Nobody consciously thinks “I want to be mediocre”, but through a number of compromises over a long period of time we can find ourselves there, stuck in the middle. In the race to the middle there is a lot of competition. Everyone dreams of reaching great levels of success, but few are willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears necessary to reach the top, and this is how the race to the middle begins.
It starts with a small compromise. Perhaps during the last few shots you do in a multi-shuttle drill you allow your quality to drop. In the weight room you might stop a couple of reps early. You think to yourself “it’s alright, those little inches here and there won’t matter”. However, as Al Pacino famously reminds us, life is a game of inches.
“You find out that life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game life or football the margin for error is so small. I mean one half step too late or to early you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second.”
What would happen if you decided to push through those last few reps in the gym, or you re-doubled your focus during multi-shuttle drills to make sure your technique is just perfect. The best players are perfectionists. They are looking for the tiniest little thing that they can improve upon. Fighting for that extra inch on their lunges, catching the shuttle just that little extra bit earlier to try pressure their opponent.
I believe talent is overrated. You may argue otherwise. Whether or not you are right does not matter much. What does matter is what attitude does my belief reflect compared to the alternative? Believing that talent is overrated means that you will be willing to use the ultimate equalizer, hard work, to help push you for success. If you are of the opinion that talent is a necessary pre-requisite to success then you are one step closer to joining the race to the middle.
The reality is that reaching the top can actually be easier than reaching the middle. The middle is crowded. Reaching the top is pretty straight-forward, work hard and don’t compromise. When you’re stuck in the middle you have to compete so much harder for a piece of the pie, but when you’re sitting on top things come much easier for you. Take Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei as examples. They’ve put in the work and continue to do so. Now when they come up against their opponents it’s easier for them.
Perhaps the most important benefit of reaching the top is that the rewards are disproportionate, financially and otherwise. Also, once you reach the top it is easier to stay there than it was to get there. The added confidence and experience of seeing what it took allows you to maintain your position.
Most of this is a matter of mindset. I’ve had many arguments with people over this concept. Very few people seem to be able to accept the idea that reaching for the top actually provides less competition. Perhaps that’s why they’re stuck in the middle. Don’t be afraid to reach for the top, and don’t be surprised if you trip and fall along the way. Even if you fail to make it to the very top of your field, whether that’s as a badminton player, or in your career, the experience gained by truly reaching for the top will be priceless.
The player coach relationship is an interesting one. In many cases it’s similar to a parent-child relationship, with many of the same ups and downs. As a player you want to be loyal to your coach, especially if you have a good relationship with them, and if you have produced some good results under their guidance. However, there comes a time where every player needs to make the decision whether the need to go elsewhere in order to grow further as a player. This can be a touchy situation, and many coaches can feel slighted when their players move on.
As a junior I had a few different coaches at my club, but the one I spent the majority of my time with was Wang Wen. Like many of my peers that played with my during my junior years Wang is like a second father to me. We spent a lot of time traveling to tournaments across the country, talking about badminton, and about life. It’s fair to say that he was one of the biggest influences in my life. So much of my badminton game has come from his teachings. When I was 14 he took me from losing first round at the nationals to being a contender for national titles the following year, and many of our club’s players have had similar experiences as countless numbers of our players have won national titles under his guidance. However, when I was in my last years of juniors Wang told me that in order for me to take my game to the next level I would need to go elsewhere, that he had taught me all that he could. At that point I had planned to move to the national training center, but was sidelined with a knee injury which ended those plans.
Many of the best players have had similar paths. They reach a point towards the end of their junior careers where they have maxed out what their current coach can offer them. The best coaches recognize this, they leave their own egos out of the equation and allow their players to go out and explore what other coaches have to offer. Unfortunately a lot of coaches are more interested in their own results, and building their reputation, rather than allowing their players to grow.
My opinion as you can probably tell is that a player should eventually move on, but there are arguments for both sides. If you stay with the same coach through your career you know you’re with someone who knows your game well, and perhaps they have a good idea of where they want to bring you for the long term. They also probably know how to motivate you, what your limits are and so forth. However, they bring only one perspective to the table. When you bring a new coach into the mix you get a whole new perspective on your game. They see things in a different way which is the most valuable thing you can do. This goes hand in hand with sparring with new players as well, but I’ll get into that in another article some time later.
An ideal situation is if you are moving from your home club, to a place with a high performance coach of some kind. Someone who deals almost exclusively with high level players. This ties in with the environment that you’re going to be in as well. A high performance training environment means that everyone there is serious about being a really good player. However, if that option is not available to you, there still is some advantage of working with a new coach simply for the fact that they have knowledge and opinions that your previous coach does not, and that always has value.
What do you think? Should you stay with one coach? Will working with another coach mess up your game? Or is it better to go off and bring your game in a new direction, with a new coach?
This article is a little different than the others in this series in that it offers no advice to the individual players (other than perhaps to leave your country), but instead offers up ideas to the organizations. Upon viewing the title of this article I’m sure that already many of you are prepared to start arguing with me. Where you’re from should make no difference whether you’re a good player or not you say, people from even the most remote places have the ability to succeed in badminton. This is true to a point, but it is undeniable that a small handful of countries, and one country in particular, dominate badminton. In no particular order here are the main countries I am referring to: Continue reading »
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We’re getting close to finishing everything for the coaching videos. The DVD and subscription website (www.badmintonlife.com) are almost ready for purchase. I went to watch Peter play a club match the other day, and then we also did a quick little video with Peter to tell you what’s going on now. Peter’s club played well, but lost very close after going to a “golden set”. A golden set is when the club match is tied 3-3, so they pick one event to play and they do one last set which decides everything. Unfortunately Peter’s team lost the golden set 24-22! Anyway, here’s Peter : )
Doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant, engineer… What do Lin Dan, Peter Gade and Lee Chong Wei have in common with these people? They’re all professionals. While these players haven’t gone to school to study badminton like a doctor went to medical school, they do take their sport very seriously. I can assure you that Peter Gade looks at badminton as his job, and has done so since he was 18 or 19 years old. This could very well be the number one most important thing that separates someone like Peter Gade, from some national level player.
How does someone treat badminton professionally? Here are a few things to consider: Continue reading »
Continue reading »
We go with Stephan to do some sprints at a nearby park here in Copenhagen. Emmet gets lost along the way because of Stephan’s poor directions, but eventually finds Stephan so he can explain to everyone how the sprints work. The idea is that Stephan is trying to run as fast as he can to train his fast twitch muscles, so you shouldn’t be pushing yourself until you get tired, but just train your muscles’ nerves so they “fire” faster.
Production on the Badminton Life Coaching Program featuring Peter Rasmussen has begun. This video update is from the first day of shooting where I was lucky enough to have a chance to play Peter singles. I have seen Peter’s match against Sun Jun in the 1997 Worlds probably over 100 times, certainly more than any other match I’ve ever watched. It was a strange feeling to be standing on the other side of the court from this legend. I discovered that I have a lot more to learn about badminton than I first thought!
In order to be able to move quickly on the badminton court you need to be able to move with rhythm. If the badminton court were much bigger, and all you needed to do was run straight lines all the time it wouldn’t matter, but that’s not the case. When we are waiting to see where our opponent is going to hit their next shot we can’t move from a complete stand still to super speed if we’re flat on our feet.
There are a couple advantages to playing with rhythm:
You can more easily anticipate your opponent’s next shot
You can more easily throw your opponent off of your next shot
The first point is fairly straight-forward. By maintaining a certain bounce in your step you are going to be able to change direction much more easily. The key is to train this and make sure that you are doing it in games and not just training. The second point is a little less obvious, but I’ll do my best to explain.
When I was a kid my brother bought me Bruce Lee’s book on Jeet Kune Do. In it Bruce Lee talks about the concept of broken rhythm. This means mixing up your rhythm between fast and slow, and doing this transition very quickly and unexpectedly so that your opponent gets thrown off. So for example you make your base rhythm a little bit slower than what you’re capable of. You make sure that your opponent falls into his own comfortable rhythm, and then suddenly you up the pace for just a couple of shots. More than likely your opponent will be caught off-guard and will either make an error, or won’t get your shot at all.
Do you play with rhythm? Is it fast or is it slow? Has your coach ever told you that you need to control the pace of the match? This ties into that perfectly. If you are in control of the rhythm of the match, you are in control of the pace of the match. Chances are if you control the rhythm, you will also be the one who wins the match. Badminton is a lot more like boxing or martial arts than you might realize, read up on broken rhythm and you’ll know what I mean.