Focus On What You Can Control

On November 3, 2010, in Instructional, by Emmet Gibney

How often do you hear someone finish a match and then they begin to complain about something that caused them to lose?  Something happened during the match, or there were some conditions on the court that made it “impossible” for them to win, or say they claim.  The excuses are many, but just to list a few:

  • The lighting was bad
  • The ceiling was too low
  • The walls are painted a colour which makes seeing the shuttle impossible
  • There is wind in the hall
  • The floors were slippery
  • My racquet is no good
  • The shuttles were too fast
  • The shuttles were too slow
  • My opponent was a hack, his awkward style threw me off

I’m sure you can add to that list, either from excuses you’ve heard, or from excuses you’ve come up with yourself.  There’s a funny thing about excuses though, once you deal with one another one pops up to fill it’s place.  They are never ending because the problem was not whatever excuse you were coming up with, the problem is the fact that you see the external influences around you as unbeatable obstacles.  The reality is whatever harsh conditions you might be dealing with, your opponent is likely dealing with them as well.  And even if they weren’t dealing with those circumstances, it doesn’t matter because nobody cares about your excuses.  While it might make you feel better about losing, it won’t help you to become a better badminton player.

The easy way to get past these conditions that are bothering you is to accept them as just being part of the game, and instead of worrying about them shift your focus to things that you can control.  So what do you have direct control over in your badminton game?  Let’s look at this from two perspectives, first during game play, and second during practice/training.

Game Play

During game play the first thing you have control over is the shots that you are hitting.  Pay attention to your shot selection and executing the strategy and tactics that you decided you would use.  Try not to make improvements upon your game during game play.  In other words if you are struggling to improve your cross court net shot, avoid using it too much during game play, save it for practice.  Another major thing you have control over during game play is your thought process and your self talk.  This is perhaps the most important thing you need to focus on during game play, and what makes the biggest difference between the very best players and us mere mortals.  You need to be positive during matches, and you can’t let things like fast shuttles or other issues become excuses.

However, the reality is that during game play there is not a whole lot that is within your control.  Most of the hard work has already been done well before this point while you were practicing and training your shots and your body.  Once the games begin, all you can do is stay focused on executing what you have practiced so many times before.


This is the time where you have the most control over your badminton game and your ability to succeed.  During practice you can work on your shots extensively and refine them to the point that you don’t need to think about your technique when it comes time to actually play.  If you find that you make a lot of unforced errors during matches, then you should focus on drills that help you to improve your consistency.  If your opponents are killing your net shots because you don’t hit them tight enough, then practice your net shots more.  It’s really not that complicated, but it does require you to put in that effort.

Perhaps the biggest area that we neglect is our physical training.  Sure playing badminton is fun, and it’s an easier way to maintain our fitness than running or during intense training, but if you want to see better results you have to be fitter.  When you are playing a tournament or even just a match in your local club and you start feeling tired, there isn’t much you can do because it’s too late.  You should have put that effort in beforehand.  If you and I are playing each other and we have equal skills, but I’m much fitter than you, I will win most of the time.

Are you making excuses for yourself?  Well stop it!  Spend the time before your matches, before your tournaments, and focus on improving the things that you have control over.  If you find yourself making excuses the reality is that your opponent was just better on that day, pure and simple.  Now go out and kick some butt!

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20 Responses to Focus On What You Can Control

  1. Arthur says:

    Yes! This is so true, just last night I was playing at my club and the guy I was playing kept complaining. We argued over the shuttles the whole time, he wanted to keep slowing them down, and he kept going to wipe his feet. It’s not fun to play against a complainer, and you just look bad too when you do it!

  2. Sachin says:

    Yes it is bad to let excuses bother you, but sometimes there is nothing that you can do to help it. If the shuttles are very poor then it can be very difficult to play sometimes. And when I go to a hall with a low roof I always find myself giving away easy points to the opponents. I can’t make the roof go higher can I? No, so that can be a problem.

  3. piyush says:

    yes,this is indeed is important & also game practice can be done to handle the pressure

  4. Matt says:

    Threw me off – not through me off.

  5. grace says:

    wow..this is so true..the most important part of baminton is what i do before a tournament or a match so i do not complain or look for excuses..i was playing yesterday and i was not playing so well and all i kept telling myself was ..”you need more praactise..then you be very confident on court to do what ever you want”..and reading this today..i am more motivated to practise well and train hard..then i will see the results i want during matches and i dont have to complain or give feel better when you have played your best and you feel good and still loose a match..whether it is someone better than me or not…but when i dont play well and i loose,espcially to someone am better is so annoying and irritating and then i look for excuses..

    this is really nice tip..

  6. Darren says:

    I think I’ve used all of the excuses at some point. But I then realised I was cheating myself & giving the opposition a lift.
    re fitness is running or is shuttles runs & sprints better?

  7. Mel Wyatt says:

    Focus is probably the most important thing any of us can learn, after shot technique – it can make or break us.
    Just like anything else, it can be learnt. But that takes effort. And surely that is what seperates the people who are reading this from the ‘average’ player? We are committed to getting better and are willing to put the effort in.
    With time and practice, we can learn to not let the ‘Complainer’ put us off our game.
    With time and practice, we can learn to cope with low ceilings by adapting our style – we can practice this in our normal hall. Even in a high ceiling hall, we may come up against a player who isn’t good at the flatter game, so isn’t it is good to have the ability to play that type of game? Poor shuttles? We can practice with old or fast/slow shuttles can’t we?
    Practice isn’t a chore – it is what helps us to be in control when things get tough.

  8. Emmet Gibney says:

    Hi Darren,

    As far as fitness goes, the answer to your question is BOTH! What I mean by that is that you need to do both in order to be a fully rounded player. Badminton is a very dynamic sport which requires the ability to last long games (aerobic fitness), and also requires speed and ability to recover from one rally to the next (anaerobic fitness). I personally try to do 2-3 aerobic workouts per week (running or bike), and then I do my aerobic fitness with sprints, badminton drills, and match play. So the answer is, do a little bit of both to be well rounded, but do more of the type you are weaker at.

  9. Avgi says:

    You can really end up losing a game because the opponent is a huge complainer!!! True! But, wait a minute, this also counts as whining now, right? sarcasm helps sometimes:)

  10. Mel Wyatt says:

    Think it’s about a strong mental attitude Avgi – if someone is spending all their time complaining, they are either:
    a) Not fully focused on winning
    b) Are worried they cannot beat you so are playing mind games
    Either way, if you are mentally strong, you should be able to retain focus and stuff them!!!

  11. Vitorino Sousa says:

    Excuses could be in fact only excuses, but they can also be an explanation to what really happened in the game.
    What happens many times is that the other player its not a best player then you are, but you lost because you did wrong options. So, this has to be corrected and even if you loose in a balanced game, and if you know that has been done what was at your range, you will not feel frustrated at the end of the game.

    The badminton has rules for the equipment to be used, and this its not by change. So, obviously that the player are conditioned by the conditions he has in his club, like the coach, shuttles quality, the high of the ceiling hall and so on. Obviously that all of this has influence in the game quality. For instance, if you need to do a high lob after a net shot from you opponent and you have a low ceiling, you will be in trouble. Or if you need to do a backhand with a poor quality shuttle, perhaps the result will not be the best. All this is important not only for the championships, but also to the pleasure that the player will feel for being playing with best or poor conditions. Notwithstanding, obviously that we have to play with what we have, but this doesn’t mean that the game will not be somehow negatively affected by poor conditions or bad equipment.

  12. Emmet Gibney says:

    Hey Vitorino,

    The point is that regardless of whatever excuses you may have for what happened it doesn’t matter. In the end both players generally have the same conditions to deal with, and if you are personally having equipment issues that is your own fault. The best players are the ones who do not use excuses, and insist on improving themselves without complaint. When you start using excuses there is no end, there is always another you can use to explain your loss, so you shouldn’t even start with a first excuse. Excuses and explanations are different. Excuses are used to define why you lost in such a way that you DON’T have to change, you can stay the same. Explanations are used to define why you lost while also identifying where you need to improve.

  13. Vitorino Sousa says:

    Hy Emmet Gibney,

    What I meant was that the majority of the explanations given by who loose, are interpreted as excuses and not as explanations that can be used to improve the game.

    I used the term “equipment” more broadly and not only in the sense of the personal equipment; is not the fault of the player having to practice in a low ceiling hall or with bad shuttles, because he cannot find any other place to play.

    Obviously, that during a tournament, all the players are under the same conditions, but the problem is not with that conditions, but in the conditions that each one had during training; the starting point is very important.

    I understand that you have to pass a positive message, beyond that, its true that complaints doesn’t resolve nothing.

    In relation to the kind of excuses that you have referred, I agree with you.

  14. Sulismies says:

    Yep, this is an interesting topic overall. A good friend of mine happens to be one of these frequent complainers.

    His numerous excuses come in various forms: ‘I have been training too hard lately’, ‘I haven’t been training enough’, ‘I had a busy day at work’, ‘Yesteday I went to have a massage’, ‘I really should have a massage right now’, ‘I ate too much’, ‘I should have eaten something’,'I’ve changed the tension of my strings’, ‘My wife had a bad day’ ….

    He’s a good friend of mine and over the years I have got used to his way of “analyzing” the game.

    However, what makes me sad though, is the fact that those people who use excuses do not recognize that more often than not the problem is in their badminton, not in those external issues what they use as excuses.

    If one cannot recognize the problem, one cannot improve one’s badminton.

    Let’s consider a common excuse: “The lights were bad”. I guess, most of the time it means that there is a spotlight just above the court and when looking directly up at the light, you cannot see the shuttle.

    So then, where is the real problem? I claim that the problem is in your footwork. If you had been fast enough, you would be hitting slightly _behind_ the shuttle, not right below it. If you are quick enough, your stroke options are many, you can see the shuttle, the net, your opponent’s court and your oponent’s position simultaneously. If you are late, all you are able to see is the damnned spotlight!

    And the complainers should have their mind right. Most of the time, instead of saying “The shuttles were too fast”, they should say something like “I am not skillful enough to adapt to these fast shuttles”

    The reason for loosing the match is that your oponent is a better player when using fast shuttles, not the fast shuttles themselves. The shuttles are the same for both of you, the difference is only in your badminton skills.

    And most of the time, the shuttles are not too fast, rather, they are likely to pass the hitting test stated in the laws of badminton.

    Just my two cents worth…

    Happy badmintoning to all of you ;-)

  15. Mel Wyatt says:

    Nice comments Sulismies!
    Think that sums it up nicely.
    The conditions (apart from gamesmanship) are the same for all of us, but whilst we are finding excuses, we will not improve our game: we let the conditions affect us. We are not mentally strong.
    If you struggle with fast shuttles and rely on excuses, you have lost before you start.
    If you go and practice with fast shuttles, you will learn how to cope with them and be better next time.
    And as you say, better footwork can help alleviate bad lighting – and anyway, how many of us actually look at the shuttle as it hits the strings on an all out smash? Good technique gets us in the right position and gets the timing right so we can hit THROUGH bad lighting conditions. How many of us have practiced low serving with our eyes closed to check if our swing is 100% grooved? In a book by Judy Hashman she devoted a chapter to tactics to beat poor conditions (bad lighting, low roofs, fast/slow shuttles etc). As a Champion playing at a time when well designed sports centres were rare, she decided to work out tactics which would not only negate the conditions, but also give her an advantage over her ill-prepared opponents.
    Let’s stop worrying about what we cannot do anything about, and spend time on improving our badminton!

  16. UMAR says:


  17. pradeep sheoran says:

    thanks i will try this techniques in my game

  18. Vance Sova says:

    Hey Emmet,

    Complaining is pointless and immature. It’s also a waste of energy.

    Practicing shots during the game can sometimes pay off. What I mean is that you shouldn’t be careless but being too careful and timid may be just as damaging.

    As for focus I’m not sure how different people and you approach it. You mentioned something about sticking to your game plan I think.

    That may work for you but sometimes it may cause you to be thinking too much instead of being in the flow.

    Some thinking is of course required but thinking too much before each shot tends to sabotage your natural reflexes.

    The way I see focus is to be totally present and respond to the game instead of being too much in my head.


  19. Emmet Gibney says:

    Very well put Vance, being present is very important. In competition the benefit of having a game plan is that it provides you a general framework to follow because it’s likely you’ll get nervous. When you get nervous you tend to play reactionary badminton, suddenly you’re not playing with specific purpose. In the end you have to find that nice happy medium which feels most comfortable for you personally.

  20. Julie Qu says:

    good article!Just like everything you do ,focus is always most important.
    i will tell my friends in the badminton club of China,BeiJing.

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