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!

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