Twenty years ago, Sylvain Janier-Dubry was looking for a company where he could complete his college work-study requirements.
A badminton player and budding coach, the accounting student thought, “Why not at Babolat?” The iconic racquet sport company was headquartered at home in Lyon. Janier-Dubry played with a Babolat racquet. It seemed like serendipity.
“When I went for my interview, the director of human resources said to me, ‘You’re a badminton coach? You might know my daughter’,” Sylvain recalled. Not only did he know her – he coached her. “That’s how the interview started. So I was fairly confident,” he laughed.
Sylvain Janier-Dubry spent 2½ years at Babolat HQ, splitting the time between the Babolat offices and the classroom. And to this day, the relationship continues.
“Working there I got to know some people, and Babolat often partnered with my club (le Badminton Club d'Oullins). And so they became my partner as well,” he said. “I always wanted to continue my career with that brand. The fact that it was from Lyon, like me, was great. At its core, it’s still a family business with great values. And I have friends who still work there.”
He has been a coach all along, but only in the last five years has it become a full-time proposition.
After working briefly in Babolat’s accounting department after graduation, he quickly realised that what he really wanted to do was work with kids. And so began a career working in youth services and managing school extracurricular activities for various municipalities around Lyon. All the while, he continued to coach at the Oullins club on the side.
Five years ago, a full-time coaching opportunity came up at the club that was too good to turn down. “I took the leap. It was always my passion, but I didn’t necessarily want to do it full-time so it would remain a passion,” he said. “But it’s going very well.”
Badminton is a growing sport in France, nurtured by its popularity at schools level. “The level of play of the French players is increasing; we’re becoming better ranked at the European level. It’s a little tougher against the Asians, but that’s the same for everyone,” he said.
The sport is not yet at the point where world-class players travel the circuit with a coach, as they most often do in tennis, but Sylvain never aspired to take that step. “I’ve had the opportunity to follow players at the top level. Our club team was in the first division. And I went to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro [with former Oullins club student Delphine Lansac]. But I always had the need and the passion to take care of the kids,” he said.
While far from glamorous, coaching at grassroots level is most often done by those who have a fervent passion for it. And without those dedicated teachers at the base of the sporting pyramid, there would be no one at the top.
For Sylvain Janier-Dubry, it’s about people. “What I love is working with the kids, the athletes, the coaches, the players … so many different types of people. Sport brings out both our qualities and our flaws. You have to juggle all that; that’s what motivates me the most,” he said.
And he exudes gratitude: “A lot of the things I’ve done in my life are because of sport, because of badminton. I’ve met so many different people. I’ve been to the Olympics, which is something I never thought I would do.”