Showing up ready to train is a big deal when it comes to having meaningful practices. Being ready involves a few different aspects. The physical aspect, are you there with all the equipment you need, on time, with your body ready to put the work in? And the mental side, are you there focused and mentally prepared for the adversity that is training?
Here are some tips I have found helpful for getting ready to train.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal before training. This may seem like old hat, but showing up to training feeling the weariness of post meal nap syndrome is not ideal for training.
- Show up five to ten minutes early. You need to be on court the time that training starts, not show up at the time. The minute training starts you want to be making progress. Be ready and warmed up!
- Make sure you bring a water bottle. Walking to the water fountain may not seem like it takes that long, but the truth is that time adds up, and every step away from the court is an opportunity to lose focus and for your mind to wander. Stay close, be efficient, and stay focused!
- Keep the goals close. If your goal is to medal at provincial championships, keep that in mind throughout practice, remind yourself why you are practicing, and why you need to be doing everything perfectly.
- Focus on what you can change. All sports are a battle with adversity. It is important to focus on the aspects of that adversity that you can affect. Your attitude, your effort, your play, control, focus ect. And not to get bogged down by the external things like poor shuttlecock quality, lighting, drafts, sick stomachs, or even training partners who aren’t as good or as focused as you are. Make sure you hold yourself to the standard you want to create, and let the rest go.
- Stress creates growth – embrace obstacles. Bright lights in the background? Just another opportunity to practice for the unknown obstacles at a tournament. Didn’t get the meal you wanted before practice? Training for those delayed games where you are standing in for hours waiting for your match to be called while they fix a broken court, or wait for the roof to quit leaking. (both have happened to me at international events).
At the end of the day how we show up to practice/tournaments/off court trainings will dictate how the practice goes, and how we progress and improve.
I hope my tips were helpful. Comment and let me know of other things you do to make the most of practices!
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Building on the last few blog posts about training. I would like to move forward to the next topic – keeping training simple. This goes hand in hand with my past posts about focus and intentionality. It is another piece of the puzzle that I have been working on recently.
Keeping training simple has a few different aspects, and a lot of benefits. It is easy to waste a lot of time on the non essentials. I have found that in trying to fix everything at once I inevitably fix nothing. This means that the first step towards simplifying training is creating tangible and focused improvement goals. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say I need to fix my backhand side defense. Working with my coach I realize I have two major issues that are hindering all the rest. The first is a lack of strength in my left leg when I get low. The second is a technical issue of my contact with the shuttlecock. There could be lots of other things in my game that need fixed. Maybe I need a harder a smash, and need to come to the net faster. Those are things that will be addressed in “general training” all that time you spend on court doing various drills. But looking at my matches, perhaps I am rarely able to get into a position to smash and follow to the net quickly because I end up making errors on my backhand defense. To balance my game out I will spend a significant amount of time on my backhand defense.
Following the example above I would need to keep practices focused on one of two things, my leg strength, or my technical issues with my BH defense. I could separate these into two separate training sessions. Perhaps at home I could do pause lateral lunges and RLE split squats to build some leg strength. On the court I would break my practice into a very few drills to work on my BH defense.
I kept one goal at a time – BH defense. Then I broke that goal into two main parts, and separated them into different practices. I would follow that up and keep the number of exercises to a minimum as well. Pick the most efficient ways to improve and stick to those. Make sure the quality is really high and you are staying mentally focused. Time and energy are both limited. Make the best use of both and stay focused on the goal you set for yourself.
How do you keep your practices focused on specific goals? Let me know in the comments!
Onward and upward!
I wrote out this short simple footwork session for a few of my students, but realized it may be helpful to others as well. I encourage you to try it and let me know how it goes!
First off, why footwork?
Footwork is a few different things, but in large part it is a skill. Something that needs practiced and perfected. There is a physical and fitness element to it, as in all sports, but it is foremost a skill. The timing, rhythm, foot position, hip position etc are all critically important.
Whenever you do footwork you should give yourself specific skills to work on. For me during my footwork today I was working on the timing and push off my left foot. Watching my hip position and the timing of bringing my racket foot in towards the split step.
Warm Up – 2 rounds
10/side low lunge with reach
25 low squats
50 jumping jacks
Footwork 30 seconds rest between each set 20 sets of 20 corners
5 sets of 20 front 4 defense corners
5 sets of 20 late back court to late front court
5 sets 20 2 corner defense
5 sets of 20 defense and back court
3 rounds fitness
10/side bird dogs
10/side banded fire hydrant
50 skipping rope or pogo hops
10/side lateral lunges
Core 3 rounds
15 hollow rocks
25 Russian twists
20 plank shoulder touches
20 superman planks
You may notice that all the footwork for this session is defense position footwork. That was done on purpose as the goal was timing the push and finding that hip position in defense. I did my session in the grass. But you can do it in your garage, basement, living room, driveway, anywhere you can find space!
Don’t forget to stay low and push with the non racket foot, don’t pull with the racket foot!
If you have questions please comment below. Or tell me how your training is going during this period of physical isolation!
Onward and upward
You won’t improve alone. You need people to help you, and you need them to improve too.
The last few posts I have talked a lot about personal development. I want to take that a step farther and talk about team development, and why I think we all need a team with us, and behind us.
You can do a lot of work on your own. If you are really smart, you can do quite a large portion of work by yourself. In the gym, outside, even footwork. It is hard to go beyond just putting in work if you don’t have people behind you.
Having people behind you can look vastly different depending on your level, and your access to professional advice. As a junior athlete, and my first few years out of juniors I did not have a consistent coach that I worked with. From a very young age I made it a habit of connecting with coaches and athletes wherever I went. The majority of my years as a junior athlete I created all my own training plans and led my own practices. This meant that I relied heavily on the advice of other coaches and athletes. I would ask a load of questions every tournament. Talk to athletes, ask how they trained, and what they thought my biggest weaknesses were. I asked coaches how to improve and what I should fix before the next tournament. I created a network of people who helped me.
As I have improved and moved into international competition I found that I need a lot more input and the improvements were much smaller and more precise. Both on and off court. I am very thankful I found professionals to help guide my improvement. That is a story for another blog post. I began working with Gao badminton for my on court and Jeff at Sweaty Training for my off court training. Now I have people behind me, supporting me. But that is only half the story. The title includes the word “Team” and that is the critical next step.
You need good teammates to help you train – and you need them to be improving with you.
On court especially you need to have good people to train with, and compete with. You need people who will push you, feed you quality drills, and keep you accountable for always doing your best.
Having good teammates means being a good teammate, and fostering the kind of culture you want to train in. You want someone to feed you good drills, stay focused, and keep the quality high? Then make sure you aren’t slacking when it is your turn to feed. Do you want constructive criticism, and positive engagement? Make sure you are being constructive and positive.
Being the teammate you want to have around has other positive side effects. If you are focused during your time feeding drills you will find yourself improving more. You will also have teammates who are improving and helping push you more and more.
Improvement is multifaceted. There are a lot of things you do on your own, but there are also things you need other people for. It is important for me to be the kind of teammate I want around. It helps everyone, which in turn helps me.
Onward and upward folks!
Let me know what you think, and your own ideas for train in the comments.
It is time to put your ex’s texts and your poor grades on the back burner and put some work in.
Life is a confusing mess, full of things that require our attention and our loyalty. Take that from the kid who has played tournaments during moves, breakups, friend’s illnesses, family sickness, loss of friends, and pretty much anything else that could confuse or distract from performance.
All of those things in life are important, and worthy of your time, consideration, and energy. Sport is different though, it can’t be split up or divided. It cannot share headspace, and it requires attention to detail. This means several things to me. I can use sport to give myself a break from the confusion of whatever is happening outside. But I also can use it to train myself to focus on one thing at a time. The truth is that most things in life shouldn’t share headspace. Learning to focus on one thing at a time is an invaluable skill. Performance always requires undivided attention, sports included. The problem is, performance isn’t always our number one concern – it becomes such when we partake in things like sports, test taking, or flying helicopters.
Focusing at tournaments starts with focus at training. You need practice focusing intently. You also gain a lot more from training when you are focused well. We need to learn how to focus well!
I have been competing for a lot of years, been reading books on sports psychology for almost as many years, and I have a few tricks that work for me. However, like all things you will need to find what works for you. I am no sports psychologist, and while I have worked with a few, the following is simply an explanation of what works for me – don’t just mimic me, find your own set of tools!
Put the phone away! The first, and simplest thing I do before practice and before competition is put my phone away at least half an hour before I get on court. If it is a tournament often putting the phone away first thing in the morning helps me stay focused on competing.
Visualize. It is often the unknown that scares us. Visualizing helps run through every scenario. Have you ever been in a situation on court where you just lost three straight points and your tactics aren’t working? I have. The easiest solution is to run through the different possibilities before the match and contemplate how you will respond. That way whatever happens you have already been there. You aren’t unprepared and taken by surprise. You are mentally prepared and focused. You have been there before, and played it through,
Find something concrete to focus on. Don’t let the what-if’s get you off your game. Find something concrete to focus on. This plays out in several different ways for me. I often use my racket grip as my focal point. I feel it, and concentrate on its texture and position in my hand, as well as the tension in my hand. This helps me remain calm and in the moment. I also give myself specifics to focus on in the rally. Have I been giving away the net? Hanging back too far? Then I give myself the goal of taking control of the net and getting there early. Your mind can’t wander if it is working hard on something!
Breathing. There are lots of different breath protocols for efficient energy use, focus, remaining calm, getting pumped up, ect. But there are a few very simple things I try to focus on. Nasal breathing – between rallies using nasal breathing helps keep me calm while helping drop my heart rate. Hard exhales– get rid of that carbon dioxide! There are lots of other breathing techniques, but those two things help me the most.
Stay focused, stay in the moment!
Hopefully this was insightful and interesting. Have your own techniques for staying focused? Share them in the comments!
Onward and upward!
Made a short video about a training session! Check it out. If you like it, click like and subscribe!
Training is always tough. Sometimes you get worse before you get better. I feel that these days. I have been spending a lot of time working on certain skills, but finding myself playing with less intensity than I want. It takes time for those skills to become solidified and habitual.
However, with a few tournaments under my belt I am feeling more confident and comfortable playing again.
I qualified for all three events at the Yonex K&D Graphic USA International Challenge. I am playing doubles with Imran Wadia and mixed doubles with Isabelle Rusli. But before that I am playing the Yonex Alberta Elite Series.
Thanks for your support!
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The life of a coach is nomadic, and the life of an athlete is more so. I have been traveling a lot since I returned from Jamaica mid March. In fact I was home less than twelve hours after landing from Jamaica before heading up to northern Manitoba to OCN. The next weekend I was in Thunder Bay playing a fun tournament and making contacts for future clinics and coaching. From there I went to Minneapolis to play a tournament. I did okay there making semis in both singles and doubles and winning the mixed consul. Two days later I was on the road to Calgary, where I am now.
Minneapolis came quickly on the heels of the other trips. It ended up being a great tournament and I got to test my on court training and fitness. The training with Sweaty Training really showed as I was able to compete in three events without crashing. However, I made a lot of mistakes and struggled with some of the shots that are my bread and butter. This makes me even happier to be working these days with Gao Badminton in Calgary on my on court game.
I am excited to be working on the on-court part of my game with Coach Gao and Gao Badminton as well as helping coach the team. The opportunity to train and coach is huge. Gao Badminton has been generous in their support of me which I am very grateful for.
I am continuing to work with Jeff at Sweaty Training to improve my fitness and strength. There is always a gym nearby and always work to be done!
Brazil International Challenge is coming up the first week in May and I am hoping to be playing my best by then. The draw is tough this year and I am only in the qualifying draw this time.
Thank you to everyone for your support!
Onward and upward!
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,”
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.
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.