Pay It Forward

It's been a while since a blog update as it has been about year since I've retired from international competition (i.e. 2018 World Championships in Nanjing, China). I decided to retire mainly to focus on some other important life tasks, including getting married! Although I often joke about being unofficially married to badminton (or serving a life sentence, depending on my mood), I am still heavily involved especially as I'm trying to finish up my Master's degree in high performance coaching, while maintaining my roles with Badminton BC, coaching at ClearOne, and even doing NCCP Coach Development with the CAC. 

When I was competing, I was fortunate to get so much support over the years in different ways, even leading up to my final World Championships last year through a GoFundMe campaign. I was always exceptionally grateful for that support, even though I know I cannot pay people back everything, which would probably take a life time to do. But over the years, you learn that it's kind of like karma ("What goes around, comes around"), but in the positive sense. Instead of paying people back, perhaps they are simply paying it forward, and the best thing I can do is to pay things forward. For athletes, it's difficult to pay people back, and often times, it feels difficult to pay things forward as well. As much as we want to win our matches to show those who helped us the impact of their contributions, it's often a zero sum game because in sport, someone has to win, and by default, someone (actually, everyone else) has to lose. It's an incredibly tough thing to face. Support from others offers that chance, but like many things in life, there are no 100% guarantees. 

Throughout my career, I've tried to make an impact of being involved in athlete and coaching services as much as I could, because I know that they track which sport you are from. Often, I am the only person from badminton attending these events, but I make the time because I feel it's important to have representation for the sport. I often ask people to guess which sport I'm from, because I know that badminton is probably the last thing on their mind. However, I do get to learn a lot from other sports at these events and programs. Perhaps this is the best way for me to pay things forward. I understand that some athletes have extremely busy competition schedules, and if you're at that level where it affects your level of competition, it is obvious that the priorities come first. But for many upcoming athletes who have time to spare, it's a great learning experience and a way to represent badminton. Be proud of your sport and make sure that we are noticed, because if you didn't notice, badminton is approximately the 50th funded sport in Canada (Source:⁠…), and one of the lowest funded Olympic sports. Despite the requirements of Sport Canada wanting us to get Top 8 results, it's not impossible, but it would take a lot of time and resources, and finding the right combination of people to commit enough time to pull it off. 

Well, obviously my time as an athlete is up (arguably, some suggested it was probably up a while ago) so my contributions to pay things forward have shifted. We all have different ways to give back to the sport and often, a combination of these diverse efforts is what will really help our sport move along. Some examples might include: coaching, sparring with next gen athletes, sport administration, research, sponsoring players/events, and general participation. Find something that is feasible and do it. The only condition is that you should want to do it yourself. Don't let anyone (including me) force you to do something that you don't want to do. My only hope is that we find our own reasons for doing so, because badminton has impacted many people in different ways. Today, everything is vying for our attention and though I don't think we need to do badminton 24/7, often it's just that we don't give it enough attention, and that is why the sport suffers: it's when people just don't do anything.

Those who might not know, I'm part of a special program at the University of British Columbia doing a Master's Degree in High Performance Coaching & Technical Leadership. This is a very new program and I actually started off in the 2nd cohort, meaning that we were the 2nd class to begin the program. We weren't even recognized as a Master's degree when I started, but it finally went through approval and was accepted last year so that the 1st cohort could graduate with this degree. The program is special because of it's acceptance standards, and application requires recognition from a sport organization, or in my case, Badminton Canada. Once again, I was the first to go through this program and although I do hope more people will participate in this program eventually, it has to be the right fit for you, otherwise it's a very big struggle.

This program offers many benefits because I learn from some of Canada's best sport professionals and professors, and also because your classmates are also coaches or sport administrators. Many people in my class have received new roles with throughout the program, and it's great to see how their sports operate more efficiently, or in many cases, suffer from similar funding issues. The program can end early with a graduate certificate after a year, or it can be extended into a Master's degree over a three year period.

For me, it has been more than three years, as I'm wrapping up my final course, which is a research project. I wanted to look at training history, in particular deliberate practice, as there has been a lot of research on how different types of practice may better lead to expertise in some sports. Although it would be good to release this study and sample athletes across the world, I decided that I wanted to keep it within Canada. This would be my way of giving back, because I have been part of committees and one question that is often asked is, "Where is the evidence?" So, here is a way of providing scientific evidence with respect to looking at a potential relationship between training and competition results, which I kept as Senior/Open Canadian National Championships. 

Getting enough data for this research is important because it would give an idea of what types of training might correlate better to performance results. For example, do those who do well at Nationals train more overall, or do they have more private coaching, or do they spend extra time experimenting and doing their own training? Or perhaps it has little to do with training, but how many international tournaments that they have competed in. If you were an athlete or coach, this information would be very important because it would give potential direction in how to structure training and competition for performance at Nationals. As Senior Nationals is unique in that it is a stepping stone to National Team, international team selection, and funding, performance at this event is important for everyone.

So this is one of the ways I can contribute to badminton, unique to my expertise and skill sets. I enjoy learning and I don't mind school, so designing potentially the first ever Canadian badminton research study is my way of paying it forward to the next generation. For those who are eligible to participate in the study, this is a chance to pay it forward for yourself, especially next generation athletes because it would be great to compare the training histories of next gen and current athletes, as well as retired athletes at their peak moments. But please remember that this is optional and only one way of giving back, and it's always best to find your own way. 

I only wish that this was possible when I was competing 8 years ago, so that I would have a better understanding of what factors best impact my training and performance. But I'm hoping this research will be beneficial to all Canadian badminton players, and for Badminton Canada to have some evidence to create a podium pathway for future athletes to follow. Additionally, I hope this is just the first of many future Canadian badminton studies to come.

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