sudirman Cup ‘19

Key Moments: Chen vs. Yamaguchi – Sudirman Cup ‘19

30 May 2019
What We Have Learned – Road To Tokyo

What We Have Learned – Road To Tokyo

29 May 2019
Pathway to Success for Kazakhstan – Sudirman Cup ’19

Pathway to Success for Kazakhstan – Sudirman Cup ’19

21 May 2019
Chinese stars endorse AirBadminton

Chinese stars endorse AirBadminton

16 May 2019
Insights into the New AirShuttle

Insights into the New AirShuttle

15 May 2019
7 Things You Need to Know About AirBadminton

7 Things You Need to Know About AirBadminton

14 May 2019
BWF Encourages ‘Sport For All’ Through Charity Coaching Clinic

BWF Encourages ‘Sport For All’ Through Charity Coaching Clinic

6 April 2019
Badminton House: Where It All Started

Badminton House: Where It All Started

20 March 2019
BWF Shuttle Time Graduates Debut on the Big Stage

BWF Shuttle Time Graduates Debut on the Big Stage

14 March 2019
Scene Set for Intriguing All England

Scene Set for Intriguing All England

5 March 2019
Online English Language Learning for Athletes

Online English Language Learning for Athletes

27 February 2019
Badminton Still No. 1 for Sri Lankan Cricket’s Latest Debutante

Badminton Still No. 1 for Sri Lankan Cricket’s Latest Debutante

6 February 2019
BWF’s Health Study to Address Injury Concerns

BWF’s Health Study to Address Injury Concerns

17 January 2019
Zheng & Huang – Will the Spell Hold?

Zheng & Huang – Will the Spell Hold?

10 January 2019
Thailand Masters Kicks Off Action-Packed Season

Thailand Masters Kicks Off Action-Packed Season

7 January 2019
All Set for Generational Battles in 2019

All Set for Generational Battles in 2019

2 January 2019
Many Arrows in the Quiver for China, Japan

Many Arrows in the Quiver for China, Japan

25 December 2018
Kenneth Larsen Pitches for Reflective Training

Kenneth Larsen Pitches for Reflective Training

18 November 2018
Kento Momota Completes Ascent

Kento Momota Completes Ascent

27 September 2018
Farewell, Jung Jae Sung

Farewell, Jung Jae Sung

10 March 2018
Badminton Personality Hansen Passes Away

Badminton Personality Hansen Passes Away

22 January 2018
Welcome to Glasgow!

Welcome to Glasgow!

19 August 2017
Star Pairs Perish – Day 2: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

Star Pairs Perish – Day 2: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

13 June 2017
Tai Rakes in the Big Bucks

Tai Rakes in the Big Bucks

6 May 2017
‘I Hope to be Consistent’: Tai Tzu Ying

‘I Hope to be Consistent’: Tai Tzu Ying

3 May 2017
Tan/Setiawan Hope to Hit the High Notes

Tan/Setiawan Hope to Hit the High Notes

16 March 2017
Sung Energised by Recent Successes

Sung Energised by Recent Successes

1 March 2017
Line Kjaersfeldt Targets GPG Success

Line Kjaersfeldt Targets GPG Success

20 February 2017
‘Upwardly Mobile’ Thais Aim for Top 5

‘Upwardly Mobile’ Thais Aim for Top 5

27 January 2017
Saina Nehwal: ‘I Feel Lighter On Court’

Saina Nehwal: ‘I Feel Lighter On Court’

20 January 2017
Zwiebler Hungry Despite Setbacks

Zwiebler Hungry Despite Setbacks

18 January 2017
Yamaguchi Looks to Build on 2016 Successes

Yamaguchi Looks to Build on 2016 Successes

16 January 2017
Saluting Long-Serving ‘Family’

Saluting Long-Serving ‘Family’

22 November 2016
Farewell ‘Ma-gnificent’ Jin!

Farewell ‘Ma-gnificent’ Jin!

21 November 2016
Development Pioneer ‘Very Proud’

Development Pioneer ‘Very Proud’

9 November 2016
Champion Retires to Classroom

Champion Retires to Classroom

14 October 2016
Charismatic Champ Bows Out

Charismatic Champ Bows Out

5 October 2016
Lee Yong Dae: ‘Retirement Decision is Final’

Lee Yong Dae: ‘Retirement Decision is Final’

29 September 2016
Rio Countdown: Australian Duo Look to Make Impact

Rio Countdown: Australian Duo Look to Make Impact

26 July 2016
Rio Countdown: Chou Riding High on Confidence

Rio Countdown: Chou Riding High on Confidence

25 July 2016
Mogensen’s Back and Raring To Go!

Mogensen’s Back and Raring To Go!

30 May 2016
Liang Xiaoyu Sniffs Olympics Chance

Liang Xiaoyu Sniffs Olympics Chance

15 March 2016
Labar and Lefel Seek Superseries Push

Labar and Lefel Seek Superseries Push

4 March 2016
Intanon Ready for Battles Ahead

Intanon Ready for Battles Ahead

2 March 2016
Identical Twins, Dual Personalities

Identical Twins, Dual Personalities

24 February 2016
Ahmad/ Natsir Confident of Shaking Off Slump

Ahmad/ Natsir Confident of Shaking Off Slump

16 February 2016
Jayaram Hopes to Build on Bright 2015

Jayaram Hopes to Build on Bright 2015

9 February 2016
Wang Backs Herself with Rio on Horizon

Wang Backs Herself with Rio on Horizon

5 February 2016
‘I’m More Mature Now’: Chau Hoi Wah

‘I’m More Mature Now’: Chau Hoi Wah

28 January 2016
My Family is My Inspiration: Joachim Fischer Nielsen

My Family is My Inspiration: Joachim Fischer Nielsen

22 January 2016
Every Match is Like a Final: Nozomi Okuhara

Every Match is Like a Final: Nozomi Okuhara

20 January 2016
We Help Each Other: Lee & Yoo

We Help Each Other: Lee & Yoo

20 January 2016
Men’s Singles – 2015 in Review

Men’s Singles – 2015 in Review

30 December 2015
Tai Happy Despite Diminishing Returns

Tai Happy Despite Diminishing Returns

11 December 2015
Leverdez Struggles With News of Tragedy

Leverdez Struggles With News of Tragedy

18 November 2015
Sindhu Ousts Mighty Marin – Day 5: Yonex Denmark Open 2015

Sindhu Ousts Mighty Marin – Day 5: Yonex Denmark Open 2015

17 October 2015
Michelle Li: ‘I Want to Change the Sport in North America’

Michelle Li: ‘I Want to Change the Sport in North America’

9 October 2015
100 Days Countdown: World Champions Eye Dubai Finale

100 Days Countdown: World Champions Eye Dubai Finale

31 August 2015
Survivor Ekiring Has Ambitions for Africa

Survivor Ekiring Has Ambitions for Africa

12 August 2015
Outgoing Players’ Rep Reflects

Outgoing Players’ Rep Reflects

11 May 2015
Beiwen Zhang: Pursuing Dreams Single-Mindedly

Beiwen Zhang: Pursuing Dreams Single-Mindedly

7 April 2015
Conrad-Petersen: Ten Months to Self-Discovery

Conrad-Petersen: Ten Months to Self-Discovery

1 April 2015
In-form Jorgensen Wary of India Open 2015 Minefield

In-form Jorgensen Wary of India Open 2015 Minefield

24 March 2015
World of a Battle for No.1

World of a Battle for No.1

20 March 2015
Patience Pays Off for Vittinghus

Patience Pays Off for Vittinghus

22 December 2014
Luo Twins Relish ‘Double’ Identity

Luo Twins Relish ‘Double’ Identity

18 December 2014
Hopefuls Pushing the Boundaries

Hopefuls Pushing the Boundaries

5 September 2014
Bonding through Badminton

Bonding through Badminton

26 August 2014
Ygor Oliveira’s ‘Sun-rise’ Moment

Ygor Oliveira’s ‘Sun-rise’ Moment

25 August 2014
Robertson, Cheng Spread Badminton Gospel

Robertson, Cheng Spread Badminton Gospel

20 August 2014
Youth Olympic Games 2014 – Day 1: Mixed Doubles Steals the Show

Youth Olympic Games 2014 – Day 1: Mixed Doubles Steals the Show

17 August 2014
Saluting Søborg – Trailblazing Badminton Photographer

Saluting Søborg – Trailblazing Badminton Photographer

14 November 2013
Remembering Jørgen Hammergaard Hansen

Remembering Jørgen Hammergaard Hansen

6 September 2013
RedBull China Scores Big With “Super Final”

RedBull China Scores Big With “Super Final”

27 August 2013
Badminton Talent Dies in Accident

Badminton Talent Dies in Accident

15 August 2013
Remembering Legendary All England Winner Eddy Choong

Remembering Legendary All England Winner Eddy Choong

29 January 2013
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