Saturday, May 7, 2011

Article for the 2011 Junior Canadian National Championships

Here is a brief article that I wrote for the 2011 Junior Canadian National Championships held at the Richmond Oval, Richmond, British Columbia this past week. Congratulations to all the winners and a special thanks to those who made the event a success! As the programs for the tournament were only distributed to the athletes, I've attached my article below for those who may want to take a look at it. Enjoy!

ShoutOuts to My Opponents: The art of 'Yelling' in Badminton

This article, though it is meant to educate, contains a personal perspective based on my own experiences. However, I have seen first hand the evolution of 'yelling' in badminton, as I feel partially responsible for bringing it to Canada *laugh*. Though I can't credit myself to be the first person to do it, I may be the first person to offer fellow Canadians a little background on this victory yelling after rallies, as it is being increasingly popular, especially with the younger players. I anticipate that this Jr. Nationals will be the loudest ever, but at least we can seek to understand it.

My first experience with 'yelling' was at the 2009 Korea Open, playing Men's Doubles with William Milroy and being coached by the legendary Kim Dong Moon (2-time Olympic Champion for South Korea). We were up against a team from Chinese Taipei in the first round. Though we tried our best, we lost anyway, but all I kept hearing from Kim in the match was “More pumping up!” At first I thought he meant I needed to move faster or move more, but after the match, he explained to us that both sides were really quiet. He wanted us to yell more, to try to energize ourselves. In other words, he wanted us to 'pump ourselves up'. It seemed a little odd to have your coach tell you to yell more, but he explained it further to us by telling us that we needed to encourage ourselves more to show the other team that we were still fighting back. The best way of doing that was to yell, but of course in a controlled manner.

Let's fast forward to March 2011, where I had the fortune of training in Korea for 6 weeks. Yelling was so common over there that they would even yell in practice. Though there was slightly less yelling at the older level, high school players in practice games would be yelling constantly. If they won a rally or lost a rally, it didn't matter. Jon Vandervet and I faced a young high school team who would yell about 3 times each player before the start of every rally. Sure we thought it was a little ridiculous, but even though our skills were better than theirs, they were playing every rally with their full intensity, doing whatever they could to try to win. The yelling, though it seemed over the top at first, seemed to be energizing the whole gym, as players on other courts were doing the same thing to their practice opponents. It seemed odd, as all this yelling would definitely be awkward in a North American setting, but then it hit me:
Players DO NOT take it personally when their opponents yell. As soon as we all realized it, it made training easier, if anything it facilitated it by firing ourselves up to do the best we could. There was no psychological game about it, and it was not a yelling contest. Everyone solely wished to do their personal best, to bring their best to each practice, and at the end of the day, everyone is on the same team as they push each other further and further. I never once saw someone give up in practice because they faced a much tougher opponent, and I never once saw someone fooling around because their opponent was weaker. Everyone gave their best and it brought out the best in everyone.

Yelling seemed to play a big role in badminton in Korea, but it extended to other sports there as well. I had the fortune to see some other sports and yelling was no different. I am also certain that yelling extends to other Asian countries as well, including Japan and China, and since it is continually spreading through International badminton, I see it everywhere I compete. It is easy to dismiss it as unsportsmanlike at first glance, but take it into the context of the player trying to win their mach. Most of the time, the player is playing with an unfavourable crowd and it can be pretty tough when everybody is cheering for his or her opponent(s). If nobody is cheering for that player, at least be mindful and let the player cheer for him/herself. Personally, I know it's tough when everyone is out cheering against you, but to all the players competing at the Jr. Nationals, there should always be one voice on your side: your own voice. So cheer yourselves on, and I hope everyone has a little better understanding of why badminton players yell after rallies...

  1. Do NOT, I repeat do NOT take yelling from the opponent(s) personally. Should they be yelling too extravagantly, that will lead to their downfall, which brings us to:
  2. Do not make it a yelling contest. Each yell is individual to each player, so if your yell is not as loud as your opponent's, nobody cares... and you definitely shouldn't either.
  3. Yelling should be used as encouragement, so I wouldn't recommend yelling when frustrated. Instead of yelling when you are frustrated, signaling to your opponent that you are stressed, try a smaller encouragement 'yell' or two before you start the next rally.
  4. Ignore the crowd. If there is any form of heckling, ignore it. Do NOT take it personally. Continue to cheer yourself on. There may be cases when people who do not understand yelling and they try to heckle you.
  5. Keep track of your yelling. If you feel that your yelling is getting progressively louder and louder, make sure you control the yelling and not the other way around. Yelling should often be done the same way every time, otherwise you may have entered into a yelling contest.
  6. If you aren't comfortable with yelling yourself, then you don't have to yell. Just understand what to do if your opponent(s) yell i.e. do NOT take it personally.
  7. Lastly, keep the yelling to badminton. Don't scream at your family or friends =)

I hope you've enjoyed the article. Keep track of my badminton journey on my blog ( and best of luck to everyone competing this week!

Toby Ng
Badminton Canada – National Team Member


  1. This article is in response to Toby Ng’s article about “yelling” in badminton. I have great respect for Toby as a player and as a member of our national team however, I am not sure I agree with all of his thoughts on “Yelling” in badminton. I would suggest we are teaching intimidation tactics and unsportsmanlike behavior and as a player who has struggled with exhibiting appropriate on court behavior personally, and with my own children I would like to offer another point of view when it comes to yelling. I am not sure if I would be as proud as Toby was to bringing the art of “yelling” to other players in Canada as not every sees it as a method to “pump” oneself up.
    Toby suggests that a player should not take an opponent’s yelling personally, but how can a player not take it personally when after many rallies their opponent screams, pumps their fist and stomps towards the net in a ridiculously aggressive manner. It is like they are seeking attention by yelling louder and more often than others. Their annoying screaming says look at me, look how important I am, I don’t care about what is happening around me because my performance is so important. These out of control fist pumpers have no consideration for the athletes playing around them and constantly disturb players on neighboring courts. I watched at a junior national competition two boys yelling so loudly they the players beside them actually stopped their rally because they thought someone was hurt. In fact there were many more interruptions and poor behavior not only directed at the opponents but also to observers watching nearby matches. I can understand some emotion at 19 all in the third or after one has won a close match, but many players are yelling their heads off at 2 to 1 in the first game, I just think it has gone too far. For some, it definitely seems to be a contest and Toby seems to suggest that we should all be yelling, I am not so sure that this is what we should be teaching our youth. I want to encourage our officials to not let this poor behavior go on before it gets worse. Interesting that Toby found some of the yelling in foreign countries ridiculous, because I can tell you that many people in the badminton community definitely see what is happening in our junior community as out of control.
    I wonder if we would be better served by teaching our athletes how to treat people with respect rather than trying to intimidate them by yelling. I was embarrassed to see a player on the cover of the National Junior Program for 2011 demonstrating this poor behavior, however I thought the action shots of some of the athletes well done and portraying what is important in our game. I suspect there is a reasonable place in the middle where one cheers for themselves but does not attempt to degrade our sport or intimidate others by acting in an uncontrolled manner.

    Terry Downton
    National Badminton Master Player

  2. Hi Terry,

    First off, you are very much entitled to your opinion on the matter, as I know there are people and players who dismiss the whole yelling thing completely.

    However, please look through my article again, as I did not make any references to the yelling you were talking about and in fact, I actually wrote the entire article in hopes to prevent the sort of thing from happening. From watching the Jr. Nationals promotional video, I could already anticipate that there would be a lot of over-the-top behaviour at the tournament. Whether the players read my article or not, is not my business, but I was hoping that they would. As it is a touchy subject in general, I thought I would make an attempt to explain it due to my International badminton experience. I never grew up with the sort of thing much, but everything totally changes once you step outside the country. I am hoping to provide some knowledge on the subject, as I feel quite privileged to be taught about something that you will find in no NCCP/NCI coaching course.

    With that said, I totally agree with you that some players at the tournament went too far and their behaviour is unacceptable. However, the officials should know and have their own judgement on when something is too much. The kind of intimidation you spoke on is actually not allowed in badminton, and such behaviour usually gets a warning from the official if they are directing their yelling at their opponent. Fist-pumping, stomping, or any other behaviour toward the opponent is not allowed, and if players ignore warnings, they can receive yellow cards or even red cards with further repeat offenses. This information should be known by the officials.

    The yelling I found ridiculous at first in Asia was that some players yelled many times between a single rally. Not that their yelling was uncontrolled and over-the-top. Not that their yelling was supposed to be intimidating. Not that their yelling was offensive. Players weren't yelling at us, they were yelling to their partners, kind of military-like, almost. The best way to see the yelling I speak of will likely be at the 2011 Canada Open in July. If you check it out, I'm sure you will note the difference.

    I don't disagree you when you say some players were demonstrating poor behaviour, but I do hope that yelling will be understood properly. As most coaches in Canada aren't experienced with this in the first place, it's easy to disregard it and players are left alone to deal with it themselves. If they do not understand it, then they will definitely take it personally, whether their opponents are yelling in a controlled manner or not. The badminton community needs to expand, and though they don't need to replicate 'yelling', they should tolerate it as long as it is done the right way.

  3. Terry, you have a point that a lot of badminton players do yell aggressively. Heck, I used to be guilty of it myself when I was younger. However, that doesn't mean that yelling shouldn't happen. Toby's main point was that yelling is a good way to keep yourself focused, and giving your absolute best when you train or compete. Yelling should be about YOU, not your opponent. Watch a world-level powerlifing or olympic weightlifting competition, and you will notice that the athletes usually give a yell, or at least a grunt before they attempt a lift. This is done to get themselves into the right mindset.
    I think another point that should be added to Toby's list is to make sure you aren't facing your opponent when you yell. This would avoid any misunderstanding as to the intentions of the person yelling. In world-level badminton, we tend to see players hitting a winning net kill/smash, then quickly turning around, or towards their partners, or at least making sure they aren't making eye contact with their opponents before yelling. This is how it should be.
    Of course, with juniors (especially males), the testosterone and adrenaline are pumping madly, and things can get out of control. Coaches should make sure that their players know what yelling should be for, so that this sort of thing doesn't happen.