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Trick of the Week
Practice without a practice time!

If you're like me, practice sounds like a good idea in principle, but it gets in the way of actually playing badminton. I'm too competitive in spirit, so just practicing rather than playing gets boring real fast. I just end up thinking stuff like, " What do you mean I can't smash it out of the blue? Do we really have to do 40 drop shots in a row?"

If there's not a point on the line, my attention span gets really short. Maybe that's just me.

Do I agree with practice? Absolutely! Do I admire those who practice? Absolutely!

Do I actually get out and practice? Absolutely not!

So how do you get better without practice?

The simple answer is to practice while you play.

Here are the concepts:

1) Make every moment on the court be constructive practice.

Okay, now that the lesson is over, let me summarize: every moment on the court is practice.

Got it?

Some of you might like me to expand on that, so here it goes:

When you are on the court, you are doing things that either make you a better badminton player or a worse badminton player. So to be time-efficient and to improve, make the choice to do the things that make you a better badminton player.

Never (ever):

-make a casual shot

-make a shot without choosing a shot type and aiming it at a specific square centimeter of the court

-not try your hardest for a return

-tell yourself that your lousy return was good enough just because the opponent flubbed the return

To expand even further (sorry)...

"Make a casual shot"

By casual, I mean a shot where you don't put in your full attention, focus, and effort. Think of your body as a child that learns by example, and the example is what your brain tells it to do. If you tell your body that it's okay sometimes to slack off, it will slack off regularly and make it harder to be consistent and automatic.

"Make a shot without choosing a shot..."

Similar to the previous point, if you get into the habit of only sometimes picking a shot, only sometimes will you be in control of your response. By making it a habit to pick a shot (type and target) for every shot, you will be practicing. It is EXTREMELY better to aim and miss than to not aim at all. It is even EXTREMELY better to plan and execute the incorrect shot than to not plan the shot at all. Remember practice is to try something, evaluate the results, then repeat until automatic. If you don't try something specific, there is no learning and no possibility of improvement.

Here is something that I've only told my closest friends: I do mean literally "every shot, every time". This includes returning the bird to the opponent after they have made a point, for example. You should aim to have it land on their head wherever they are standing in the serving side of the court. Taking it to extremes: After the badminton night is over, I help to get birds back to the line of Yonex tubes that the birds are stored in. From wherever I pick up a bird, I try to land the bird in one of the tubes. Over the years, I've actually put a large number of birds right into the standing tube from half a court or more away. All this practice adds up and I find that I'm hitting more court lines during a game than ever. Frailty due to age should be setting in by now, but I still find that my accuracy (if not power) is increasing.

"Try your hardest for a return"

Similar to the above in that mental consistency leads to physical consistency in the game. However, there is also a fitness aspect in that if you work hard, your body adapts and next time you can work even harder. I find that it's better not to "save yourself for later" for any given game but work hard all the time so that you don't have anything left by the end of the game (or night). Even if you lose the game today, this is how you improve your fitness level the fastest for tomorrow.

"Tell yourself that your lousy return was good enough..."

There is a child within your body, and it learns by success and failure. If you make a bad shot but you get away with it, don't trigger the "success" feeling because that will tell your body that it responded correctly and it obediently files the experience under the "success" category when it should be filed under "don't ever do that again". PLEASE keep this though under wraps however; I play against one person who audibly berates himself if a shot doesn't meet his standards and this is very depressing for the opponent who has just lost a point despite this inconsiderate person's bad shot. Practice is personal; you don't have to make other people feel bad in order for you to improve. Your "inner voice" is good enough.

Summary: You are really practicing ALL the time. Once you realize this, you can take advantage of this fact and you will need less "formal practice" and will improve faster.

 


Next week: More fitness; more fun!