Appearances can be deceptive when it comes to new Lancers women’s badminton coach Jennifer Ho. Although small in stature, softly spoken and unassuming in nature, Ho is up for any challenge in her new role and expects nothing less from her young proteges.
The Vietnam native is process-oriented and values-based in her approach, citing commitment, teamwork, conditioning and fun as the main make-up of her coaching philosophy. Ho isn’t one to make bold statements or predictions about the upcoming season, instead choosing to foster and cultivate her team and let the results take care of themselves.
“Of course I’m very competitive, I would like to win,” Ho said. “But if the kids are trying their best then I’ll be grateful. My goal is to put 110% to the team and make sure they’re having fun, but yet work hard and winning of course is my goal-but I’ll appreciate everything they put in.”
PCC’s Athletic Director Tony Barbone was faced with an unexpected dilemma when four-time South Coast Conference Coach of the Year and former women’s badminton coach Bill Sanchez decided to leave the Lancers family.
“Coach Sanchez who did a great job with our program the whole time he was here, decided to not continue. Jen came to mind immediately,” Barbone said. “The thing that Jen brings is she just has an unbelievable passion for young people, she loves to surf, she loves to help, she loves to teach, she loves to instruct. Those are innate qualities that she brings to the table, not that they didn’t exist prior. I think we’re fortunate to have someone that has the background Jen has.”
The Lancers badminton program has carved out a steep tradition since its inception to the SCC in the year 2000 and has won 10 conference titles under Sanchez and Bonnie Lee, the inaugural coach. In 2010 Sanchez guided PCC to the state championships, but fell to San Francisco CC in the final. He also coached Angie Ortiz in 2012 to the school’s first state singles title.
Ho knows she has been entrusted with a highly successful and respected program that demands a great deal from its players, but most importantly from its rookie head coach.
“I know PCC has a very good record in Badminton. I want to try my best to keep it the way it is. I do have a group of great student athletes that Coach Sanchez left me. I know it’s going to be tough to maintain, but I’ll try my best,” Ho said.
East L.A. Community College has won the SCC title back-to-back the last two years thanks to exceptional tactics and guidance from nine-year veteran head coach Qui Nguy. In that time, the team has beaten the Lancers six out of eight times.
“Every year East LA is our main rival,” Ho said. “It’s been like that for the last 10 years. Our first match is against ELAC, they’re very competitive and the past two years we’ve been losing to ELAC. Their coach is doing a good job over there.”
According to Ho, the two players who are likely to produce standout performances this season are freshmen Sandra Maw and Rebecca Tzou, who have exhibited impactful leadership traits and sharp footwork and admirable work ethic during pre-season training.
“Rebecca is very determined, leadership in her is what I like. I can see just her footwork and I know she has been playing way before she even got here, so she probably came with natural talent,” Ho said.
“Sandra is pretty quick and I was hoping those two would lead us far this year,” she added.
Ho strikes a crucial balance between a strict disciplinarian, shrewd technician, an uplifting motivator and an influential mentor who integrates the right mix of enjoyment into the team on and off the court.
The team has been able to build camaraderie and gain a better understanding of each other’s personalities by sharing in team dinners and parties organized by their devoted coach. Ho’s extensive dedication doesn’t end there, as she spearheaded a crucial fundraising campaign that will allow her team to gain the necessary funds to cover uniforms, equipment and travel expenses.
Maw and Tzou points out Ho’s major strength as her ability to get the best out of each player by enforcing unrelenting discipline while creating an infectious atmosphere that enables the team to work together in sync.
“Jennifer is really strict, which I enjoy,” Ho said. She gets everyone working. If you don’t work, then you’re off the team, which some people might feel like that’s really aggressive but that’s what needs to be done.”
“She’s strict, that makes us try harder than we’re supposed to. Everyone is sometimes easy on themselves, but Coach Ho pushes us to do our best,” Maw added.