Hope and Sports

One of the great privileges of being a coach is going into remote places to help jumpstart athletic programs. We got to do this in northern Manitoba.

We took a small plane in and landed on a gravel airstrip many hours late of our scheduled arrival time. We were met by the head of education. We got to talking right away and he said something fascinating. He said, and I paraphrase, “sports gives kids freedom. And beyond that it gives them skills and identity to move ahead in life. In a hopeless world sports gives kids opportunity and skills. Sports has saved this community,”

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Sports has the ability to give kids hope through opportunity  to go places, get university scholarships, and  it gives positive attitude and identity. One of the huge positives of sports is giving kids mastery of something and the ability to learn. Those skills reach far beyond sports. Many impoverished kids struggle to find identity, or opportunities where they can succeed. Sports becomes something to focus and thrive at while also creating opportunities to get out of town, meet people, and open up new opportunities.

Playing professional badminton on the international circuit while coaching  kids gives me a unique opportunity to share my own experiences and motivate and inspire kids to pursue their callings, wether in sports or someplace else. Hope is about holding onto the idea that things can change. Sports is all about creating change, in yourself, and in your teammates.  

 

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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.