Team Effort

People ask me all the time why I am where I am. 

I think the answer is somewhat complicated, and I am sure it a huge mixture of all kinds of factors when you boil it down. But at the very heart it is because I think that this place has potential. I think that students, that people, that I, all have a potential. I think that I can get somewhere, not because I practice enough, but because I have people behind me while I practice enough. I listened to an interview with Malcolm Gladwell last night and he made the point that his “ten thousand hour rule” was not intended to communicate that if you simply practice enough you will become an expert, but rather that to get enough practice to be an expert  you must have a lot of people sacrificing to get you there. When you see an Olympic athlete competing for a medal at the Olympics you shouldn’t just see one person who worked their way to being the best, but rather one person who worked hard because everyone around him sacrificed in order for them to be able to practice enough. The athlete’s parents sacrificed huge amounts of time and money driving their kid to practice and helping them get opportunities, and then somewhere along the way other people pitched in with money and time, and coaches offered expertise, and most likely some local business man decided this young athlete had a dream worth putting money on. There were probably tutors in highschool to help the kid keep up with school during their busy competeing season, and freinds who helped push the athlete, and some teammates who demanded full effort every day. 

I get a lot of people who tell me I am crazy for giving everything I know up to train and coach and live around badminton. But there are also those people who have helped me get as far as I am, and those who will help me get farther. From coaches who demand excellence, to my parents giving up sleep to take me to late night practices when I was a junior, and my teammates who wouldn’t let me quit, and the people who decided that they could put money into sharing a dream with me. 

Now there are those who will keep helping me forward. From the people giving me meals, and the coaches who waive a few fees so I can keep coming to practice, and the sponsors who are helping me, and those who will decide to jump on board for the next step. There are the teammates who aren’t okay with anything but my best, and the coaches who demand I do better, the physical therapists who help my body not break, and the friends who keep me from going crazy. Everyone is playing a part in my success. I am here, and I am working my best because I owe it to everyone to do so. Because I love it, and I wouldn’t do it any differently. I coach, I teach, I hope to inspire the next generation because there were so many who did that for me and I can do nothing less in return. 

For every step forward I take there is a whole team of people helping me.  I hope I am also part of that team that helps the next generation do the same thing. 

Cheers to everyone who is chasing dreams, everyone who made it to the top of their profession, and most importantly, cheers to all the people who make it possible for each of us. Cheers to the parents living off coffee and ramen so their kids can go to practice, the coaches staying up too late so their students can make it, the business men who dare to take a chance on someone who hasn’t made it yet, the teammates who push each other, the part time athletes making competition worthwhile, the friends who send corny encouraging texts at midnight, the grandparents who are proud of their grandchildren, the aunts and uncles who come to cheer, and everyone else who plays a part in this crazy life. 

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Training Camp

The opportunity to learn from experts and those who have gone before you is a huge privilege. I think one of the things that separates the best from those are simply good is the willingness to learn, and the passion to make the most out of every opportunity. I may not be the best, or even close to it. But I hope that I pursue learning with that kind of passion. I hope I take as much advantage of every opportunity as possible. I am currently at Clearone training camp with the opportunity to learn from some of the greats of the sport, I don’t plan on making leaps. Improvement takes time and effort. But I hope to learn as much as I can fit into my head during this time, so during my daily training I have vision and knowledge to look back on. I can’t change everything that needs fixed in one week. But I hope I learn a lot and that the advice I get affects my training till I see improvement and can test and reevaluate. 

“You aren’t here to do play the easiest game, you are here to win. You are here to beat your opponent and that will usually mean doing the harder thing, and doing it better and harder than everyone else. But that’s the challenge isn’t it? To know where to try harder, and what to do better to win.” 

The Olympics is ongoing as well right now. After training hours are spent watching videos, looking at stats, and staring at draws. Toby Ng put it well when he told me “In the end, badminton is King.” What that means to me is that in the end no matter how fit you are, how fast you are, how determined you are, if you don’t play good /badminton/ you still can’t win. If you can’t play tactically, can’t keep the birds in, can’t find the rythm you still aren’t good enough. Because in the end, Badminton is king, and if you can’t play badminton the rest of the tools won’t help you. Sometimes you see fitter faster players lose to someone who plays smart and is tactically minded. Other times you will see someone with grit who keeps birds in beat someone who is a better player but simply lacks the drive to keep things in the court and possibly takes risks too soon. This kind of perfect balance, the determination, heart, skill, tactics, technique – that’s badminton. 

Training for me has become more than just putting in the time and effort, it’s the constant struggle to find the balance and the weak link in a game. The balance between speed and deception, strength and endurance, efficiency and effort, technique and simple determination, tactics and heart. There is always a weak link in any athlete, some part of their game that hinders everything else. Training for me is finding that weak link in myself and strengthening it to the point that some other weakness becomes apparent. It is getting on court and knowing how much to anticipate and read, and how much to grind through rallies. I am learning many technical and tactical skills from this camp, but I am also soaking in the experience of the coaches and their own knowledge of this balance that is badminton. 

I wanna send out my thanks to the people that make this journey possible. Every day, every training session is an opportunity, I pray I make the best of each. 

Yonex US Open

There are a lot of people who helped support me on my way to the Yonex US Open Grand Prix Gold. I want to thank all of them, and give a quick update for those interested. 

The Yonex US Open ended with losses in the first round of singles, and round of 16 in doubles. The major difference between the US Open and the Canada Open? After my losses I had some very valuable input from people I respect, most notably Toby Ng. Such input in invaluable as someone with experience from the outside looking in can see things that might seem obvious but are often missed by the people stuck in the situation. 

For those of you who didn’t keep up to date- in doubles Kyle Golding and I played against a pair from Napel in the first round and won, then got beaten very badly by the number 3 seeded pair from Poland. In singles I lost to India. 

I have learned a lot, and even came home with (a very little) prize money.


With that update I say farewell. I have some hill sprints to attend to before the day gets old. Thanks to everyone who is cheering me on and helping me on my way! 

Cheers

Kevin Barkman

Canada Open

Canada Open

The Yonex Canada Open, MS loss in first round against Howard shu, MD loss in the Quarter Final against Toby Ng and Adrian Liu. 

Tournaments are a learning experience. They say fire refines, and it exposes weaknesses. I love competing. I love the tension in the air, and the crowd cheering. I love the challenge and putting my will against someone else’s. But when it’s all said and done and you walk away, winner or loser you have to take something away from the experience. The pressure hopefully revealed something. All the training and time and effort gets tested during tournaments, and while somethings prove their worth there are always weaknesses that get exposed. Places where technically you made a mistake, or tactically were not prepared. Maybe conditioning was an issue. 

In singles a lot of things became quite clear, through practice and competition. I haven’t had much sparing lately. My preparation consisted of lots of time in the gym and two and three against one practice on court along with the drills. I had very little to no game practice, or sparing. This showed through hesitant tactical decions and sometimes poor positioning. 

Weaknesses, mistakes, losses – they are all part of the road forward and reaching the next step always means growing through adversity and even mistakes. What comes next? How do I go about fixing or adapting to the things I have learned? How will I find more sparing and games? Get more competition? I don’t know yet, but those questions will be answered, one step at a time. 

I appreciate the help and support of those people helping me on this journey. I hope I can keep learning and growing, improving, getting stronger. Thanks all.

Prepared? 

Prepared? 

For a lot of people preparation means training all day and chilling at home, eating healthy, getting mentally ready, Ect. But for me prepping for the Yonex Canada Open, and the Yonext USA Open has meant a lot more than just training, though there has been plenty of that as well. Preparing well has also meant things like getting into a routine, looking for work, finding places to train, and even convincing my little brother to come feed me drills. It meant find a physical therapist, and a strength and conditioning coach, and even touring universities. 

Being prepared for a tourmanent means I spent a lot of early morning and late nights at the gym, and a lot of days either at work or in the office getting other things done. 

Am I fully prepared? Am I at my peak to play to the best of my potential? Yes and no, I don’t think I have fully reached my potential, I have a long ways to go yet, a lot to learn, and a lot more hard work to put in, but for where I am at I am as prepared as I can be. 

Sometimes being ready doesn’t mean you are actually ready, as much as it means you are courageous enough to dare, and to be confident that you put in the hours of effort before hand, so whatever the outcome you have no regrets. Being ready means being prepared to try fully, and be okay with the result you get. 

Of course, my going to these tournaments isn’t just about me, but about all the people who support me and help me out as coaches, PT’s, sponsors, freinds, employers,  and everything else.  Every game I play is a huge shout out to all these folks who also believe that dreams are worth chasing. 

Peace out folks, keep chasing your goals and putting your hours in – Kevin

Spokane Parks & Rec Badminton Camp

Spokane Parks & Rec Badminton Camp

Day two of Spokane’s Parks and Recreation Badminton Camp just came to an end. I am of course tired, but also some what excited by the kids and their enthusiasm about badminton life in general. Their whole lives are ahead of them and they are just starting to explore what they could do with them.

It’s always inspiring to coach kids, though often a huge challenge at the same time. Many of the kids at the camp knew very little about badminton, so while sharing the love of the sport was great, it was often hard from the logistics side to cater everything to both those more advanced kids and those who were picking up a racket for the first time. But that’s what coaching is all about isn’t it? Drawing out the best in each and every one of the kids you have, no matter their goals, or skill level. In the end, coaching and teaching is seeing potential in people and working hard to draw it out and build and develop skills and tools to help  each kid reach their potential, and whatever their goals may be.

Today there was a kid who obviously had a talent for following instructions well, and was super attentive and focused, he didn’t like the fun games or the playing, but I knew he when he did drills that he would listen carefully and never need to be told anything twice. Who knows where that focus and attentiveness will take him? Or one kid who was a kind of social peace keeper and really good at talking with people and engaging even the shyest kids. Badminton is another way to help him develop those skills, whether he uses them in badminton or some other place it life, it’s a tool and gift worth noticing, encouraging, and growing. 

There is a good chance none of the kids at the camp will be Olympians, or represent their country internationally. Though you never know who you may inspire to take it to the next level. At the end of the day I hope each kid learns a little more about badminton, and a lot more about working hard, interacting with others, and focusing and building skills for success.

Coaching isn’t training, but sometimes it is a good inspiration for me as I seek to chase my own dreams and reach my own goals.

Beginnings

Beginnings

We all start someplace. And today might not be day one for me, but this is my starting over and saying once again, “This is what I want to do.” So here I am, saying, I want to become the best I can be, I want to travel the world competing, playing international badminton. It is not an easy road, or one that I can define. I am headed places where no one can lead me, and hoping for the best. I hope you follow me along this journey, and maybe along the way I can inspire you to chase your own dream. A little warning though, it takes a lot of hard work. Let’s hope we are both up for the challenge.


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