Yonex K&D Graphic USA International

Going to the LA for the USA International tournaments is always a highlight as I get to see family from my mom’s side. But it is also a great opportunity to catch up with my friends from Pan America and Europe as most of them enjoy coming to the USA. This year had result highlights as well as I made the quarter final in Men’s Singles. I knew before leaving for LA that the tournament was going to be hard for me because the draw I had was really tough. I played the number two seed of the tournament from Peru in the first round. Daniel La Torre Regal is a great athlete. I won in a tough three set match. After losing the first quite badly I pulled my game together and fought to a win in an exhausting hour plus long match.

In the second round I played a fellow Canadian. In the first set I came from 20-18 behind to win, only to lose the second 26-24 after having a game point at 20-19. I was able to really push forward, using my physical game to win the third. However,  early in the third set I slipped quite badly and smashed my heel. In the adrenaline of the match I felt only minor pain and pushed through it. However the next morning I was barely able to walk. I did all I knew for recovery, and went to the tournament doctor to get cold spray and everything possible before my quarter final match. I attempted to play through. Sadly after the first smash it was apparent I could not move without extreme pain. I played through the match to avoid the fine for withdrawing, (which I was later found I was misinformed about) but was unable to put up any kind of fight.

The ranking points I earned should put me between 280 and 290 in the world. I should find out this coming week.  A first time breaking 300 in world in men’s singles! It is still a long ways to go to top 100 which is needed for Olympic qualification. But as funds comes in I will continue to play tournaments and gain ranking, and see what comes next.

Being in Manitoba has been a hard transition in some ways. Training hasn’t always gone as planned, but I thought it was the next move for me. There have been some huge positives from the coaching side including working up north on reservations. On the training side I have run into some obstacles. I have been focusing on improving my fitness– the 1% I have control of now. Both my matches ended with my fitness being a key component to finishing out the three sets. It is a neat confirmation that I am moving the right direction.


I am doing all I can to get my foot to heal, while coaching this week in Winnipeg. Next week I head to Calgary to coach for Gao badminton.

 

If you would like to support my journey you can email me, or donate at the GofundMe  set up to help me.

Thank you to everyone helping and supporting me!

Kevin

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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Brazil International

Brazil International

Yesterday my play at Brazil International ended with a tough loss to Italy in the last 32. I gained 920 world ranking points in the process.

I am really pleased with the training and my adjustments that I made here, as well as my overall competition performance. Losing is never fun, but I am playing at a good level, and only improving. I am pleased to be competing with people who train full time and compete at three or four times as many International events as me. This is a good sign. I am doing the right things and making progress.

I leave on Sunday for Cuba. Looking forward to improving on my performance and continuing to push my limits.

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I have a long journey in front of me–good thing I like to sweat! haha. If you are interested in supporting me, check out my gofundme. or email me at kibarkman@gmail.com.

Thank you everyone.

 

Lilac Tournament

This past weekend was the Spokane Lilac Badminton Tournament. It was a great tournament with a real highlight being the participation of Olympian Toby Ng. The Spoksman review wrote up a great article on the tournament as well which can be found here.

In the end I lost to Toby in both singles and mixed doubles finals, but won the men’s doubles with him.

I love the atmosphere of small tournaments. Everyone was friendly and relaxed. The competition was great, but at the end of the day we are all friends.

Eric Lee and all the volunteers did an amazing job of organizing the event and keeping it running smoothly.

Since the US Open I could see an improvement in strength, which was an encouragement. It’s always encouraging to see some things moving forward. I thank Workoutanywhere, Rundlefit- Justin and Jessica Rundle for those improvements. They have been great working with me daily to improve my physical game. There is still a lot to be done, but forward motion is the first step! My shot quality was quite low this tournament due to not having much on court training recently, but hopefully I can move forward with that as well. One step at a time.

Toby is always a great athlete to learn from and after our matches he gave me a lot of great advice to help me move forward. Key number one: don’t show emotion to your opponent. When you do, you feed their mental game, giving them an edge. I have a lot to work on before my next event. I am excited to be back at training.

My next event planned is the K&D Graphic USA international tournament on December 14-18, if possible. If you want to help me get there check out my gofund me page here

Thanks to all my sponsors and the individuals who are making this possible.

When Things Aren’t Perfect

If there is one excuse I have heard way too often, and (shamefully) even used myself on too many occasions it is “Things aren’t perfect. I don’t have the resources, the training, I don’t have the right opportunities.” It’s a valid excuse, if you want to justify not making it.

There are a few people in my life who have looked me straight in the eye and told me I had no excuses. The first were my parents. But more recently it was David Snider, Andrew Dabeka, and Toby Ng. All three are athletes who made it themselves. When I was 18, it was David Snider who first told me that whatever I did have was my strength. So, I didn’t live in the city getting on court all the time: shape my game, learn to run, learn to love pain, become something that no one else could – have a heart and soul grown on the prairies working hard. I took that to heart, and though many days I didn’t live up to my own expectations, the other days I spent barefoot in the grass doing footwork, and when winter hit I learned to run through the snow, dragging tires, running in snow drifts, anything that created that pain that I had learned to love.

Of course, I failed again later on, coming into nationals as the number one seed, I lost focus and beat myself soundly in the quarter finals. A loss that still haunts me.

Then came Toby Ng. His words were not so prairie-like, or harsh. He simply asked what I could have that no one else had. How much of my heart did I leave on court? How much effort did I put into doing things correctly, into learning from those who came before me? How badly did I want it? I was inspired, but lost out first round at the Canada and US Open. Frustrated because I felt I couldn’t keep birds in the court and I couldn’t leave it all on the court if I couldn’t even get into the rallies.

Toby didn’t give up on me, though. I had a chance to hang out and talk to him the rest of the tournament and instead of telling me that because I couldn’t get on court I just couldn’t be at that level, he asked what I could do to fix the problems I had. He asked me a question. “Would I give what it took to get what I needed? Could I take a leap of faith and see where it ended me?” (this should really be in italics, maybe?)

Into this convoluted mix of failure and effort and a desperate need to improve but feeling like I was spinning my wheels, came Andrew Dabeka. He didn’t question my ability, didn’t ask if I had enough heart in me, didn’t help me solve the riddle of the worthwhilness of pouring my soul into a sport when I was barely over average. He was pretty straight forward: if I wanted it bad enough I would put the work in, and the work would pay off, and if I loved it that much, then it pretty much had to be worthwhile. He told me to spend my time wisely, to train smart, and imparted so much wisdom, all of it crucial in my growth as an athlete. But one thing that stuck out to me was his statement about the worth of what I was doing. In a world full of critics it’s easy to doubt what you are doing. Everyone else my age has a degree, they are working jobs, have money, the full kit. Here I am, doing what I love, working my butt off for it, and people ask what I am doing that is worthwhile. Dabeka said it well. “Do you love it? Do you love it enough to get there? Then it’s worth all the effort you put in.”

That’s the inspiration, the people who kept me motivated when sometimes I felt like giving up. But what about the practical level? What do I do every day to make sure I am moving forward?

It’s not easy to come up with a plan to guarantee success. And when you don’t have the resources, it’s even harder to know what will make or break your career. There are a few things I always try to keep in mind. Smart training, greatest opportunity, and what is that one thing that is hindering all other growth?

Smart training- this is a rather broad idea, maybe too broad for a paragraph in a blog post. But the idea is, don’t get injured, and use the resources around you to make sure you use your time efficiently. In the words of Toby Ng “if you only have half hour on court, what would you do?” It’s a pretty simple question with huge ramifications. If you only have half an hour on court would you use it hitting net spins? Most likely not. What is the one thing you need to change right now for the biggest growth in your game? Do that.

Greatest opportunity. This is something that David Snider was really big on. What do you have? You live in the country surrounded by fields and hay bales? Well, then the biggest opportunity is fitness. Find that one thing that is the biggest opportunity where you live, grow and build off of that.

One thing hindering growth – For me at the US and Canadian Open this year there was a glaring flaw in my game – being passive. Why? Where did it come from? Well, the root cause was my moving slowly to the net. I ended up playing a scramble game because I wasn’t coming fast into the net. No matter how much I worked on jumping back to my around-the-head corner for smashing, I wasn’t playing any more aggressively because without taking the net I had no opportunity to attack. This one piece of my game was hindering all the rest of my play. I couldn’t use my height from the back, couldn’t counter attack against weak attack, couldn’t push my opponent out of position. All because of one weakness. Identifying and fixing this allows for other things to grow as well.