When I use a word like “momentum” while talking about badminton you might think I’m talking about footwork and movement around the court. While it is true that you need to be aware of your momentum for smooth footwork, that’s not what we’re talking about today.
The concept of momentum is something that people have used to become successful in many areas, including badminton. Let’s take a look at a recent example, World Junior Champion Viktor Axelsen and his recent growth as a player. Around this time last year few people outside of Denmark were aware of Viktor, and then he made the finals of the Swedish International. Suddenly he was on all of our minds as we watched him begin to perform at a higher and higher level. This all culminated in a history making performance at the World Junior Championships in April of 2010 where he became the first European to win a world junior title in singles.
When you observe a player like Viktor’s progress you can’t help but feel like he has some sort of invisible energy pushing him to even greater performances. This is momentum working in his favour. You see this happen within a single tournament where a player seems to play better and better with each round, and they seem unstoppable. You also see this happen over the course of several tournaments where a player’s performance seems to carry over from one week to the next.
The best players know how to harness momentum, and most importantly they know how to prevent it from disappearing. That’s the real key, because once you lose momentum it’s a lot harder to get it back.
The easiest way to lose your momentum in badminton is to hurt yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re Lin Dan or Lee Chong Wei, if you’re injured and have to take time off to recover you lose all of your momentum. The most successful people in this world know how to leverage one success into another. This is why Lin Dan is the most successful men’s singles player of all time. One tournament win leads to another, and another. People begin to fear you, and you begin to believe in yourself without compromise.
So what is the key to maintaining our momentum? We need to understand how growth and improvement works. Many of you may already be aware of this, when you train you are actually breaking down your muscle tissues. It’s when we rest between training sessions that our body and mind regenerate resulting in performance improvements. If we over train we prevent ourselves from building up momentum in our training.
So is momentum a straight forward process? No, unfortunately it doesn’t quite work that way. As we’re training we inevitably run into plateaus where we struggle to see improvements for a long time. Then as if from nowhere we see a sudden surge, improvements seem effortless and our progress unstoppable. It’s important to realize that we need to be realistic with our training. We will not improve constantly and we will have down periods. With this understanding in mind you will be much stronger mentally and emotionally when you do hit a plateau.
Here are some common ways that we lose momentum and how to deal with them:
Injuries – Perhaps the most common and most damaging way to disrupt your momentum. The best way to deal with injuries is to prevent them. To do this you need to pay very close attention to what your body is telling you. Do lots of off court training to deal with common injuries that badminton players experience and you’ll be far less likely to get hurt. If you’re already dealing with an injury treat it well, see a physiotherapist and don’t push yourself too hard. This was a mistake I made too often and it shortened my career.
Distraction – Whether it’s unavoidable like school work, or simply socializing, anything that distracts your focus from the game will hamper your momentum. That being said, balance is also important in your life although that’s probably a topic for another article. You need to have other things in your life so the game doesn’t get boring for you, but there is a limit to how many different things you can do at one time.
Lack of motivation – When you’re stuck in a rut and aren’t playing great it’s hard to stay motivated. Simply by understanding that this is inevitable you can be prepared and give yourself the positive self talk necessary to get through periods of frustration. Also, make sure that you are having fun with your training because the best sure fire way to kill your motivation is if you hate what you’re doing.
Taking time off – this is an important thing to consider, because we can’t always train and taking a short break can be very helpful, but taking too long a break can kill your momentum. With that in mind sometimes the best time to take a break is when you are struggling to see improvements. Oftentimes you return to the game with a renewed sense of motivation and you see what was blocking your progress previously.
Think back on your badminton, and how momentum has affected your performance. What could you have done to prevent the dips from becoming as bad as they were, and what could you have done to keep the good periods going longer? By paying attention to your momentum you will find ways to accelerate your progress.
As I write this article I am 28 years old, hardly a senior citizen and yet my body frequently tells me that it doesn’t like what I do to it. No, I don’t eat poorly, or drink excessively. I don’t participate in extreme sports either. I play badminton.
I have always struggled with injuries, even in my later junior years I was often sidelined with some small nagging injury, and on one occasion I wound up in the operating room for arthroscopic surgery to deal with a torn meniscus in my left knee. I’m an extreme example, and as a result I need to be extremely careful about taking care of my body, however the average badminton player can learn from my troubles as well.
Ironically enough my problem is my strength. I have never struggled with putting on muscle, and I have always been quite fast and explosive on the badminton court. At this point you may be wondering how this is a problem. The problem with putting on muscle easily with a sport like badminton is that the movements and demands placed on your body as a result of playing badminton causes your body to develop in a lopsided manner. My left quad is noticeably smaller than my right quad, and as my physiotherapist would testify, my hips, shoulders and basically everything else is unbalanced in some way. These mismatched body parts have resulted in countless injuries over the years. Only one has been very serious, but when you’re constantly dealing with small injuries that keep you off of the court for a couple weeks at a time, it can be very frustrating, and not very fun.
Trying to play at a high level and dealing with these constant injuries can really suck, but taking care of your body for sports isn’t just applicable to high performance players, it’s also very important for the recreational players. If you’re a younger player you are of course less likely to injure yourself during recreational play, but once you get into our late twenties your body starts to slow down it’s recovery from play, and overall you have to pay much more attention to the small stuff. When you get further on in years into your thirties, fourties or later, then the practice of taking care of your body is an absolute necessity if you want to keep yourself on the court.
Here are some things you can do to get your body in condition for playing badminton:
Prepare Your Body For Movement (Warm Up)
Most of you understand the idea of warming up before playing. You’ll probably do some light jogging, or hit for a few minutes before you start playing games, and you might even stretch a little bit too. However, when you look at how dynamic badminton is you realize that doing some light jogging and stretching is very insufficient. You need to prepare your body for the activity you intend to do, and that means movement in multiple directions.
Strength is one of the most misunderstood areas of training for badminton. When we talk about strength training most people think of muscle bound strong men. This is not the type of strength training that we want to use for badminton. The other big benefit of being strong is in preventing injuries, and enabling you to train longer and harder without getting hurt. Remember, strong does NOT mean big. You want to develop badminton specific strength.
If your fitness levels are poor you’re going to be more likely to get hurt. Tired muscles are more prone to injury, not to mention you’re going to end up losing a lot of matches if you can’t keep up with your opponents. Running, bike rider, running stairs and a lot of other activities will help keep you feet for badminton. As fun as it is to play badminton, sometimes it’s good to do activities off court to see improvements on court.
While a number of these other training areas can be helpful in preventing injuries, there are some very specific things you can do. Certain rehabilitative exercises can target some common injuries that badminton players get and if you pay attention to these areas before an injury, you’re less likely to suffer one. For example knee injuries are very common as a result of muscular imbalances caused by playing badminton. You can strengthen your quads and hamstrings to prevent these sorts of injuries.
There are a number of other areas you can cover in order to improve your badminton, but perhaps more importantly to keep yourself healthy so you can keep playing. If you have any suggestions or tips on how you train your body for badminton, or what common injuries you’ve dealt with leave your ideas in the comments.
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.
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!