2018 Nationals Recap

The 2018 Canadian National Championships have come to an end, with our national champions crowned, some old, some new. I finished with a bronze in Mixed Doubles, and although the result may not seem satisfying, I'm very grateful for the opportunity to play with Michelle Li! I don't necessarily consider this "positive thinking", but you can label it however you like. The fact of the matter was that I would have only played MD if she just wanted to play WS, so I'm grateful for getting to play, as I know there are people who want to play XD, but can't find a partner.

Despite the results not showing on paper, I really consider this tournament a personal win in many ways. I had a great opportunity to do some coaching as well, as you will not see other players doing the same thing. I also ended up deciding to run as the Vice President (West) of the Badminton Canada Players Association, and I would like to congratulate Michelle Li for being president, and Philippe Charron for being VP (East).

There was a National Team Camp from Monday to Wednesday following Nationals, which mostly involved fitness and technical testing. It was interesting to get a chance to experience these tests at least once, and I can see that they have already made some adjustments in some of the physical tests. Although it may seem that I'm not supportive of testing, I actually think it is a very necessary thing especially in high performance sport. Where I draw the line is that I am very much against testing that doesn't give you proper information, because the time and resources spent testing things that don't really matter is a waste of opportunity.

There were many tasks throughout the camp that I questioned, or even pushed back against. For example, I was heavily against the idea of reflecting on a time where I prepared well, or had a very good match. I understand that elements of the exercise was something to help boost one's self-esteem, but what is the difference between boosting self-esteem and inflating ego? 

"When we remove ego, we're left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes - but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen. Confidence is earned." - Ryan Holiday in Ego is the Enemy

I have watched myself compete more than a decade, and even today, there are times that I felt that I played better than I did on camera. This year's Nationals was no exception. I prepared well for the tournament, and I felt like I played well. I was ready. But I didn't do as well as I wanted to. So was it that I didn't do the right thing, or was it that my memory or feeling of how I played was skewed? So to all the other athletes that did the exercise, how certain are you of how you actually competed? For most people, they remember a good win, but can they be biased by the outcome? Hindsight is always 20/20.

That's why I was very much against the exercise, despite some of the eye rolls I received. "Toby's complaining again." "Why can't he just cooperate?" "Is he just doing this to try to look smart?" On the contrary, much of what I do is to become smarter. If I am wrong about this, perhaps I can learn from the situation, but what if I was right? Who gets to learn then? You're welcome.

I would like to believe that our best match is the match we haven't played yet. After competing for so long, I look at my past results and realized that we typically end up changing our styles of play with time. I would hope so, because we train and learn to get better. I would only hope we become better, which is why it seems like a waste to live in a past experience. And I can extend that to those struggling with that athlete identity once they retire from competition. I think I might be nearing that point and it is scary to think that I have to go out and start again in something else. But that's just reality. Why would I want to hide behind my ego and live in those glory days? Perhaps having that beginner's mindset is what we need to have, but all the time. There are so many cool things to learn, and I'll be damned if I stay stubborn, full of pride, and living in my past glory days. And I can say this because I'm near the end of my career: enjoy the process, because life itself is a process and the only known outcome is death.

So I would offer an alternative exercise: remember a time where you were in a bad place, but you overcame it. Whether it was through your own doing, through someone else, or by sheer stroke of luck. There were many valleys in my competitive career, but they passed. There were peaks too, but they also passed. The idea is that you want to create peaks that are higher than they ever were before. So take that memory of how you played, and then go make it better. How can you beat that? Now that's a high performance mindset.

There wasn't too much badminton in the camp, unfortunately, as most of the time was spent testing or doing a media event on the Tuesday morning to promote the 2018 World Junior Championships in Markham. At the end of Tuesday, we went to Canadian Sport Institute - Ontario to go through our fitness testing results and did a cooking workshop. So of course, I was "that guy" again, asking questions when things didn't make sense to me. Sure, sometimes it may feel like I'm challenging the person speaking, but many of those questions are based on my prior beliefs, and if I need to update my information, questions become quite serious because I want to upgrade my understanding. 

What really irks me though is when someone tells me to listen to someone because they are an "expert". Would I be an expert in badminton? So do you want to know my "expert opinion" on what I think of these fitness and technical tests? And if you cryogenically froze me and woke me up 50 years later, would you still trust me as an expert in badminton? I wouldn't trust me neither. And if we look at this logically, what separates one expert from the other? Do we get "senior experts"? So if we take the "10 000 Hour" Rule, is someone with 30 000 hours an expert^3?

If we start generalizing the Strength & Conditioning and the nutrition across all of our disciplines, when why don't we coach everyone to train the same way? Even if we trained in the same event, many people still train differently based on their unique needs. So why is it that we teach S&C and nutrition as a group and not respect that individual athletes will have individual needs? What's the expert opinion on that?

I always believed that the best find ways to learn from the mistakes of other people. I have made a fair share of mistakes, and I hope that someone else might learn from these to become better than me. Yes, better than me. I keep my ego in check as much as I can, and it makes life so much more simple. To conclude, let me ask you a very serious question:

If you want to be the best, then how are you going to make that happen if you are doing what everyone else has to do? If you're the best, you MUST be different, by definition of being the best. You need to be better than what the group is doing, and often times, what is best for each person will also be different from everyone else. If your goal is to fit in, then DON'T be different. Don't ask questions. It's a binary choice: do you want to win, or do you want to belong?
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