Janel (left) with her mom Janet
She is 15 years old. An incoming fourth year high schooler at the Sacred Heart-Jesuit, she maintains a Facebook account, relishes text messaging friends and listening to music with her Sony Ericsson phone, and she hangs-out in Ayala to watch movies.
Janel Dihiansan is your typical 15-year-old teenager. Yes? Not exactly. For while tens of thousands of other teeners are content to call Friday nights and whole-day-Saturdays as days reserved purely for 10-hour-sleeping and all-out-malling and video-gaming, Janet works on weekends. Works? On Fridays and Saturdays? Child labor? Ha-ha. His father, Ruel Dihiansan, my close buddy for many years now, can only laugh. For, if you consider sweating for hours and sprinting in circles around a rectangle court as work, then, yes, Janel works on weekends.
Badminton. That’s her job. And since Janel started working, she’s become an indefatigable champion. Study these accomplishments (which I had to trim down for lack of space)….
2006: Champion, elementary girls for both Milo Little Olympics and Cebu City Olympics.
2007: CVIRAA champion in Elementary Girls Singles; Palarong Pambansa, Champion in Girls Team; Milo Little Olympics champion in Secondary Girls Singles; Most Outstanding Athlete for Secondary Badminton.
2008: Milo Little Olympics champion in Secondary Girls Singles.
2009: CVIRAA champion in Secondary Girls Singles and Mixed Doubles.
2010: CVIRAA champion in Secondary Girls Singles. The list is long, outstanding, and the trophies will continue to pile up each year.
“When Janel was first year high school,” said her dad Ruel, “she was up against the defending champion who was in four year high school. The event was huge, the Milo Little Olympics. Janel won.”
Janel’s love for this “thin tennis racket game” began early. “When I was very little, my dad would teach me how to play badminton. Back then, I wasn’t interested,” she said. “But when I was nine years old, I suddenly told myself that I’d play after seeing my dad carrying his racket in our room. At first, I found it strange. But when started playing, I enjoyed it. I loved the feeling of sweating. I decided to play the sport because my parents are avid badminton players. Moreover, I wanted to follow what my dad loved doing the most.” Dad Ruel is, of course, a Class-A netter and many-time club champion who has played, on and off since 1978, for 20 years now.
I asked Janel, Why play? At an age when teenagers often want to be distanced away from their mom and dad (read: independence), Janel’s reply surprised me: “I chose badminton because my parents play badminton. Playing together is one way of spending time with my parents.”
Wow. I’m sure her dad Ruel and mom, Janet, are proud of their only child, who also happens to be a consistent member of the Honors Class.
Janel trains during weekends with coach Karl Sorronda, most often in Racquetzone at Montebello. “One must be passionate,” said Janel, on the qualities of a topnotch player. “If an athlete doesn’t love the sport, all the time spent for training is put to waste. An athlete will never improve if he/she doesn’t love what he/she is doing. A badminton player also has to be patient. There are times when we are physically, emotionally, or mentally drained. But we must learn how to fight that off.
“Confidence, for me, is the most important quality of any athlete. You must believe in yourself in order to perform extraordinarily. Humility is next to confidence. These two words may be contradictory but it’s important that an athlete be humble in victory and be gracious in defeat. It is not nice to look at an athlete who is constantly bragging about his achievements and putting down his opponents.”
Finally, I asked why badminton, compared to the dozens of other games, is best, she game an answer that teenagers would love to hear: “For me,” says Janel, “badminton is one of the best sports for the youth because we meet friends. It is a great way of building up camaraderie.”