The Secret Life of a Canadian Badminton Player

Before you let the click bait title fool you, I’m not a particularly ‘fun’ person (whatever that means). So please don’t expect a story of me running around the city at night in a costume fighting crime, or going treasure hunting for lost relics in the exotic places I compete in. As cool as those concepts are, I prefer to focus on personal growth and development, continuing education, ongoing learning, listening to audiobooks, reading books and other educational material. Don’t get me wrong! I still play video games, watch movies, and spend time with my lovely girlfriend, but let’s be realistic:

How do I find success as a Canadian badminton player if we have less resources than most other countries around the globe?

Let me ask a few questions:

1) Is it possible to achieve the standard that Sport Canada wants us to achieve (pick a number; hint: less than 10) while concurrently in school? If you said yes, what was the highest world ranking of the last Canadian student athlete in badminton?

 2) If you train full time, what is the minimum amount of hours necessary to train at to achieve a significant world ranking? Additionally, how many players or coaches are needed, and what level do they have to be at for maximal results? Final question: how many of those places exist in Canada today?

 3) What is the minimal budget required to achieve a significant World Ranking? For those who don’t know, World Ranking is based on your top 10 international results within a single calendar year. What is the general average number of tournaments the other top countries play in the Top 10, and how much would it cost to compete in that many tournaments?

4) How many years of training and experience does it take to get into a significant World Ranking? What happens if partners change in partner events?

5) How much more work is required when players have to manage themselves, versus belonging to a fully supported National team? What are the PROS and CONS of being independent and on your own?

 A recent article by the National Post looks at the current funding model and how it relates to recent success of Athletics Canada. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Funding models have been altered to funnel the bulk of government money toward those athletes with the best chance of making it to podiums, while leaving much less money for those who might be the best in their country at a particular discipline, but not among the world’s elite. First in Canada, but 57th in the world? No money for you.

It’s a controversial system, and rightly so, but no one is apologizing for it. “They hired me to get more medals,” Eriksson says. “Getting more medals means you have to have a different mindset.” It is, he says, a “pretty hard-nosed, cutthroat approach.”

I’m impressed by the results of Athletics Canada and I wish them and their athletes the best! From the looks of the article, they know what they are doing, and it’s working. However, I personally feel we are lacking direction for badminton. Do we blame Badminton Canada, our province, our coaches, our teammates, our lack of funding, our environment, or even ourselves? When it comes to wanting changes, it is best to begin with ourselves, and I begin with personal growth and development. For example:

There’s nobody to train with, that’s why I’ll never be a good player.

I often find that this is the case and it’s difficult to find people of your own caliber to train with, almost to the point it feels like there’s no benefit in training with weaker players or those in another event. However, to change yourself first, you must change your perspective and even though you are the stronger player, you must learn to reach out and ask for help. Only after you do that, will you be able to change the other players, to help in their development, which will help yourself in the very end. You create a win-win situation where you get to train, and they get to learn and grow from training with you.

Once you accept the fact that you don’t know everything and there is always room to grow, you take responsibility for yourself and the direction you are headed. However, this is a double edged sword because there is such a thing as bad advice. If you are constantly around people who don’t value personal growth and development, where do you think their information is coming from? Personal growth and development is uncomfortable, as you have to constantly put yourself in discomfort to achieve a greater goal in the future. It is delaying early gratification (e.g. watching a movie) by taking effort to do something that offers a larger reward in the future (e.g. reading a non-fiction book). It takes substantial willpower to begin, so go at it slowly but surely so that you don’t burn out and give up too soon. How different is it from training consistently over a year, instead of training like crazy a month before the National Championships? Procrastination can happen in badminton as well.

To keep this blog post from getting far too long (again… -_-), I’d like to highlight some fun facts and their possible connections to badminton. I was fortunate to get to go to the 2015 USANA International Convention and the 2015 Northwest Regional NSCA Conference in the past 2 weeks. I’m also in the middle of a fitness business program, and in the middle of a few books. My only goal is to be a better version of the person I see in the mirror every day…

10 Fun Facts:

1) Nutrition may play a key role in providing antioxidants against free radicals and decrease overall inflammation in the body. However, due to nutrient depletion in foods today, supplementation with supplements that have quality raw materials and quality manufacturing are more likely to provide noticeable results.

In badminton, I often travel for competition and often times I don’t get access to the foods I can eat at home. Additionally, it may not be safe to eat everything in some countries, especially salads that may be washed with local tap water, or even fruit smoothies with blended ice. Eating poorly throughout a week of competition can definitely affect performance, and that’s why I put my trust in USANA supplements: high quality, clean ingredients, and safe for sport.

2) Protecting the skin (i.e the ‘outside’) can allow better protection on the ‘inside’. For example, in countries that have a lot of sun, neglecting sun damage to the skin may cause extra resources to be allotted to repairing the ‘outside’, which takes away resources from the ‘inside’.

Skincare is something I’ve often neglected, mainly because I’m a guy (or I’m ignorant), but I’m starting to learn the benefits of having improved skincare. I always believed that exercise is also good for the skin, but I’m currently trying out USANA’s Sensé skincare line, which gives antioxidant protection for my face against UV-A rays (can cause aging), and UV-B rays (can cause burning).

3) 7 Leadership Pitfalls (by Christina Tseng):

  • Lose heart
  • Compare yourself with others
  • Don’t take action
  • Blame everyone but yourself
  • Wallow in guilt and self-doubt
  • Don’t attend events
  • Pretend to be doing business.

In badminton, I’ve faced leadership problems because I used to believe teams should have shared responsibilities. However, when nobody is willing to take the lead, the team is often stuck with little means of improving. I’ve been guilty of many of these pitfalls, and analogies of #6 and #7 would be not participating in tournaments, and pretending to be a world-class player by riding on my past results, instead of trying to achieve new ones. The result of these leadership pitfalls is that there is a loss of vision.

4) Know your numbers! No matter what you do, keeping track of your numbers are important, whether it be your job, business, sport, finances, etc. The best way to track progress is keeping a tab on your results, because the data will paint your best picture.

For example, I need to keep track of my finances and see how much money everything is costing me, so I have a better idea to plan tournaments based on my funding allows for (which is currently very little). I keep numbers on my key lifts in the weight room, so I have an idea of what percentage I am working out with to best match the phase I want to be training in. If you want to lose weight, the best suggestion for a lot of people is to simply keep a food diary.

5) “More people will die from over-nutrition (obesity) than undernutrition (starvation).” – from Brian Dixon, Ph.D

6) “Are we living too short & dying too long?” – from Libby Weaver, Ph.D.

Although her workshop was mostly nutrition oriented, she had an intriguing point about how a positive attitude and kindness can be a powerful way to relieve stress. Generally, we can only have a singular focus (multitasking is a myth), and what we focus on is what we feel. So if we feel more grateful for the good things we have in life, then we can’t be stressed!

7) According to Darren Hardy, there are 4 Essential Skills of a successful business: 1) Best Product, 2) Leadership, 3) Sales & Marketing, and 4) Highest Margin. Which is the most important of the 4? SALES & MARKETING. Additionally, he included his 4 Rules of Selling:

  • Stop ‘selling’. Start ‘helping’.
  • Stop ‘pushing’. ‘Pull’ out their objectives instead.
  • Stop selling to the wrong people. It’s not who YOU want, but who wants YOU.
  • Stop selling the wrong product. You are selling YOU. Sales are not made by what you say, but instead who you are.

Perhaps it’s time to take a shift in perspective. If I can make these changes in myself, then I can convince my teammates to make that shift. Then we can influence our coaches. Then we can influence our clubs. Then we can influence the Provincial organisation, then the National organisation, then who knows? If badminton is seen as a sport that is not physically challenging, should we not become players with a highly physical profile first? Having the physical looks and traits of an elite athlete does not guarantee success in badminton, but are you more likely to be successful if you are not? If you compared the physical profiles of the Top 10 in the World in each event, how do we compare as Canadian badminton players?

8) Speed training should not be combined with lactate threshold training. When technique fails, stop: quality is KEY. ‘To be fast, you must train fast.’ – from Scott Herbert, CSCS, NSCA-CPT on speed development.

How can we apply this to badminton training? I would think there are certain patterns that may warrant this type of speed, such as a smash followed by a net kill. However, what happens when we make it a multi-shuttle drill where the pattern is repeated 10-15 times per set? Would that not include lactate threshold training or technique that gradually starts to fail? If we do the same pattern continuously, we will not be training as fast as possible, and when it comes time to compete, we will be at a speed that is not at a maximum, hence giving the opponent a better chance to defend against such a pattern. How often do we go through patterns half-heartedly and wonder why we can’t execute our patterns and techniques in a tournament situation?

9) ‘Balance training should avoid unstable surfaces or eyes-closed, unless it is sport specific’ – from Grace Golden, PhD, CSCS.

Although I’m not sure about my stance if it’s for rehabilitation, I agree that balance training should be done on the floor, and there are numerous ways of challenging balance without having to resort to fancy contraptions and unstable surfaces. Although it’s cool to do a squat on a Swiss ball, it really has no transfer toward any competition scenario. Some ways of challenging balance are using a split stance (one leg forward, one leg back), or a 1-leg stance.

10) ‘Equipment adaptations may not be responsive to cuing if equipment is deemed inappropriate. The central nervous system (CNS) prefers less variable things (ie. more predictable). Variability of training environment should be carefully considered.’ – from Daehan Kim, MS, CSCS.

This questions the benefit of modified equipment, such as heavy racquets in badminton. I would postulate that a heavy racquet, if heavy enough, would change certain swing mechanics, and it would be closer to modifying the stroke to compensate for the weight. If the racquet is too heavy, it is likely that the stroke will be larger to compensate for the difference. After going back to the normal racquet, the swing needs to be slightly adjusted again. If the point is true that the CNS prefers less variability, I would think that the overall feeling of control and accuracy in the stroke may be compromised, for the perception that there is now increased power. Even if there is some kind of post-activation potentiation effect, it may not help the delicate touch shots or even make them worse. Perhaps a good way to test is to hit drives with a heavy racquet for a certain period of time, then test it on serve quality (compared to hitting drives with the normal racquet). Maybe it can be my Master thesis someday?

I hope you enjoyed these fun facts and I hope you can take away something from today’s blog post! I will be focusing on my matches in Guatemala for now, and be sure to look for a tournament follow up sometime next week! If you haven’t already, I hope you develop your own secret life of personal growth and development, and I wish you all the best in your journey!

Thanks for checking out my blog and I a big thank you to those who took the time to read it!

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