TOBY NG

If I Could Do It Again

Why do I bother writing? I don't really know. Perhaps it's just a way of self expression and clarifying my thoughts. But why do I post it online? It seems like a weird choice, because it takes time and effort, with little benefit overall, at least financially. The returns are often very little. It seems like I should be doing something more productive.

Considering that I would be a supporter of digital minimalism because there are so many other blogs out there, it makes little sense to recommend people to stop reading blogs, but yet publishing more myself. I think it's an ego thing. Despite trying to overcome my ego, perhaps writing is a way of putting myself out there. Maybe it's more of a way to connect. I don't know... and that's the truth. Maybe I haven't found an answer yet. Maybe I never will?

It seems odd that I read so much and worry about writing myself? Perhaps I'm only writing to share my experiences so that someone may be saved from having to experience a painful lesson. If I didn't write, then I wouldn't be able to help others. But is it my job to write? Not necessarily. But do I have a duty to teach others? Well, I guess if I put it that way... yes.

However, is it really teaching, or is it coaching? What is the difference? Without consulting a dictionary, try to think of the difference. I really don't know the difference, and I don't really want to go there and make a stereotype against teachers, instructors, or whatever label is applied to an educator. Ultimately, I think it's often more important in what and how we do things, while simplifying the why. Of course there can be a multitude or reasons why we choose to do something, but I propose simplifying it to this: because it was the right thing to do. Again, individual interpretations to what is "right" will apply.

I suppose I play multiple roles all at the same time, no different from anyone else. Typically, my strongest role has been a former athlete, but I feel like I've honestly been less of an athlete for a long time now, probably winding down after 2016, although it may have been even earlier. For those of you who are still competing, please enjoy every moment while you still can. It does not last forever. For those who are about to begin your journey as an athlete, I highly recommend it and I don't regret it at all. I wish you all the best.

One of the things I've done well as an athlete, and as a part-time coach was in making observations. However, this would simply apply to experiences, rules, and regulations related to badminton as I didn't really take the time to go sightseeing on my travels as much as other athletes, which was both a blessing and curse. I put it all into competing because I couldn't really afford to go out and explore, see places, and eat fancy things (my weak stomach helped with the last one). But for as long as I know, I chose to be an athlete first.

I did pretty well, but I wish I could have done better. I probably could have done more, but I don't necessarily like that concept because we all could easily insert hypothetical things we could have done instead. It's easy to create that narrative in hindsight. I'm more concerned about things that could have been done better or more efficiently if only I had been aware of the knowledge. I have learned a lot at the end of my athlete career from reading, and perhaps I will share these once more as I had shared them in a presentation last week at the 2019 Western Canadian Team Championships. Let's consider it my contribution to the athletes trying to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as the qualification period began this week.

Disclaimer: Bruce Lee said, "Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own." I would strongly recommend that you only take what is useful, because my experience was from a different time. Though there may be similarities, your path will always be unique.


LESSON #1: Know the System

Understand the processes in place to prevent the possibility of bad things happening due to technicalities. My strongest recommendations is to understand what is required for Sport Canada AAP and the process in how to appeal a decision only if there is an opportunity to win (i.e. a mistake has been made, not because it just feels wrong). There are other resources to help, including Sport Solution from AthletesCAN, and of course, the SDRCC.


LESSON #2: Don’t Switch Partners

Same partner + Same Coach + Same Club = Best Chance of Success. It's a simple concept, but partnerships happen too often because of convenience and timing. Communication is absolutely essential, and though it can get difficult at times, you need to put your egos aside to achieve the greater goal. It's easy when things are going well, but when things are not, that is when it is tested. It helps to have the same coach to help manage conflicts, but sometimes it's difficult when you throw in two different coaches. Singles players are probably laughing right now.


LESSON #3: Winning is the Best Defense Against Everything

This is most useful for accountability: did you win? We often have cyclical arguments: "I need funding" -> "Did you win?" -> "How can I win without funding?" -> "How can I fund you if you don't win?". You can replace funding with anything else: better training, marketing, sponsors, etc. Sometimes we come up with innovative solutions based on how the question is phrased: "How can you win with what you have?" Get creative. Execute. Win.


LESSON #4: Play One Event Only

If you want to win, then play one event only. Focus on that one event and get really good at it. Too often, we hedge and make excuses. Consider a school analogy: if you take 5 classes vs. 4 classes, which is easier to get better grades? What about 3 classes vs. 1 class? Now change it up: what about 3 events vs. 1 event? What about 2 events and 1 event? The probability of A will always be greater than the probability of A & B. If you play multiple events, do you train the same amount of time as someone with one event, or do you train more? How much time are you really spending training for your events? 


LESSON #5: Don't Mix Physical & Technical Training

This applies more to those who are training. Warm up + footwork seems weird because footwork can get extremely technical. Consider agility vs. change of direction, where agility requires a stimulus. Also consider heavy racquet training: what is it that you're training? Consider: if you lift something progressively heavier, are you using the same muscle groups? So if it is too heavy, are you really training the core muscle groups you would be normally training? 


LESSON #6: Enjoy the Process

The main idea for this concept is to have an “operating system” that helps one to be more process  oriented, whether through Stoicism, mindfulness, meditation, religion, or other spiritual means. Use whatever works best for you, but remember: 

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are … whatever are our own  actions. Things not in our control are … whatever are not our own actions.”  – Epictetus

For those critical moments in the game, winning is outside of your control as it is the outcome of that rally. However, making a game plan is within your control. Executing the game plan perfectly is not, as there is a significant external factor that can affect it (i.e. your opponent). Prepare for these moments in advance, because that is within your control. Whatever happens, will happen, but at least you did what you can to prepare.


LESSON #7: Find a New Way (When Necessary)

If things are going well, do you keep doing the same thing, or is it an opportunity to be cautious in order to plan for unexpected events to happen? That's an individual choice and often tied to our personal beliefs. However, the concept of "regression to the mean" explains that things return to their average: we win some, we lose some. If you are losing, keep at it and don't give up too soon. If you are winning, spend some time to prepare. Whether you are holding a lead (not recommend), or trying to transition to the next level (recommended), expect things to fall to their averages over time.


LESSON #8:  Learn Something New

For athletes that happen to have a lot of down time, it can be time used effectively to enhance performance, or at least enhancing the journey itself (i.e. experience). Suggestions include: reading more books (audiobooks definitely count), learning from online courses, and learning another language. If you want to scroll through Instagram or binge watch Netflix, that's fine, but high quality leisure activities usually energize people more.


LESSON #9: It Probably Takes (at least) TWO Olympic Cycles

Qualifying and medaling at the Olympics is very different, so technically, it should be said that those who are qualifying for the first time in Tokyo 2020 would need to keep playing together for a chance to medal at the next Olympics (i.e. 2024). Of course, this probably never happens for us, at least for doubles teams, so I always laugh inside when I hear anyone say anything about Canada medaling at Worlds or Olympics. If the strongest countries in the world are often on an 8 year path (i.e. TWO Olympic Cycles), I really don't care what you might believe and anything about medaling in 2020 is just marketing, albeit it's probably MORE damaging to our future athletes because it's a bad message to believe in. So for all those considering the Olympics, please start sooner than later, and understand it's a long process. Making the Olympics is cool and all, but life goes on. Additionally, it is probably a lot harder if you just want to qualify. Think of how differently you would be training and competing if you were planning to medal. It's a totally different mindset.


LESSON 10: Great Players Make Great Coaches

A good player may not make a good coach, but those who have been the best in the world probably know something unique, especially if they have been the best on numerous occasions. I am only paying tribute to former great athletes who have coached me at some point, including Kim Dong Moon (Korea) and Tony Gunawan (USA, formerly from Indonesia). This is not to say that good players can't make good coaches either, but you need to consider what they are teaching. I would consider myself to be a great player in Canada, but only mediocre internationally. The biggest factor in great coaching is finding coaches that are continuously learning, because they know they can be better. That is the pathway I try to be on and it's no different than being an athlete. Athletes and coaches can both grow stale, and it's not that they're getting worse, but rather everyone else is getting better. It's a simple choice, but the path to ongoing learning is certainly not easy.


Conclusion:

Good luck to those wherever you are on in your badminton journey. It will be a unique experience for everyone and I wish you the best of luck on your path. Furthermore, I hope you can share your experiences with the next generation of athletes once you have finished your journey.

And as always... life goes on.

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