Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Alberta Series #5 Edison - MD F & MS F

Over the weekend (Feb 18-20), we had a Provincial tournament at the Edison Badminton Club in Okotoks, a city south of Calgary. Since it was mainly for collecting prize money, I also entered Singles, which ended up being pretty good. Unfortunately, we played the entire MD draw including finals, then the rest of the MS draw including the finals... >__< Last time I played, I ran out of gas by the semi-finals against Hao Li, but this time I had to make sure I don't waste any unnecessary energy. Anyway, check out the two matches, especially the singles, because I doubt there will be many other chances to see me play in that event =)

[Tournament Software - MD]
[Tournament Software - MS]

YouTube Links:
MD F: Vandervet/Ng vs. Chow/Dan
Game 1

Game 2

MS F: Dan Kai vs. Toby Ng
Game 1

Game 2

Game 3

2011 Canadian Nationals - XD SF & MD SF (incomplete)

The day of the semi-finals began with the Mixed, followed by Singles, then Doubles because Michelle Li, again, was in 3 semi-finals. Grace and I were up against Derrick and Phyllis and although we had won twice before, both times we went to 3 games so we had to be cautious. Fortunately, things went well and we finished the match a lot sooner than we expected. Men's Doubles was another story though, as we had a rematch against Brian Prevoe and Nyl Yakura (from the 2011 Ontario Elite Series, about two weeks before). We started off quite well, but we let up and they came back and won the first game. Because we lost the first game, we had to force it into three and at the end of the day, the camcorder battery was the first to go, so I'm missing the last part of the 3rd set. I don't recall anything too exciting though at the end, we simply got a few quick points and kept the lead until the end. Oh well, you can see for yourselves =)

Draws: [Tournament Software]

YouTube Links:
XD SF: Ng/Gao vs. Ng/Chan
Game 1

Game 2

MD SF: Vandervet/Ng vs. Prevoe/Yakura
Game 1 (Pt 1)

Game 1 (Pt 2) & Game 2 (Pt 1)

Game 2 (Pt 2)

Game 3 (incomplete)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Grass-Roots vs. High Performance

(The real title should be: Grass-Roots vs. High Performance in Badminton)

Yup, this is a pretty touchy subject but I have gone through this process before, written exam questions based on this subject, and of course, I am offering my own opinion. As we are all entitled to it, I don't actually offer a solution, but I would advocate that it is to the utmost necessity that we have BOTH. In terms of making metaphors and analogies to explain, I could almost say we have a Science vs. Religion debate. I believe in both as well, as it is difficult to solely choose one. If we can use them together, then maybe we can reap the most benefit because where one may fail in a certain situation, the other can come in for support and vice versa. Let's begin:

Let's define both concepts, as a clear definition of each is rather important. Grass-roots would more or less involve getting people involved with the sport, just getting in more numbers at any age and any skill level. Usually though, we would refer to grass-roots as getting more young kids to play with the theory that by having a large pool of players to choose from, eventually you can produce some higher level players. I will refer to the grass-roots model as the 'Bottom-Up' model. With high performance, it's pretty much a no-brainer: the definition is pretty much in the term itself. High performance would mean the top athletes in each discipline representing the country at International events. We will call high performance the 'Top-Down' model. Now, as for countries, let's use Canada because I see this topic come up time and time again. Badminton in Canada is probably not so great, but looking at the whole Pan American continent, we are probably better off than a lot of other countries. Though our support system is limited, I might even say we are better off than USA Badminton, in terms of government support. As little funding as we may get, little funding is better than no funding. However, there is a lot more potential corporate sponsorship in the US, so I consider the two countries more or less even. But anyway, let's talk about Canada.

The biggest problem we must understand about Canada is geography. We are split up into provinces and territories and are probably the size of Europe. That would mean traveling between provinces would be like traveling between countries in Europe. However, in this huge geographical area, there are only a fraction of all the people living in Europe. Since the population of Canada is rather small, we are very spread out and traveling gets very costly, even traveling within our own country. There are a lot of other problems I could relate to the geographical size: cell phone reception, internet connectivity, carbon emmisions, and even health care. Perhaps the health care system is so bad because we have one hospital supporting a large area of people and getting around the area takes longer because we are more spread out? Sounds like a reasonable concept. Maybe there are less hospitals because there are less people? Hmmm, I think I'm on to something. Regardless, this is something that we can't control, unless we start populating the country... though we may not even have a positive growth rate. Okay, enough background stuff, let's get to the main topic of this article.

I don't really know how to start, but in my Grade 12 English class, they said to use your topic sentence in the intro. My intro has been long enough, so here's my main point: Grass-roots and High-Performance operate in a cycle. Both can lead to the other, but neither can truly function by itself. It seems like I'm just rambling that both answers are true, but I hope to clarify that shortly. We will start with the 'Top-Down' model and look at High Performance first. First off, we will look at the current level of high-performance in Canada. Even though I am a part of this group, compared to the rest of the World, we are a long ways behind. As much as we are trying, and believe me we are doing the best we can,  at the end of the day, we are still significantly behind. We do lack funding and that in itself presents another problem as some athletes need to work on the side to make money to train and travel and compete for the country. This time is significant, because if we look at opportunity cost, time used to work can be used for training, or rehab, or whatever other countries do with that extra time and energy because they have adequate funding. Economically speaking, you are better off if you have money to pay for a physio for one hour, rather than having to work 4 hours to pay for an hour of physio. The person with the funding would only need one hour, whereas the Canadian (let's say) requires 5 hours. So how would we get more funding? Well, in Canada, they like to fund those who perform well, as it's the most cost effective way. It's unfortunate, but it's true: if getting a gold medal was a way to get the job done, wouldn't you pay someone with the greatest chance to get the job done? Right, of course you would and so would Canada, so in terms of Canadian players getting the job done... well, let's just put it this way: would you bet on us to win a Super Series tournament? Yeah, I thought you wouldn't.

Now that we established the futility of High-Performance, which a lot of people seemingly are aware of, the default solution would be to put everything into grass-roots; if it's not 'Top-Down' it must be 'Bottom-Up', or we have 2 choices, if it's not A, it MUST be B. Logically speaking, that's very true, but let's take a minute to highlight this lateral thinking puzzle I read somewhere. I will paraphrase it:

"A man and his daughter owe a significant amount of money to their landlord. One day, the landlord approached the man and told him that he would wave the debt if he would allow his daughter to marry him. Both the man and his daughter were mortified by the proposal and refused. So, to make things interesting, the landlord offered to make a game out of it. He said that he would pick out two stones by the river, one white and one black, and if the daughter chose the white stone, he would erase their debt and she would not have to marry him. However, if she picked the black one, she would have to marry him.

The man and daughter reluctantly agreed to the challenge and met the landlord at the river. He walked to the river bank and picked out a black stone first, but the daughter noticed that he picked up a second black stone and put it in a little bag. The landlord approached the daughter with the two stones in a little pouch and told her to pick one. What should she do?

Logically, there are a few options, but none of them very good:
a) She refuses to pick a stone, hence her father would be forced to pay the debt.
b) She exposes his treachary, but hence her father would still be forced to pay the debt out of the landlord's anger.
c) She picks a black stone, and hence, she would have to marry him.

So what should she do?

Well, she happened to be quite clever and deduced a new solution. She picked up a stone but didn't allow the landlord to see it. She walked over to the river bed and 'accidentally' dropped it. Since she couldn't figure out where the stone had bounced, she told the landlord to pull out the other stone in the bag, because whatever colour is left, the stone she dropped must have been the other one. Since it was a black stone left in the bag, she must have dropped a white one. The landlord was too embarassed and couldn't expose his own deceit and was forced to let the man and daughter go free and release them of their debt."

So if we look at the problems of High-Performance, it's easy to jump on the 'Grass-roots' bandwagon. We do need to develop more programs and get more people involved, but how? If we put money soley into grass-roots, who can get people interested in the sport? It almost seems like some people believe it like, "There's no hope in High Performance, so we should develop interest and put all the money in grass-roots! Oh by the way Toby, can you do an exhibition at this school for us next week?" Um... so you can pick up an immediate problem here, and although this is not a true story, I hope it will never have to be. Without high performance, there is nothing to look up to, but the biggest problem to me, is that who will get them to that level? At the least, high performance athletes who come back to coach can teach about things they could not do that other players from other countries could, hoping their athletes can take it a little further. But if there's nobody to teach the grass-roots how to play proper badminton, we'd have a lot of people playing badminton, but none of them very well. Then, what happens? Is money THEN going to be put on developing a high-performance player? But how will they be able to get better without adequate sparring or coaching? Why would anybody from World Badminton want to come coach grass-roots? It's not easy coaching people who have no obligation to the game and no future badminton goals. Oddly enough, it almost seems like we've come around in full circle.

Grass-roots and high performance are a cycle, and unfortunately fueling one doesn't help the other, and by not helping the other, it will hurt the original benefactor. The problem is that we don't have the resources to grow both of them at the same time either. Unfortunately I don't have a solution, I could only offer the full scope of the problem itself. It also doesn't help when the ideals of Sport Canada are shoved into this 'Long-Term Athlete Developmet', the infamous LTAD you may hear thrown in conversations every now or then. It goes through about 7 stages of athlete development in getting someone started in a large variety of physical activity, then eventually specializing and become a "Training to Win" athlete. However, the data and research taken to produce this program are loosely based on multiple sports, probably the more successful Canadian ones. I find it difficult to assimilate data from sports that require someone to simply do something faster than someone else, or even team sports with multiple people on the field at the same time. Believe me, you can't just win badminton if you're faster than someone, and you're statistically less important in a team sport. Playing with just a partner is tough, as your partner should account for roughly 50%. If you're on a team of 5, then you're only about 20% each. Even in hockey, where one team may have a 'power play' and is playing 5 on 4, it would be like... 100% to 80%. Even 5 on 3 is 100% to 60%. 2 on 1 in badminton is 100% to 50% so the significance is tremendous if one player is a little 'off' that day. Regardless of the LTAD research, people look at it a little too chronologically. If the athlete isn't at the level we hope them to be, we can immediately go down those levels to try to determine where the athlete should be. However, the LTAD should also be a little more cyclical, instead of finishing off from 'Training to Win', there should be a level to give back to grass-roots to increase the ability of the grass-roots level, that way everything should continually to grow. Even if you may not be able to produce a high level athlete, it would be a good idea to use that athlete to develop a better one if it's possible. High performance needs to give back to grass-roots, and grass-roots needs to support high performance. Maybe that's the best way if everyone could work together. That way, we could possibly cycle our resources around the same way.

Oh wait, my solution would be for Badminton Canada to buy a weekly Lottomax ticket. Then we might be saved if we won the lottery...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2011 Canadian Nationals - MD & XD Quarter-finals

Round of 16s and Quarter-finals were on the same day, so after the R16s, I just waited about 5 hours for my QFs because I didn't want to take a taxi back to the hotel. Instead I bought food and a coffee =P Anyway, my first QF was against veterans Kyle Hunter (also Executive Director of Badminton Canada) with Saj Malik, a former coach from Ontario. As Kyle Hunter made the 2009 Canadian Nationals final, we had to be a little careful at the start to make sure we don't fall behind. We tried to move them around the court and it worked for the most part, but Kyle had some spectacular saves in both games. Be sure to check those out!

For the Mixed, it was also a little nerve-racking as the team was quite the dark horse for the tournament. Val Loker represented Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, while Kevin Cao was a former Chinese World Jr. competitor. They came out and beat Martin Guiffre and Fiona McKee in the first round, then defeated the 5/8 seeds from Quebec after. So going into the match, we had to be quite cautious. Check it out below!

Draws: [2011 Canadian Nationals - Draws]

YouTube Links:
MD QF: Jon Vandervet/Toby Ng vs. Kyle Hunter/Saj Malik
Game 1

Game 2

XD QF: Toby Ng/Grace Gao vs. Kevin Cao/Valerie Loker
Game 1

Game 2

Monday, February 14, 2011

2011 Canadian Nationals - XD R16

Here's the first of a few upcoming matches from the 2011 Canadian Nationals held at Humber College, Toronto between January 27-30th. This was our first mixed match as we had a bye but it was against upcoming juniors Nyl Yakura and Christin Tsai, who very recently won the mixed at the 2011 BC Jr. Elite Series in addition to winning their respective singles and doubles events (results)! Congratulations to them and I'm sure we'll be duking it out again in the future =)

Full Results: [Tournament Software]

YouTube Links:
Game 1 (Check out the rally at 6:45!)

Game 2

Saturday, February 12, 2011

2011 Ontario Elite Series - MD & XD - Finals

The weather was better on the day of the finals as it stopped snowing the day before and the highways were much more clear. We actually started off with the MD final before the XD one, because Michelle Li happened to  impressively be in all three finals, so the order went WD, MD, WS, MS, and XD. Oddly enough, if you reversed the order, it would have been pretty much the same anyway... -__- but oh well. Special thanks to Danusha Ambagahawita for letting me crash at his place for a night because I booked a return flight on Monday. For those interested, Kyle Foley, Alex Pang, Nyl Yakura, and Danusha had an air hockey and Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter tournament at Woodbine Mall after the tournament. Videos are on my Facebook =P

Results: [Tournament Software - January 9th Matches]

YouTube Links:
MD Final: Vandervet/Ng vs. Belanger/Bourret
Game 1

Game 2

XD Final: Ng/Gao vs. Bourret/Li
Game 1

Game 2

Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 Ontario Elite Series - MD & XD - Semi-Finals

It wasn't a tournament I was looking forward to, as it signaled an end to my holidays in Vancouver, but I flew out to Toronto, Ontario on a red eye (overnight) flight o__O. The tournament started on Friday and to save money, I decided to fly Thursday evening to save a night on hotel. Ironically, in the end, I ended up finding a place to stay and I didn't actually have to play until Friday evening! I arrived at 5:55am on Friday, took a cab to Humber College, then took a 2 hour nap on a bench... Anyway, when Saturday morning rolled around, there was a LOT of snow, but everyone managed to get to the tournament in time. Special thanks to Nyl Yakura and his family for letting me stay with them and drive me around for most of the weekend! =) And yes, he was my opponent in the MD semi-final.

Full results: 

YouTube Links:
MD Semi-Final: Vandervet/Ng vs. Prevoe/Yakura

XD Semi-Final: Ng/Gao vs. Sutedja/Chandra

2011 ClearOne New Year's Tournament - MD 80+ SF & F

This was a fun tournament, annually held at ClearOne Browngate in Richmond, British Columbia. Though it varies between Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year's depending on which dates fall closer to the weekend, it is a very popular tournament for those who are still in town for the holidays, or even for visitors to Vancouver for the break. Last year, my dad said that we could have played 80+ MD together, so this year we did just that. We had a good run, but came up a little short in the end. Oh well, maybe next year =P

Full results: [Tournament Software]

YouTube Links
SEMI-FINAL: Ng/Ng vs. Berner/Espejo
Game 1

Game 2

Game 3

FINAL: Wilson/Sung vs. Ng/Ng
Game 1

Game 2

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2008 Team BC vs Team Shanghai - MD Exhibition Match

This exhibition match was held at Pinetree Community Center in Coquitlam, British Columbia in mid-April, 2008. It was the last match of a 5-match exhibition which featured some of the best athletes in BC and also David Snider of Manitoba for the Men's Singles, fresh off his 2008 Canadian National title earlier that year. Unfortunately, Team BC got crushed, with nobody even taking a set from the Shanghai team. I only have this match and I like to think of it as a tribute to when I used to wear long shorts and unnecessary accessories... you'll see =)

YouTube Links:
Game 1

Game 2

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I've been DECEIVED by my own FAKES: Deception in Badminton (Part ONE)

Wow, my first article! I decided to write about this topic based on my training this morning because I feel I need to elaborate it and write out what I'm starting to see. I feel that one can only teach properly if they truly understand the concept. However, some people (including particular teaching assistants), feel that students should be able to make metaphors to explain concepts to determine true understanding of the concept, but that guy couldn't be more off. So I guess that would make him a moron...

Get it? 'More off' / 'More on' / 'Moron'... (actually, this is a pun... and the whole thing is an inside joke =)... ANYWAY, let's begin =)

My concept of deception in badminton is very simple: make your opponent think that you want to hit one shot, but hit a different one instead. I'm certain that a lot of people think the same way, but today, I learned that you can take it DOWN a level. By 'taking it down a level', deception does not have to solely apply to 'fake shots': using double motions, hold, and various slices, which when executed to perfection, it makes your opponent look silly and you get to stroke that ego of yours =) At a basic or simple level of deception, it is pretty much what the general definition is: making your opponent think that you want to hit a certain way, but you hit it differently. I would also say that it could be used for prevention, so your opponent can't determine which way you want to hit.

When I was taking coaching courses in Canada for NCCP certification, I was told 'deception' wasn't taught to coaches until Level 3. I don't know what exactly the system is now, but I'm sure that 'deception' isn't something you would directly teach a beginner. Indirectly though, by teaching a good overhead stroke with proper footwork is a good start. You might not think that there is any deception, but even I have told my kids before, "You want to make your stroke look the same so your opponent can't tell what you're hitting." Isn't that in itself a form of deception? With proper footwork and movement, my coach has always told me that it isn't always the stroke/shot that deceives the opponent in a 'fake drop', but it is with the movement instead ('fake drop' = opponent thinks jump smash, but you do a drop instead). By moving back really fast with a jump, that movement is what tells your opponent that you want to do a full smash. Picture the same thing without the movement speed. Your opponents would suspect something different, because it doesn't really look threatening, and though they may not be too sure what you want to hit, you have probably shown them one shot that you won't be hitting: the full jump smash. A smarter opponent would move their defensive base closer to the net in an attempt to take your weaker shot earlier (this scenario is in doubles by the way).

Let's insert a metaphor here and make a real world scenario. Deception in badminton is similar to deception in real life situations between people. You may be feeling one way, but sometimes you don't want to show it. Perhaps you are feeling negatively and you don't want to display your emotions based on the social contexts of your scenario (e.g. wedding, festive activity, Christmas, dinner party at your boss' house, etc etc). Or, in another context, you don't want people to take advantage of your feelings, whether positive or negative (e.g. negative feelings in a brothel, positive feelings at a car dealership, etc etc). To take it further, it may be to your economic advantage to deceive others based on how you portray your feelings (e.g. sociopaths, con/scam-artists, the whole prisoner's dilemma scenario, etc etc). In an economic sense (because we are using a metaphor for BADMINTON DECEPTION and not talking about morality), you want to be in that situation where you are best off. Sometimes, you may only break even, as we will find it happens in badminton as well, but the take home point from after reading this entire paragraph is that deception can come in all forms, and you are only deceiving yourself if you believe otherwise. If a simple masking of emotions is a metaphor for masking your shot selection based on similar mechanics in your strokes and movements, then complicated ponzi schemes or elaborate quick money scams would be higher level deceptive shots, involving holds, double/triple motion shots, slices, and all the rest combined into a single shot.

Personally, I used to rely on the fancy shots and I still use some time to time, but when the focus is on higher level play, it isn't the fancy shots that get us further, but the consistency of the deception in our strokes and movements. I may be able to win a point of a fancy fake, but I could also lose one if I failed to execute it properly, or if I went all-out and the opponent managed to get it back over because he was lucky. If we think of the fancy fake shots like higher level scams, it may work if the opponent has never seen them before, but how many times will it work on the same person? How likely would a person fall for the same or even similar scam? But if you were able to use deception at a simpler level with solid consistency, it would be like a scam where the opponent still has a chance, but his or her odds would be lower than yours. Think of it like gambling, where you are the casino and your opponent is just a player. The odd player may still beat you, but your likelihood of winning overall is much greater.

I must apologize as I cannot offer many singles scenarios, but deception in strokes and movement is almost a given in this event. Fancy strokes may be used more as there is more room to hit to, but there is also more room to cover should anything go wrong. In doubles, it is kind of the opposite: there is less room, but maybe someone can help cover you. The other thing to look at is that in doubles, there are two opponents to look after and it can be hard to keep track of both of them, if not impossible sometimes. However, your partner can cover or be used as a decoy (conceptually! You can do your own "what if's").

Simple Deceptive Foundations to Try:
- Stroke: The most basic... do your clear, drop, and smash swings look the same? At the very least, try to mask a half-smash (half/three-quarter speed smash), drop shot, and attacking ('punch') clear the same way. The idea is to have your racquet up and ready for the overhead shot, then mask accordingly. A mirror, reflection, or even video footage would be best to check.

- Movement: Do you move differently to the shuttle if you are doing a different shot? Do you move fast to the net for a push, but slow down when you want to try a tight net shot, or can you move in with speed, lunge, and perform either option. There will be difference in movement regardless, but the idea is to try to minimize how different it looks to your opponent. Another handy tip is that you may be able to perform the shot consistently at a certain speed (e.g. standing still), but can you perform the same shot if you included the same movement you would use in a match? If you focus on movement first, once you develop the shot, it should be the same in a match. If you develop the shot before the movement, you may lose the shot when trying to apply it with the new movement!

- Are your fake shots working? This is really important to assess, because if you're faking out your opponent badly once, but you've made 3 mistakes, and they've read your shot twice, you're down 5:1. It may be hard to track, but video footage of your matches is definitely a good way to help. Realizing that you are hitting the wrong shot can save you more points than you think. An unsuccessful shot may not end the rally immediately, but it could be the cause of it eventually.

- WHAT!? MORE INFO?! Nope, just work on those 3 things. Simplicity is what we're looking for and the more simple you are, the more consistent you can be. Once you develop consistency, then you have at least a base consistency to fall back on. If you don't have this consistency, if your shots don't work out right, what else is there to fall back on? I will leave you all with  2 pointers my coach constantly gives me... and I'm STILL working on them! =)

"The opponent is always watching you."
- At higher levels, this is true. Eventually, unless you're the best in the World, you will play someone who can read you like a book.

"Prepare 2nd shot."
- The rally isn't over, is it? Unless you have that chance to attack with 100% of your power, you should expect a return and act accordingly. If it doesn't come back, then you've probably won a point =)

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sponsors and Affiliations!

Here are my current sponsors and affiliations:

YONEX CANADA / North America 





     CANADIAN SPORT CENTRE - Calgary; Pacific



@ the Calgary Winter Club


(and more to update soooooooon!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Upcoming Updates

I think I will use this section for upcoming updates. It will be more of a to do list probably =P

(Nov 7, 2011)
- Mission Statement / Vision
- Tribute to Kim Dong Moon
- Links and maybe profiles to other people's pages (PENDING)