Austria Open in Graz was a wonderful experience. The city itself is beautiful, and the hall is great. I went straight from the airport to the hall and got 2 separate 1 hour practices in the day before my match. The shuttles we got at the venue were not the babolot shuttles we ended up playing with. They were a mix of Victor and Yonex. The morning of my match I woke up feeling super sluggish, drank my coffee and did my routine, and knowing I was feeling sluggish I went the venue early and did a much longer than normal warm up. However first hit on the court I could tell the shuttles were insanely fast Babolot shuttles that flipped weird. I didn’t control the shuttle well and soon found myself trailing by quite a lot. I quickly let my frustration get the better of me and the match slipped away. I spent a few hours afterwards very upset, frustrated, and disappointed in myself. Right after the match another athlete came and talked to me, and said that he felt I needed to focus on being positive and looking at the things I did well instead of the things that were not going well. I had some good reminders from my coach as well not to waste energy on the negative and to instead focus on solutions, which thankfully I found, at least in part, in the next match in Bonn Germany.
In Bonn the venue was quite small, and we used Yonex shuttles, something I am much more used to. Though my first opponent had had some very good recent results, I was focused on playing well, and staying focused, and keeping the negative self talk at bay. I won my first match quite well, though I squandered a huge lead in the second set, and ended up winning quite close in two sets, I felt I played the way I needed to. Second match I played decently well, and had a close back and forth match where I made a few unfortunate errors that cost me the match in the end.
Sports is hard, and development is hard. Not every day is a good day, and sometimes, even when we have good days we cannot quite manage the win. But we keep striving forward! I have Danmark Masters this week, and hope to bring my best game- but one day at time. First some coaching and training today!
The Luxembourg International has to be one of the most challenging events I have faced recently due to a large number of factors. I flew in from Jamaica, boarded three different flights that I then had to get off of due to mechanical or crew issues, was delayed by more than a day, and missed my scheduled practice. I got less than half an hour on the main courts before my match. Despite my best efforts to plan for a day and a half to practice and recover from travel, and trying to set myself up to play well things didn’t go as planned. I did my best to shake the travel out of my legs, and compete, but I have never gotten on court feeling so sluggish and exhausted. I had 50 hours of travel, and no sleep weighing my legs down and it showed. I had a very winnable match against Spain in singles, but couldn’t pull it off. Lots to learn, and nothing to it but pushing forward for the next one!
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There has been a lot going on, and I have been working hard to improve different aspects of my game, especially the mental side of the game. Playing in Europe for the past couple months really opened my eyes to different to parts of my game. I was really happy to go to Guatemala and win my first two matches taking me into the quarter finals. A lot of small pieces started falling into place. I made different errors in my quarter final, which just means more work to be done.
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After a long run in Europe I was barely home a week before heading to Aguascalientes for the Mexico Challenge. I won my first singles against Mexico and then lost a tough game against Japan. In doubles we won a tough game but lost in three sets to Guatemala in a match that was very disappointing to lose. We had a good chance but couldn’t manage it in the end.
Thankful to be competing again. My time in Denmark training and competing turned out to be very profitable as I slowly match by match fix things that were identified while I was there.
I can’t do this alone. Thanks to my sponsors Yonex Canada, Sweaty Training and Conditioning, Dynamic Athletic Therapy and Chiropractic, Supplement King Steinbach, and many individuals. If you want to help me out send me a message or check out my gofundme
The airport in Amsterdam was exactly what I expected, – classic colors, odd white toilets, and lots of lights. The customs officers didn’t even glance my way as I walked through, and immigration officer simply smiled at me and stamped my passport with a “enjoy your stay in Netherlands,” Her smile matched her accent – long and carefully pronounced.
The lady who helped with my train ticket walked me through the changes and how the train worked. And while the different sized euro bills make a mash of your wallet most things worked smoothly.
The things I didn’t expect were the lush jungle like farmland filled with little sheep, the way people wear winter parkas on summer like days through the sunshine, or how no one is ever remotely on time. The last one surprised me the most.
The little tiny roads, and electric super slim semi trucks fit right in with the little electric cars and tiny fences and quaint little houses. The tall talkative people that can swap between more languages than I can count in brought up self made memories of every spy book I have read.
I didn’t spend much time in Amsterdam as the tournament was in Almere. Almere, an Uber driver told me, is only 40 years old. The whole city, from the land it was built on is new. “Here in Holland we even build our own land,” he told me.
The Venue for the BWF Yonex Dutch Open was beautiful. 4 courts in a wonderful stadium. The shuttles were a little slow, but nothing aggressive. White seating meant it was hard to see when there weren’t many fans.
In the same building but across the hallway was another gym with 16 practice courts. An amazing set-up which allowed us to practice twice a day on the lead up to the tournament as well as every morning before matches began.
I played against a player from India with the trickiest hands I have faced. A few things became really clear watching the video of myself losing – I need more speed, and more attack. While I rallied well with, and the game had its ups and downs, and there were definitely some tactical errors on my part, the biggest thing that stuck out to me was that when I built myself the chance in the rally I wasn’t speeding up enough to take advantage of it. There were other technical and tactical things of course, which will be added to my training. But thats a whole other story!
In doubles we won our first match against a Netherland and Irish pair, and then lost out to a faster paced Malaysian pair.
The Dutch Open moved my ranking up to 267 in the world.
I am currently in Czech Republic for the BWF Li-Ning Czech International Series. I play my first doubles at 9am local time on Thursday, and then my singles at 1:40pm.
Thank you everyone for your support!
If you would like to help me on my journey financially you can contact me about sponsorship opportunities or donate through this LINK.
Learning doesn’t happen overnight – sometimes it takes some hard losses.
After almost two years of not competing I flew to Aguascalientes to compete in the Mexico International Challenge. After a long day of travel I arrived about half hour too late to practice due to covid cleaning. The following day I had one practice scheduled. We were given Yonex AS 40 shuttlecocks for practice. Fast, but lightly tipped were very controllable.
Once the games started it was announced they ran out of Yonex shuttles, and would be using Trekke birds which had been used for the two week training camp that had happened before the tournament. These were tipped half way down the feather and flipped quite different and were hard to control.
My game lasted over an hour. I struggled to control the bird and used mostly neutral shots trying not to make errors while my opponent played freely. While a disappointing and frustrating loss I left excited to train and with some clear goals to reach.
Two weeks later I spent 26 hours in transit to go to Guatemala City for the Guatemala International Series. Another adventure ensued as flights were delayed, airport shuttles never arrived and there were issues with hotel bookings. Eventually I got on court for my match, won my first game, and then in another three set battle that turned out to be mostly mental on my end I lost to fellow Canadian Kevin Lee whom I had beaten in our last meeting. I had fixed many of the technical and physical issues that had plagued me, but my mental rhythm for matches severely lacked. I played focused, but often focused on the wrong things. Overthinking or playing too many different tactics at once.
I returned to Manitoba with a lot to work on, mostly mental. Lots to do with tactics and building the mental side of what to focus on when.
These two tournaments helped me reach a ranking of 278 in the world. Which means I am part of the way back to where I was pre covid shutdown.
Covid has been tough on everyone, and taking an almost two year break from competition definitely has its downfalls. Lack of match practice and tournament practice is one of them. But there are perks as well. I have made gains on my fitness and movement and my training has improved. I am injury free, and haven’t been sick or missed practice in a long time.
If you want to watch the Mexico and Guatemala matches you can find them below.
If you would like to help me on my journey financially you can contact me about sponsorship opportunities or donate through this LINK.
Each tournament experience is greatly influenced by the reality of being in a specific country. Performance, however much it shouldn’t be, is often affected by the circumstances surrounding competition. Such was the case when I played the BWF Future Series in the beautiful city of Habana Cuba back in 2018.
I flew in from Brazil after playing the BWF Brazil International Challenge. It was an exhausting 23-hour trip that took me from Campinas, Brazil to Sao Paulo, Miami, Panama City, and finally to Habana. I landed in Havana almost seven hours late. The airport had low ceilings, not quite enough lights, and the once-white floors looked dull brown. I stood in the Delta Service line waiting for my delayed bags until a little lady with no English grabbed my arm and brought me behind the counter, yelled at a few employees, and grabbed my bag from under a counter. She half dragged me through Customs and Immigration, waving her badge as we avoided the lines completely. She told me in Spanish that a truck would come get me.
By now it was almost two in the morning. I sat on the curbside until the airport emptied and all the little shops and money changers closed and waved their goodbyes. Finally, with the moon hiding behind the clouds and me sitting under the lone street light that lit the entrance of the airport, I saw headlights from a rattling truck. They picked me up, took me downtown, and dropped me off in front of a bullethole-ridden white concrete hotel with chipped pillars and left-over orange paint sticking in odd patches to the walls. It might be important to note that I did not stay in one of the tournament hotels in the tourist district. I instead opted for the cheaper option downtown, which was also recommended by the tournament organizers.
My reservation, which had been done by phone due to the lack of internet in Havana, had somehow been lost but they found me a room. I had not drank water in many hours, and asked for a bottle. After multiple “no’s” the hostess found a 500ml bottle of water and gave it to me.
I carried my bag up a long flight of chipped stairs. Every floor boasted groups of young teens drinking, smoking, and often dancing to the claps of their peers. Several young men asked me for my bottle of water. I joked that I would trade it for their whiskey, but kept the water to myself.
After finding my room, I settled onto a moth-eaten bed and shut off the single light in my room. Moments later there came pounding on my door.
“American, American!” The slurred words came from outside.
I hesitantly opened the door. “Si?” I answered to a young, shirtless boy and a girl who hung off shoulder, both obviously drunk.
“Can we have some of your bottled water?” they asked.
“I am sorry, I drank it already,” I replied, and gently shut the door with a small wave.
The next day, after using the hotel phone many times to call the tournament organizers, no shuttle came to take me to the venue. I waited many hours at the front of the hotel. Finally I took a taxi to the venue because I had practice courts reserved, only to find the venue was not set up but completely locked up.
I returned to the hotel and ate the included dinner, which, though cold, was a tasty variety of meat and beans and rice.
The next day, in an attempt to get to the venue, I called the tournament organizers multiple times from the hotel payphone to no avail. The guard, seeing my frustration, managed to get a hold of someone on the office phone and tell them I was trying to reach the venue. 1:00 pm they said. At 4:00 pm no one had come for me and I asked the guard to call again. You get the idea, it took awhile.
The day of the first round came. I got picked up in a rattling white van with no air-conditioning. We wove our way through picturesque cobblestone roads, old concrete houses with chipped paint and blue tarp covered windows. Then we sped down a long hill surrounded by giant trees, by a zoo, and finally to the venue.
We arrived an hour and a half before my first match. The venue was an old dome building with a large scattering of skylights. I asked to pay my registration fee, which I was told I could not do yet.
After a long warm-up, I was ready to play.
They called my match at 10:30 am, right on schedule. I went to the staging area. I waited almost twenty minutes, still warming up. The referee wandered up casually. “You know,” he said looking away, “we cannot call your match until you pay your registration.”
I explained my attempts to pay and that the organizers were waiting for someone who could take my money.
He nodded. “Ok, no problem. You will play next match.”
The next match came and went, and my warm-up became a workout as I attempted to keep my body prepared to play. By now, the temperature had risen to the high thirties — Celsius of course. My water was becoming depleted, and there were no nearby shops to buy more.
At noon a man walked up to me and said I could pay him for both the hotel and the registration fee. I had USD for the registration fee, but had been told I could pay for the hotel with a credit card. To this he explained I would need to pay both with Cuban currency.
The price he gave me was nearly seven times the price quoted in the prospectus and it was needed in currency I did not have access to.
By the time we sorted it out and re-translated the prospectus, it was 1:30 in the afternoon. I had finished my water and eaten a Cliff bar because I was starving. We took off to the bank to exchange my American currency for Cuban dollars.
The bank was a hole-in-the-wall concrete building surrounded by armed guards. We waited over an hour in awkward silence outside before being ushered in by guards. Multiple different guards counted my money, and then several attendants recounted it behind the bullet proof glass.
I got back to the gymnasium at 3:00pm, hungry and dehydrated to the point of a headache.
“Half hour!” said the referee. “We want you on the tv court!”
Dizzy from dehydration, hungry, and thoroughly frustrated, I lost my match.
I rebooked my ticket home for the next day with a new appreciation of focus under pressure and in difficult circumstances.
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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If you would like to purchase on or off court programming, virtual coaching or match analysis email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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!