Pictured: Lata ‘Isitolo (left) and Mele Ingird (right) competing at the VICTOR Oceania Championships 2020
On Wednesday 12 August 2020, the United Nations are celebrating International Youth Day:
Two Tongan junior players who are leading the way in enriching the lives of others include Lata ‘Isitolo and Mele Ingrid, who are making significant contributions to the Shuttle Time programme in Tonga.
The sixteen-year olds were regulars at the Pacific Junior Development camps in 2019 and continue to progress through Badminton Oceania’s player development programme. They made their debut at the VICTOR Oceania Championships 2019 in the Mixed Team and Individual events. Since then, the pair have gone on to gain more international experiences, having competed at the YONEX North Harbour International 2019 and the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games.
The value of exposure to international badminton began to show this year as Lata defeated the reigning Pacific Games champion from New Caledonia (Dgenyva Matauli) at the VICTOR Oceania Championships 2020.
Both players have quickly adapted to Oceania’s badminton scene and have become role models for the next generation as they regularly lead regular Shuttle Time sessions in their local communities at home.
Speaking of her engagements with the local communities, Badminton Oceania conducted a Q + A with Lata ‘Isitolo:
How do you help the community?
Each week the children are always looking forward to playing badminton. We try to help them by teaching them what we can based on what we have learnt and remember from training. We do lots of fun games as we did when we were younger so that they also do the same. We sometimes have to modify the games so they can have better experiences, depending on their ability.
Why is community spirit so strong in Tonga?
I think in Tonga, life is about being happy. It does not matter how much we have. It’s about sharing what we have big or small and being happy of it. Yes, in Tonga, life is simple so we tend to share a lot. Everyone in the community is like family.
Why do like helping the community?
When I am training as an athlete, I feel like everyone looks up to me to be a good athlete. It gives me a feeling of purpose and responsibility. When I come home and teach my community what I know I feel confident and more responsible. I learn a lot also while I do this.
How many Shuttle Time sessions do you run each week?
We can run 3 sessions a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But the children want to play every day. Given we have a week with not much school work and assignments with good weather then we would run 3 sessions.
I run the sessions with Mele. We sometimes split the children in two or we just take turns or we mostly just do it together. It is fun to be an athlete and still be able to come home and be a coach to the young ones.
How is teaching Shuttle Time helping you to gain skills for your own development?
When sharing and teaching, I am able to feel more confident and by this I also understand more when I train. Shuttle time helps me help others and I also understand and learn more as an athlete.
What is your most memorable interaction with a Shuttle Time participant?
Most memorable interactions are the moments when you teach them something and then they are able to do it. They have that facial expression of achieving something.
Every time I see them improve and put smiles on their faces, I know that they have something learned each day. It is memorable to see that this makes us all happy.