Tuesday, October 7, 2014

4 Elements of Badminton

I like to look at 4 elements to badminton, with each sub-section being just as important as another, but different. There may be temporary advantages in focusing attention to one, but with many things, we get diminishing returns. Think of it as a video game and you are trying to level up your stats. Each person will be different, especially if we throw in both environmental and genetic factors, so individuality becomes quite important, as no two players are exactly the same. I will make a better attempt to go into each one at length, but that will be for another day.

PHYSICAL: This is the Attack/Strength stat in most role playing games, or like any superhero that has any enhanced physical attribute, like Superman, the Hulk, Juggernaut, and I will even include the Flash and Spiderman, as speed and movement ability are included as well. If we include genetics, those with the right genes would have the ability to maximize this stat more than the other groups.

Juggernaut vs Hulk (via Google Images)

Marvel vs DC Comics (via Google Images)

TECHNICAL: This is not so much a stat in a role-playing game, but more or less acquiring new techniques to use. It would be more similar to acquiring special abilities to use instead of an overall stat. Superheroes that come to mind would be Batman, Ironman, or the Green Lantern as they would need accessories to assist them in their battles. Environmental factors are much heavier due to what is accessible in the area. For example, in Canada, living in the major badminton hubs in BC or Ontario would give greater accessibility, more diverse coaching, and better competition that most other places. Additionally, having resources (i.e. money) would help as well.

Ironman - Proton Cannon in Marvel Super Heroes (via Google Images)

Batman Arkham Origins (via Google Images)

TACTICAL: Again, I’m not too sure how this would be a stat, but it would be simply your choice of strategy. Take Pokemon, for instance, where each Pokemon type may have a weakness (e.g. grass Pokemon are weak to fire attacks). By taking advantage or particular strategies, no matter how simple or complicated, this element is highly glorified in movies because that’s usually how the hero wins in the end: they make a plan, they execute it, they win… most of the time. Practically all superheroes will resort to some kind of tactical plan, because that’s what happens near the end of almost every movie. They may not be successful at the beginning, but after a change of tactics, they succeed. Everyone is happy (except for the bad guys). I would attribute those at a genetic disadvantage to use more tactics because they do not have the same physical capacity as those who do.

Who would win? Batman or Superman? (via Google Images)

Batman looks less comfortable in Tennis. He should try badminton :P

MENTAL: This would be like the magic stat, but I suppose it depends how your look at this element. It can be very broad and it is different for everyone. I like to think of it as the magic stat, because most magic attacks also require MP (Mind/Magic Points). Once those are exhausted, then you cannot use those attacks anymore. I would attribute this to those with genetic and or environmental disadvantages, simply because the more one struggles, the better one gets at overcoming adversity. Those who do not struggle, do not understand the struggle. Most superheroes will encounter this as well, usually near the beginning or midpoint of the movie. Something bad happens, or they fail at something, and they spend a while struggling to continue. No matter how they pull through, they get back on their feet and usually it leads to an amazing plan (TACTICAL) which will lead to end of the movie when they win. 

If you have not watched The Amazing Spiderman 2, then watch the movie first! There is no better way to sum this up than Gwen Stacy's Graduation Speech for The Amazing Spiderman 2 (click for link). Well, maybe that and Eminem's "8 Mile". I know there are mixed reviews about both movies, but ultimately, I go by the way they make me feel after. It always gives me a bit of hope :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014 World Championships and Moving Forward


I’m writing this while streaming the finals of the 2014 World Championships, and I’ve already come across a few thoughts. It’s before the Men’s Singles final, in which I hope Lee Chong Wei will finally take the match, and that is also the time limit I’m setting for the blog so I don’t ramble on for too long. I woke up to watch the ending of the Men’s Doubles final, and (*spoiler alert*) I was very surprised to see that Ko Sung Hyun/Shin Baek Cheol won over Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong. I would think that not having to play a semi-final would have been a significant advantage for Ko/Shin, and I would still count on Lee/Yoo as being an overall stronger team. I suppose it was just that one tournament that didn’t work out the way you wanted and it happened to be World Championships. We can probably say the same for the Women’s Singles (*spoiler alert*). It was pleasant to see a European World Champion and I hope it will help further opportunities for Spain. I know it must be disappointing to Li Xuerui, but I think it’s nice for the sport to have at least some depth in at least a few events. Hopefully, Carolina Marin’s victory will inspire our top badminton player, Michelle Li, to rise to some more amazing results of her own!

Tournament bus... often times without enough seats for everyone.
(Source: Me)

Looking back at my performance this tournament, it wasn’t the best (match can be found HERE). I was trying to play things that I am not very comfortable doing, especially when I was under the impression that things needed to be done this way for the best chance to win. I suppose I second guessed myself and opted for a team strategy, which was not comfortable to begin with. I understand that people see the game differently, and tactics are generally a way to approach a match because physical and technical attributes cannot really be changed right before, or even during the tournament (e.g. ‘you need to jump higher’ or ‘you need to angle your racquet more’, etc.).

Let’s step away from the actual performance for a moment and address a way of looking at things. Let’s talk perspective. On the one hand, we have different coaches working with different players. We have Jeff White, the National Team coach for Canada, coming in to coach us for the World Championships. He has seen us play at various events, but he does not address training issues; he only observes. Alex’s coach at the moment, Andrew Dabeka, is working with Alex in Ottawa, and is one of the best Canadian Men’s Singles players in his time. However, I do not know of his Mixed Doubles ability and I cannot comment on that. I was working with Ronne Runtulalao at ClearOne briefly before the tournament, as he works with us at ClearOne and has watched my matches at Canada Open with Alex. So we have been fortunate to have 3 coaches working with us, but unfortunately, they did not collaborate. We ended up with a very interesting mix of tactics to consider.

Main Venue (Source: Me)

Let’s begin with looking at how we view performance: I believe it is very training oriented, whereas it seems that Alex takes on a tactical approach. For the sake of the discussion, let’s assume that we are on the extreme ends of our performance beliefs. For myself, I believe performance will be a slight degradation of optimal practice. Any tactics or strategies need to be performed in practice, and new tactics and strategies should not be simply ‘inserted’ into tournament play. There is little room to ‘improvise’, unless it has been performed in practice. Over time, many aspects of the game will eventually be covered, which leads to a stronger and more mature player with a diverse set of skills. However, technical ability and physical capacity must be addressed IN training. It must be developed first, because they are fundamentals to badminton, and also in many other sports as well. The tactical approach (as I am biased to the other approach) seems less realistic. It has worked for people before, but it seems more like the things you see in movies (or the rare real life events that end up being turned into movies). With a solid “system” in place, you would minimize the problems you would face if you opt for this approach, as you can make small adjustments because they are a part of your arsenal, or at least a similar ‘lateralization’.

Ballerup Super Arena (Source: Me)

I like to think of this as studying for a very difficult test. Ideally, studying the right material the right way would be best, but most of the time, we either don’t prepare enough, or maybe we over-prepare the wrong material. So, who would do better on the test? It’s really hard to say: it depends. If we go back to our match, we had a mix of tactics to attempt, based on our match against our opponents at Commonwealth Games. On Alex’s side, they believed that we gave up the attack too much, and we had to challenge them more at the net. On my side, Ronne simply tried to give me strategies to mix up my shots and do a few things differently on defense. Ultimately, we decided on trying to challenge the net more in the match, which I was not terribly comfortable with and I could already foresee various counter-measures that I needed to adopt. Not lifting is not easy for me in Mixed, because it also increases the speed of the game we need to play at. If you cannot read the game well enough, then everything becomes fast and furious and turns into something like Men’s Doubles.

From my own perspective, I take a systematic approach to my game. I like to use high lifts to open up the court, instead of trying to play blocks and challenge a very confined space. I don’t like playing floaty mid-court shots to try to hit over the player at the front, because it doesn’t work very well at the higher levels (and World Championships is pretty much one of the highest levels I can play at). I like to vary up things based on what is happening in the game, although I do tend to be a bit too predictable at times. However, I can also tough it out and continue a standard way of playing until a better chance opens up, because that’s what I think the best players can do: play a good pace in a rally until they get a good chance to attack, then make the most of their opportunity. I usually don’t like to gamble. However, the strategy to adopt for this match seemed like a heavy gamble, and perhaps I didn’t understand what the coaches wanted, but it appeared that I had to play the tactic of ‘blocking more’ so that Alex could take the net. It seems like a great idea, and anyone watching my Commonwealth Games match would probably agree, but there is one limiting factor: execution.

Denmark... beautiful! (Source: Me)

How many of you have heard of the strategy: block and move in? How many have practiced it? Now, the question I propose is, “How many of you practiced it in a match situation, where your training partner can kill your shuttle if it’s too high, or play it over your head if you run in blindly without watching your opponent?” I know we should move in, but is it the appropriate time to? So, this would be a great concept to consider in training, but not when you’re in the middle of a match. I felt that the blocks could have been a good strategy, but I didn’t believe we could really execute it. And we didn’t.

I had trouble getting Heather away from the net, and I tried to play some shots over her head to the mid-court, but they didn’t really work out so well, because it’s honestly a terrible shot that unfortunately works in Canada, but the rest of the world will punish you on it. Playing to the net also proved difficult because I would then have to cover a side in case Alex couldn’t make it in time. I felt Alex needed to creep forward as well to minimize the distance she had to move, but now that opened up lifts/clears over her head, which I also had to cover in case she was gambling forward too much. The tactic COULD have worked, but I don’t think we had the ability to execute it. I would have opted for a more casual defensive strategy to open up the court to give ‘holes’ to exploit. Additionally we lost heavily on the first 3 shots. Knowing it needs to be better is easy, but ‘how’ to make it better, and ‘what’ to do to make it better becomes much more difficult.

Training at Gentofte Badminton Club, led by Thomas Stavngaard! (Source: Me)

The real difficulty lies in how we move on from this, as we don’t even train together. In fact, we are 5 hours away by plane. Fortunately, we had a meeting with Jeff White after the tournament and it was good because we got to the heart of certain problems and we have at least a few actionable items we can address for the upcoming Pan American Championships in October. However, with Alex playing the Guatemala International, it eliminates at least a week of training, which gives much less time to prepare. Although the Pan Am Champs may not be at a very high level, there are still many upcoming Canadian teams which will be looking to take the title, in addition to other Pan Am countries, like Brazil and USA. The fact that I have to be nervous about a tournament I have won 5 times is troubling… but I’d rather over prepare than to under prepare. It will be a tournament which counts toward the Pan Am Games qualification, so I cannot take things lightly.

But when have I taken things too lightly?

September will be a key month for preparing, as I will be preparing not just for one, but for 3 tournaments back to back to back (Pan Am Champs, USA International, and Brazil International). I’ve won 2 of these tournaments before, and made a semi-final in the last one. I’ll be taking new measures to improve my game, including keeping communications with Alex, but this time, I will make sure that I lead. I will consider tactical suggestions, but I will play the way I need to play to win, instead of following orders which did not involve prior preparations. I’m all for following plans that have been practiced in training, but I’m not about to adapt different strategies or tactics that the team hasn’t performed before. 

I will lose on my terms. I can also win on my terms. And it’s time to start winning again…

Always seek to improve. How can you say
you've tried your best, if you haven't tried everything?


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2014 Commonwealth Games Overview

The 2014 Commonwealth Games have been an amazing event, especially for Michelle Li, who was undefeated the entire tournament in Women’s Singles. She is definitely the star of Canadian badminton this tournament, but I would like to also congratulate some stellar performances by some of the other Canadians, with Andrew D’Souza performing well in the Men’s Singles, and the spectacular win by Rachel Honderich and Michelle Li in the Women’s Doubles against Australia, which won us the tie, and gave us a chance against India. Derrick and Adrian also put up a valiant effort in their matches, and I can see them growing as a team. 

Michelle Li (Source: BadmintonPhoto)

In terms of staffing, we had both Jeff and Ram, who always do a great job to make sure everything works out for us during these big events, and finds answers to any problems we encounter. This allows us to focus on our badminton, which is nice when you don’t have to worry about the little nuances that we have to deal with ourselves in other events (i.e. transportation, etc.). We also had Marc Rizzardo as our physiotherapist, who helped us with warm ups, cool downs, recovery, and injury management. I personally had my ankle put back in place twice, my hip capsule loosened up a bit, in addition to other back manipulations which kept me in pretty good shape for the duration of the event. A big thank you to the badminton staff, and a special thank you to the Canadian medical staff as well, especially Erin Reid, RMT, for working on some of us during these games! Last but not least, I'd like to thank Yan Huckendubler for taking some awesome photos of us during the Games!

Emirates Arena (Source: Me)

I went through a long training process to prepare for the tournaments this summer, spending a good more than $1000 on physical preparation since after Nationals. I still look back and reflect on that match, and I really took it hard on myself because I lost funding for the year. I have decided to upload the match, because I think people who follow my progress deserve to see how things went. I know the camera angle isn’t the best, but it is what it is. You can find the links here:

Looking back on my progress from Nationals, I’m actually content. I’m fairly hard on myself because I always want to do better, but if I can’t get results, then how accurate of a reflection is it? If I cannot win, are my performance perceptions accurate? I am still far from playing a perfect game, but I feel that my efforts are not matching the benefit in performance. For example, if I trained very hard for 4 months, I would hope to have some kind change, and change is best measured by results at tournaments. But, after all the training, the results are still the same. I lost to Australia in the pool play, lost to India in the pool play, lost to England in the individual event. The only matches I won were against Wales, Barbados, and Northern Ireland. Could I have won those matches without training hard? I would think so, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

So the biggest question I have right now is: “What MORE can I do?”

And we need to be honest, because I have to ask: “Is it worth it then?” How much more do I have to toil and how much more money do I have to spend? I believe in doing things well, because I get involved. I learn as much as I can and I try to evolve. I think I’ve changed tremendously over the years, and it’s because I have learned to adapt and accept that I may not always be right. That way, I am open to feedback; hence, open to change. Perhaps the common misconception is that people think I know everything. That is completely false. I would say a good quarter to one third of the things I say may not be true, or I will change my belief about it in the future, even in this post. I definitely don’t know anything, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to learn as much as I can. I have unique interests as well, especially anything related to badminton. I’m just looking to find more efficient ways to do things, because we don’t have the resources. I’m not in it just for “the experience”; I’m “in it to win it”.

With all that said, I don’t want to critique other people, because I cannot be 100% certain that they are wrong. For example, Michelle won the tournament, but there are things that she does that I wouldn’t do, and vice versa. We all train differently, and there are different ways to do it to get that win. BUT, it doesn’t mean that every way is right. So, let’s talk about concepts and ideas, because I don’t want to talk about events, and I certainly don’t need to talk about people. That way nobody needs to take things personally, and we may all benefit from the idea. Take it, expand it, make it better… and if you do, please let me know. I want to learn as well.

(Source: Yan Huckendubler)

1.) Practice:

We need to train, but what if we are tired? What if we are sore? What if we are injured? So, perhaps the best question is to ask, “What do you mean by ‘training’ or ‘practice’?” I think it’s a very broad concept and I think people make too many assumptions, especially if they are tired, sore, or injured. Injury is probably the most difficult, because pain is different for everyone. I’m not one to push to train under an injury, but if you’re in a tournament and you’re going to play anyway, then that kind of changes everything. I would not train the affected part, but there may be ways to train the rest of the body that isn’t injured. For competition, I would highly recommend training around the injured area, because you will go compete anyway; but I am not sure where I would stand if it was post-competition.

For example, a shoulder injury would be best not to do anything overhead depending on the type of injury, if it aggravates the shoulder, but your legs are fine, so do footwork, move around the court, or do light underhand strokes if it doesn’t cause any pain. If an ankle is injured, then move less, but  do movements that don’t involve the ankle. Going to the gym to do kettlebell swings or the rowing machine are possible things to stay in shape without killing the ankle. Any type of kneeling or quadruped exercises could work as well. So there are a lot of possibilities, even like… working on a serve for doubles/mixed.

(Source: Me)

2.) Recovery:

Warm up and cool downs are important, and Marc pointed it out right away on our first practice as most of us just went on court and started to hit. I can’t do that anymore because I physically can’t, but I’m guilty of doing that when I was younger for sure. Cool downs are also interesting, because stretching is so casual, and people always stretch the things they are better at. Or, people do ‘extra exercise’ because it’s really going to make a difference if you do some crunches? Just because it ‘burns’ you’re getting better at it? Well, it burns when I do rotator cuff external rotations with a band, but I don’t think I’m making it stronger. I would use it as a warm up, but doing ab exercises which involve spinal flexion ‘as fast as you can’ (or, I guess AMRAP) after training doesn’t seem particularly effective to me. Why not try the RKC plank instead? Again, this simply comes from asking 2 questions: 1) What is the purpose of doing this? 2) Is there a better or more effective way to accomplish that task?

We had to try the ice baths on one of the first days, but I didn’t like it. It was so cold that I actually cramped up in my bicep later on. I have no idea why, but if I had to guess, I was very tense during the duration of the ice bath, and tension usually involves flexion, so hence, huge tension in my biceps which probably is excessive for 6 minutes. The next day, I didn’t feel particularly better, so I decided that the ice bath didn’t really help (and for a nerd bonus, I looked up a Cochrane Collaboration meta-analysis on ice baths in 2012 and read through the study, not just the abstract). Some people “drank the kool-aid” and continued doing the ice bath, which is totally fine with me. I felt protein supplementation after a hard practice, foam rolling, and the odd massage worked better for me. And it may work for you as well, or it might not. Maybe you could ice bath and massage and feel great the next day. I would totally continue if I were you. However, the question I propose is: is it really working for you? I’m not against people who find things that work for them, but I’m against the people that just go through the motions. (‘It’s not really doing anything, but I’ll just do it anyway because I always do it’). That’s a great way to get stale. How will you improve then?

(Source: Me)

3.) Performance

Here’s an interesting thought: would you play better if you didn’t worry about a thing, or if you were worried about the outcome of the match? Or worse, how do you think you play if you are worried what other people think of you? Let’s start with myself: when I compete, I don’t care if people are cheering for me, or against me. I’m the one on court, so I’m in charge. It doesn’t matter what other people who aren’t competing think during the competition. Afterwards, it’s a bit different, because I’d like feedback from those who understand the game. Casual observations are considered, but I’m not going to watch a hockey game and go tell a hockey player what they need to do.
I stopped worrying about the outcome. I try not to worry about the score. I’m just here to play a single rally, and I hope to reset my feelings each time. Win the moment, then the rally, then the match. Thinking too little isn’t too productive for me, but thinking too much is also a hazard. Instead of telling myself, “I can win the rally”, I try to tell myself “I can get it back”. This prevents me from trying to hit winners, which may work at a certain level, but at the level I want to compete at, it’s not enough. So, that’s why I changed it.

However, my greatest weakness is the partnership. I find it hard to interact excessively with my partners. I know we have to work together, but I don’t like having to feel like I’m doing everything. If I’m not playing well, I do NOT expect my partner to make it better; I don’t expect anything from them. If I don’t play well, it has nothing to do with my partner, it is MY problem. They can try to help out, but at the same time, I’m sure you’ve all experienced too much compensation, and your partner tries to do too much, and then you are totally sunk. If I don’t play well, I try to minimize what I’m not doing well, and maximize what I’m doing right. So my partner can step in to help, but it’s important that I work very hard to get myself back into the game.

Encouragement is also difficult to me, because my mixed partners (past and present) have said this to me at some point in the match: “You need to encourage me more”. It bothers me, because I believe that you need internal motivation, not external motivation. Asking for help would be a much better way of communication: e.g. “My defense isn’t so great right now. Can you lift higher or lift a little less?” or “I’m going to give you the middle as well, so I can focus on just one side on defense”. That is true communication. Think of it this way, if you did a group project and the person who didn’t finish their portion in time asks for “more encouragement”, how would you feel? Granted, maybe it’s a different perspective if you don’t care what mark you get, but if you wanted to get the highest grade possible because your medical school application depends on it, I think it’ll be a different feeling.

However, I understand that ‘encouragement’ is very individual, and this is only my opinion. I have no problems encouraging people when they make an honest attempt at something and fall short, as I like to encourage effort over flattery or ‘sugar-coating’ things. In the context of high performance sport, I don’t think it is necessary for the external motivation because I believe the best athletes have that internal driving force. Athletes that need reassurance have a long way to go, or shouldn’t be competing in high performance sport.

(Source: Me - Actual Footage)

Different perspective (via Yan Huckendubler)

Final Thoughts:

Michelle made history, and I think it’s great that someone is finally getting some results for Canada. I wanted to be someone to do that, and maybe I still have a chance, but I’m happy that at least Michelle is paving the way. I hope that inspires people to do well in the future, which is also what I hope to achieve. I would like to get as far as I can, and I’d like to leave a path for someone in the next generation to follow. Maybe that’s why I’m trying to write and record what I do. We all know we have to train hard and train as much as you can, but I’d like to give you a better picture of things, so that the future generation can learn through my mistakes, instead of having to make them all over again. That’s how we get better as a country, because if we all simply leave, then the new generation has to figure it out all over again. Canada has a unique system, and understanding the system gives someone an edge against someone who doesn’t, or has to figure it out on their own. I only hope to share what I have learned so far, because there have been others before my generation that have helped me along. Not everyone gives back, but I would like to be someone who does… because I’m also someone who can.

And all I hope is that one day, my results can match my performance potential, but until then, I gotta keep working hard, one rally at a time.

(Source: Yan Huckendubler)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

"The Talent Code"- Book Review

“Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee

“The Talent Code”, by Daniel Coyle, has been on my wishlist for a while, and I finally got a chance to get a copy when a local Chapters (bookstore) was closing and offered 50% off all books! Out of the 17 books I bought, I started with this one and I finished it in a day. It was a simple read, with quite a few stories to explain the concepts, so for me it worked out because they repeated a few key points over and over and I simply glossed over the stories. My goal is to give a recap of the book and try to take some points that I can take over to badminton.

One of the main concepts of the book was “deep practice”. This kind of practice, also known as “deliberate practice” by others, is the type of practice that is not fun. You are really grinding out the details and making a large effort to take a concept, analyze and break it down into pieces, then putting it back together. Mistakes are expected, and many of them as well. A reference to ‘futsal’ was made, in which Brazilian football (soccer) players used this game to develop their actual football game. With the higher restrictions and difficulty of the game, they had to find new ways of adapting to the game and hence, improving their overall technical skills.

This would be a strong reason for playing modified games, such as “Box Game”, or even 2 vs 1 Singles, or 3 vs 2 Doubles. Any type of modified game which restricts boundaries or certain shots (i.e. doubles with no lifting) should enhance technical skills based on those restrictions. However, from a coaching perspective, it may be helpful to inform players what their focus should be, or at least have the players discuss the best way to approach the modified game. I have often seen players seem confused and frustrated over a modified game because they cannot do what they can do typically (I’ve been here many times), and there is a lack of effort towards the game.

“Skill is myelin insulation that wraps neural circuits and that grows according to certain signals” (Coyle, 2009). This is the science behind deep practice, in that you are essentially adding myelin in your brain to optimize neural circuits, without getting too technical into neuroscience (out of my scope of practice, although motor learning does interest me). The ’10 000 hour’ rule is addressed here, but it is expanded to ‘10 000 hours of deep practice’, which gives world-class skill.

From a badminton standpoint, it would be interesting to see how much we overestimate our abilities because 10 000 hours of badminton does not equal 10 000 hours of deep practice, at least in Canada. I can only wonder if I have reached 10 000 hours of deep practice in badminton myself…

Coyle gives the 3 rules of deep practice: 1) Chunk up, 2) Repeat it, and 3) Learn to feel it. The first rule looks at taking the process as a whole, and dividing it up into its smallest possible parts. An example would be to look at an overhand stroke, but start out extremely slowly, as to ensure perfect technique before speeding it up. One of the quotes from the book was: “It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slow you can do it correctly.” The second rule involves repetition of the task (obviously!) but he talks about limits of practice. While he says that 3-5 hours/day is recommended, it may be best to stop once you get out of the ‘deep practice zone’. The final rule involves making mistakes, and that they should bother you; hence, you learn to “feel it”. As he discusses practice and not performance, corrections should be addressed immediately.

There are many takeaways from these 3 simple rules. I have already addressed slowing a stroke down to ensure perfect technique, but I’m not sure how often this strategy is used. I typically break down the stroke into parts, but I try to minimize the amount of steps for ease of memory. I typically would like to have students trying to hit a shuttle as soon as possible, as most of them feel the same way about it. However, this strategy would likely involve slowing down the stroke to perfection, then gradually building up speed until it reaches normal speed with perfect technique. I suppose this is like trying to improve your badminton game by playing more games, vs. breaking the game into smaller parts, practicing and perfecting each part, then putting it back together into a complete game.

The second rule makes a lot of sense, because I have come across research about motor learning where it is best not to practice fine motor skills under fatigue. However, it is definitely up to debate. I would say a complex skill like a jump smash would be better with perfect technique and execution, and by practicing jump smashes when you are tired will affect your overall technique because of small tweaks in posture or force development. The quality of smash is affected, and constantly practicing tired jump smashes may make small adjustments in the overall quality of your jump smash. However, I would say it is context dependent, because some will argue that you need to jump smash when you are tired, but I will ask if a jump smash is the right shot selection at that point (i.e. why not a regular smash)?

The final rule is essential for practice, and I think it’s important (in practice only) to understand whether shots you hit are good or bad, or whether the shot is going as you intended. Sometimes we hit drives or smashes too high, and they magically float and land on the back line. Often times I see players celebrating or assuming they did well because they won the rally, but the execution was not correct. Personally, I’m the opposite and I’m overly critical when that happens, even in matches (where it is good to note for later, but not dwell on the fact. Next rally, go!). Shot quality is quite important and I feel that we neglect it as long as the shot goes over the net (e.g. during multi-shuttle drills). Or, we take the opposite approach and only focus on shot quality and neglect proper movement to the shuttle. In the concept of deep practice, both are necessary in optimizing neural circuits.

Coyle’s next major insight in “The Talent Code” is the concept of ‘ignition’, which is really just his word for passion, drive, motivation or will to succeed. He talks about having a sustained motivation, which is an important concept because many of us can be motivated, but only a few of us STAY motivated. In his research, he found that people who have a high commitment will tend to stay motivated and practice more than those with lower commitment.

The simplest way to look at this in badminton are those who are looking to pursue the Olympics for Canada. Who took a 4 year commitment to train and compete? Who took less (i.e.2 or 3 years)? Perhaps I should look to extend my commitment to the 2016 Olympics, instead of the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Coyle also describes what he calls “Primal Cues” which may drive us to pursue our tasks. Two primal cues include ‘You Are Not Safe’, which speaks about the will and drive to succeed for children who have lost a parent (although possibly debilitating for some), and ‘You’re Behind – Keep Up’ which gives success to younger children in the family. However, Coyle acknowledges that the concept of ‘ignition’ doesn’t necessarily follow normal rules, which means that motivation can sometimes come from the most unlikely of sources.

Upon reflection, perhaps my ‘ignition’ came from wanting to win a junior national title so badly, until I found international badminton, and realized that there was so much more than a Canadian Junior National Title (not to take that away from anyone, because I never won one :P ). My new ignition came from a hope for future success, owing to the opportunity of a lifetime to train with Kim Dong Moon in Canada, and now, the new ignition is a new approach to training and competition, a new partnership, and a new start. Challenges do exist and I’m still at the beginning of an uphill battle, but finding new ways to overcome hurdles may be my own ignition. Find what motivates you and achieve your personal best!

Additional pointers from the book that I found useful include having a continued ignition as the key to success, praise efforts over intelligence, and pay attention to details. As these pointers are quite self-explanatory, I will address the final key to success according to Coyle, after deep practice and ignition: master coaching. Coyle talks about master coaches having “extraordinary sensitivity to the person they’re teaching, customizing each message to each student’s personality” (2009). Although coaching may be more art than science, he also addressed that average-skilled teachers or coaches may offer continuous ignition for those and help them to progress.

This concept hit hard, because it differed from Geoff Colvin’s definition of an expert. Colvin speaks of deliberate practice, but includes world-class coaching. Looking back at my career, I would think I was fortunate to have both at some point. To prevent this discussion from going too long, I think both players and coaches need to work together in addressing individual needs. I think the player should learn to make the most with their coach and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but the coach should also treat each player individually, instead of the typical group mentality that most players get. All we would need is a little effort, trust, and lots more deep practice! We can learn from everyone… but first, we need to be open-minded.

Post Game Re-Cap with Coach Darryl Yung:
DY: "Why do you still play singles?"
TN: "... Good point."
(Photo Credit: Joseph Yeung)
Coyle speaks about the 4 Virtues of a Master Coach: 1) The Matrix, 2) Perceptiveness, 3) GPS Reflex, and 4) Theatrical Honesty. The first virtue speaks about a master coach being able to take it to a deeper level (hence, ‘The Matrix’, i.e. red pill or blue pill?). Master coaches may have been former talents who may not have reached their potential success, but tried to figure out where they went wrong. They can offer genuine information because there is no survivorship bias, because they will tell you what went wrong, and at least how to avoid making their mistake. The second virtue is the ability of the coach to gather information about individual players and treat them individually. Knowing when athletes are tired is important to prevent overtraining and also to optimize an individual’s performance. For example, some players need a pep talk, some need time alone, while some may just need a simple nod or pat on the back to encourage them to perform. The ‘GPS Reflex’ refers to how direct and simple GPS commands are (i.e. turn left, you have arrived at your destination, etc.). Coaching should be simple and direct, so information is given and understood with as little ambiguity or filler as necessary (e.g. “I think you should maybe try hitting a bit harder next time”). The final virtue, ‘theatrical honesty’ is a means of keeping your athletes guessing; have a different personality for a different player. For example, a coach to be enthusiastic and cheerful to players who also exert that same energy, or being quiet and patient for different player, is part of being a master coach. In conclusion, athlete should not be looking to do things by themselves: find a master coach!

I think we have many great coaches, but perhaps there are a few virtues that each coach may be missing. In our system, coaches simply continue to coach, but most do not have any way of continuing their education. How can we expect anyone to make a change if they are not aware of it? Perhaps feedback and trust should go both ways: a player cannot develop as well if they do not get feedback from the coach, but can this go the other way? A coach will likely not be as good of a coach if they have no students, but we never give coaches feedback like we give our teachers a student evaluation. Coaches can practice these virtues as well, and in the end, everybody will benefit, because they will understand how to develop their players, and their players will perform better.

Celebrating a win with Coach Ronne Runtulalao at the 2013 Canada Open
(Photo Credit: Joseph Yeung)
Overall, I highly recommend the book and to give it a read. It’s only about 200 pages and it’s not too long. The stories are enriching and there are some other good points that I have not shared. I think the book is great for both players and coaches, and I think it will definitely give some new ‘ignition’ for both, as well as the ability to take practice to a ‘deeper’ level!

Visit the website here: http://thetalentcode.com/

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2014 Junior Nationals Speech

I was asked to do a little speech last minute at the 2014 Junior Nationals to add a bit more depth to the opening ceremonies, so I wrote up a 5 minute presentation and based it on my own junior career. I've included the contents of the speech as I drafted it earlier, and I was more-or-less able to include all the material into the speech (minus the cool pictures). For those who missed it or those who were not able to attend (e.g. the entire province of Quebec), here it is:

Thank you all for taking the time to come here and support another Junior Nationals. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Toby, current National Team member and I’m partnered with Alex Bruce, and also with Philippe Charron. I train out of this wonderful facility, and I had the great fortune of competing at the 2012 London Olympics. I’d like to wish all of you the best of luck in competing to become this year’s national champion, much like the other players as listed on the website (www.badmintonnationals.com), including current National team members, like... Alex Bruce, Michelle Li, Joycelyn Ko from Ontario (*cheer after each Province*), Philippe Charron from Quebec, Grace Gao from Alberta, and Phyllis Chan, Christin Tsai, and Derrick Ng, who they've left out, from BC. Honorable mention: Dave Snider of Manitoba, but we’ll say Prairies, so that includes Saskatchewan! Many of our top players have performed well as juniors, and it is helping them extend their badminton careers. 

But, every year, there are only 4-8 winners per age group. Sometimes we come up a bit short, despite all of our training goals and all the sacrifices we put into the year for this one tournament. I knew that feeling well. I didn't make that list for a reason, because I never won a junior national title. I think I was seeded first in doubles for my last year of U19, and 2 years of U23, when they started U23s in 2006, and 2007. I had a freak loss in U19 in the semifinal and I vowed to quit badminton and become a bboy instead (well, look how that turned out), and in the 2 years of U23, I played 4 events and won 4 silver medals.

#throwback U19 Nationals in Saskatoon 2004
(L to R:) Kyle Holoboff, Richard Liang, Alvin Lau, & myself

#throwback U23 Nationals in Montreal #bboystance
(L to R:) Ronnie Runtulalao (coach), myself, & Adrian Liu

#throwback U23 Nationals in Montreal #bboystance
(L to R:) Ronnie Runtulalao (coach), Adrian Liu,
myself, Luke Kuroko, & Kevin So

It was tough, but I was given that opportunity to look a little bit further. Instead of continuing to chase that National title, I took the opportunity to compete internationally (for the record, I never played World Juniors either, but I volunteered for one, which totally doesn’t count). I ended up skipping my last year of U23 Nationals, my final chance to win a title, but for Thomas Cup team finals. I suppose if your focus is so narrow, you’ll miss the big picture. As Bruce Lee quotes, “It’s like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.

So I finally won my National title in 2009. It was a Senior National title, and the feeling was bittersweet. I mean, sure I finally met my goal, but I had actually won the 2008 Pan Am Championships a few months before, so I was technically continental champion before I was National champion… all that 20 months since my last U23 Nationals. Sweeeeet…

For those who have won before, it’s also a lesson in consistency. When you are the front runner, everyone is chasing you. So you have 2 options, fend off your spot from challengers, or find someone else to chase. Aiming higher may make things easier, but sometimes aiming too high may be harmful as well if it becomes too unrealistic. I would say that I've lost at the 2010 Nationals because I was aiming too high, and I lost this year because I wasn't aiming high enough. Tragic, but it’s a wake-up call. I hope you can learn from my mistake instead of making your own. Regardless, I’ve picked myself up and I’m training hard for my next series of tournaments in the summer, including the World Championships. I’d be foolish to train really hard just to win Nationals again because I have confident in my abilities. Often times, I find if you play a player/team 10 times, you can win 80% of the time. That means you’ll lose to them 1 in 5 times, for whatever the reason. Sometimes, it will be at that most important tournament of the year, but don’t take it personally. Over time, your average will work itself out. 

Don’t give up, no matter what happens this week… and keep playing. It’s often not realistic to be the best all the time, but if you work hard, you can be best most of the time. Take that as a trade secret.
For some, this may be your first badminton Nationals; but for all of you, I hope this won’t be your last one.

Thank you, and have a great week!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Top 5 Things I Learned This Semester

5) Exercise is medicine.

Nothing like taking a functional anatomy course to get me back up to speed on my anatomy, which will definitely help all the exercise related things I do. I also took a clinical exercise rehabilitation course, and we covered many types of health conditions, including aging, heart failure, heart transplant, spinal cord injury, stroke, cancer, and obesity. We learned how exercise can be beneficial to all these conditions, mainly in preventing cardiovascular disease and keeping people in shape so they don’t fall below the threshold for functional dependence. Personally, I liked it because I had to learn many regressions of exercises I’m more familiar with. I suppose it’s easy to make an exercise harder, but it’s not the same when you go the other way, at least not at first. Now that I'm a kinesiologist, perhaps I can find some additional part time work in this sector. It's extremely rewarding and with an aging population in the years ahead, I think the demand will increase quite a bit.

4) You can learn just as much if not more outside of school.
You CAN… but not always. I've had a great deal of extra education this year, and it was all outside of school. However, the foundation I've developed from school really helps integrate everything together. The way I see it, it doesn't really matter where the learning is coming from, just learn as much as you can and be open to the fact that you could be wrong at any moment. Even something in this blog post will probably be wrong, or I will have different thoughts about. At least I’m willing to admit it, and through mistakes, I can learn again. This semester, I've had the fortune of participating in lectures by Molly O'Brien & Dan Kenzie (Fortius Sport& Health), Carmen Bott (Human Motion), Behnad Honarbakhsh (FMS – Fit ToTrain), Charlie Weingroff (Training = Rehab), all the wonderful speakers at the NSCA BC Provincial Clinic, Patrick Ward (Optimum Sports Performance), Nick Winkelman (EXOS), and Dean Somerset with Rick Kaselj. I still have much information to sift through, and I will leave the finer details to another blog post in the near future!

3) I’m on the “Precision Nutrition” diet...

Actually, I’m on the Precision Nutrition (PN) PROGRAM, meaning that adherence is recommended, but you aren’t forced into making drastic changes for a short period of time, only to go back to your original diet and regain everything back (and then some)! Although this may sound like a plug for the PN system, which it is, I really like their system, so much that I’m taking a certification course from them because I know it can make a difference with those I will be working with in the future. Aside from that, it would be nice to have some general nutrition knowledge, as the whole nutrition industry is rife with so much information, but never the whole story. PN is about making healthier choices, and changing habits little by little so the new ones stick. I wanted to start right after I got back from Ontario Elite series in early January, but things got delayed and I had to wait until mid-January before I did anything. For most people, that kind of delay would have already killed their New Year’s Resolution, but with PN, making a change late is better than not making change at all. I began making their Super Shakes (with protein powder), and started trying a few recipes from their Gourmet Nutrition cookbook (highly recommended!). I’m by no means a cook, but I was able to successfully follow some recipes, and I really improved my vegetable intake by far. Now I’m eating many more vegetables than I ever had before, and I’m making healthier choices, little by little (i.e. tried turkey sausage and I love it!). It’s still an ongoing process, but I enjoy learning and I suppose now is a great time to learn how to cook, as it will be a valuable skill to have in the future!

2) You can’t win it all…

“You win some, you lose some…” harsh words, but often realistic because it becomes difficult to maintain sustained efforts to be successful all the time. Things have been going well the past year, but the beginning of 2014 hit REALLY hard, with an early loss at the 2014 Ontario Elite Series, and the terrible result at 2014 Nationals. I have already addressed things in previous posts (Reflections on the 2014 Nationals; Recovery, The Elephant In The Room), so if you’re not sure what happened, feel free to read my past blogs. Now, 2 months later, things have been better. I suppose there’s nothing like a traumatic event to test your will to achieve. I've been able to repair most of the damage from the event, and I’m rebuilding myself to be even better than before. Now that I’m finally done school, we’ll see if all the potential things I wanted to do come through. We often desire many things and make elaborate plans, but if we don’t execute them, they will be nothing but empty ideas that never materialize… and that's when we lose. That was my mistake… and hopefully, I've learned from it. The stakes are much higher this time as I've lost funding for next year, so we will see how 'loss aversion' can make lasting changes. Perhaps I will elaborate in future blog post.

1) Never forget why you started.

Despite the bad times, I’m fortunate to have tremendous amount of support from a few special people (you know who you are because many of you read my blog!). I’m also fortunate to have support from most people I interact with. I often come back to a harsh lesson that there will be people who still remember you as the person you used to be, and if they never give you the benefit of the doubt that you changed, they are probably not someone you want to be around anyway. According to Martin Rooney (a strength coach), one of the keys to success is to “get your average up”. He makes the reference that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, so if you are trying to lose weight (fat) and your group of 5 is all obese, it would become a difficult task. Compare it to hanging out with 5 health-conscious people who exercise regularly and eat well, you have a much stronger change of success with fat loss. Check out his video on Motivation on YouTube!

So, I should never forget why I started, or to be more specific, I should never forget why I’m continuing to play badminton despite losing funding for next year. I know that it’s not optimal to publish your goals to the public, and I know I am at a risk for exposing too much information to my competition, but it’s okay… because it leaves me accountable. Accountability is huge, and maybe that’s why losing Nationals hurts because I’m taking it personally… I have to be accountable. And only then, will I be able to grow as an athlete, as a person. What’s the difference between competing now and before?

A different partner, a different start, a different fate. It’s different playing with Alex than it is with Grace. Each player has their own unique advantages and disadvantages, but there are possible commonalities between both players as well. The key thing for me is not to make the same mistakes from before, and identifying them is a step in the right direction. Communication, for example, is something I strive to maintain with Alex, because I think that is one of the major problems I had with Grace.

 A different philosophy, a different training style. I've lost the opportunity to train with a world class coach, because I cannot get full time training, and even if I could, I wouldn't be able to afford it. Such is life. I really don't have a solution, but instead, an alternative strategy: make use of previous years of world class concepts, while increasing physical strength, movement qualities, and work capacity. I don't think I had the strength or fitness to play the way Kim Dong Moon wanted me to back then, but now I'm one step closer. I know I don't have him coaching me, but I've also learned to make do with what I have. In the words of Bruce Lee, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.

 A different training environment. It’s difficult to train at times, and I could easily just blame the system and throw in the towel, but I refuse to give up and I hope to inspire the next generation of athletes that there is always a way if you try. I've began sparring with younger athletes, in exchange for them feeding me some drills. I also can teach them a few things, so it’s ultimately a ‘win-win’ situation. It started off a bit rocky, but things are smoothing out and it’s been fairly productive. Hopefully, over time, a system will be in place and people have a template to follow. Sometimes I think that a good reason isn't enough for people to make a change… sometimes, you need to give them an actual template and get them started… then, changes may actual begin to happen.

 A different level of expertise. I’m learning so much more than I have in the past while, and I really owe it to good fortune, as I met Dan Adams by chance in one of my classes. I was in a High Performance Conditioning class, right after the Olympics, and being an Olympian, I thought I knew it all. But thankfully, I was handed a reality check because I didn't know anyone in the lab, and there were 2 other people who didn't have partners for the group, with one of them being Dan. So, the first thing I learned was the existence of the term “Strength Coach”, as I thought everyone in fitness was just a “personal trainer”. Slowly, I began to learn more about strength & conditioning, and Dan actually just started up the UBC Thunderbird Strength & Conditioning Club. And pretty slowly… things took off, little by little, and the learning just keeps going… with pretty much everything coming from outside my school curriculum. After a while, I had some interest in Olympic lifting and Dan referred me to my current strength coach, Molly O'Brien. Despite everything we've done, I still haven't performed a single Olympic lift! Honestly, I’m actually glad I haven’t… because I don’t really need them right now, and I’m not ready for them yet. Sessions have been going really well with Molly, and she’s been quite supportive over the semester, even though I crashed out at Nationals. I’m currently working with her now and I’m on my 2nd month of General Prep training! If anyone in the area is really serious about training, go book a session with Molly! I totally endorse it :) So, going back to badminton, I can see training through a different perspective, and hopefully, I can make efficient changes that will not only help me improve my game, but to stay injury free!

 A different attitude. Well, I hope so. My attitude towards learning is probably much different than it was before, but given the new circumstances, I don’t see me having much of a choice. I must evolve and adapt to survive; otherwise, I can’t expect changes to be made. I know I will be facing new competition, but everyone deserves their chance to compete. That's the spirit of competition. There are many competitors at a tournament, but always only one winner. If we are all competing for that Olympic continental spot (i.e. Mixed Doubles), only one team will make it. So I won’t bother aiming for that... I will go higher. Top 15-20? I’d be pretty happy. If I make it there and not make the Olympics, that’s fine with me, but my chances of making it would be quite high. Why fight to be the top of the continent when you should be fighting to be at the top of the world? I like to aim high, because I will prepare myself that way. If your ultimate goal is to be one of the world's best, then start training and doing what you can to get there. If you just want to have fun and enjoy the process, then do just that. As long as your actions match your goals, you have a much better chance for success, which is never guaranteed, unfortunately. But that's a risk I'm willing to take...

Let the journey begin...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Top 5 Take-Away Concepts from Nathan Robertson

An opportunity came up for a chance to train with Nathan Robertson at the Badminton & Racquets Club (B&R) in Toronto, courtesy of Stephane Cadieux, Badminton Ontario, and Badminton Canada; so I decided to jump at the opportunity to work with a former World Champion and Olympic Silver medalist for Great Britain! Additionally, my partner Alex Bruce was able to take a few days off for the camp (from her incredibly busy schedule as a soon-to-be engineering graduate), so we had some really solid training together with a world class coach. Anyway, before I bore you with incredibly long run-on sentences, let’s cut to the chase:

5) The women are in charge in Mixed Doubles

Nathan emphasized this concept when we had to take some extra time to discuss tactics and strategy (in which Alex Bruce coined the term “tacticize”), especially in the first 3 shots of a rally. As the women are in the front at the net before a serve, it is better that they pick and choose where they want to go after the serve, as there really is no time to react. Instead of trying to cover everything, it is better to make an educated guess. Since the women are technically at the front lines, it is better for the guy to cover her instead. To simplify, it’s always easier for the front person to finish the rally. Just as much as some teams use hand signals before they serve, it is always the front person who dictates, and the back person covers. Additionally, it’s usually better to have a plan, instead of not having a plan. Perhaps great teams don’t need to communicate much, but until we get there… communication is necessary.

4) Not everything has to be hard and fast

A few times in our drills, Nathan told us that we have to mix up the pace of our shots. For example, even in a simple alternative drive exercise, we had to mix up our shots and hit both hard and soft shots, as we want to get used to hitting different shots because we want to do the same in a real match (further discussed in #2). Especially in multi-shuttle drills, it become easy to hit at the same pace for all shots, and likely, it will be repeated in a match. Shot quality can suffer, as trying to hit shots that fall below the net cord/tape will end up flying up too high, allowing opponents to have a chance to go on the offensive, or even having your shot drift out the back. In my opinion, the key takeaway here is that there are times to go hard and fast, just don’t be reckless about it and it works better when you can mix up between hard and soft. This is definitely one of the “easier said than done” concepts, especially when looking at higher level play.

3) “Racquet Carriage”

This was kind of an inside joke, because Nathan was coaching a provincial camp over the weekend with other Canadian athletes and coaches, and he was quite exhausted saying “racquet carriage” to many of the players. The term is equivalent to “racquet up”, and just maintaining the racquet at the right height to take follow up shots earlier. Many of us (myself included) drop our racquets a lot after we hit, and shots that come back sooner than we expect will cause trouble because we have to bring our racquet back up before we can swing. This leads us to hit bad quality shots, especially if we also violate the “not everything has to be hard and fast” concept. Having the racquet in the right position can mean the difference between keeping the attack, or allowing your opponents for a chance to convert from defense to offense. Ideally, I think the racquet should be pretty much at the height of the net as a minimum after playing an offensive (downwards) shot.

2) Short, but Multiple Sets – FOCUS

The drills we did with Nathan were actually very short. Multishuttle sets were never more than 20 shuttles and averaged around 12. Single shuttle drills were never more than 3 minutes per person. However, we did multiple sets, so instead of doing a drill once each, for 5-10 minutes at a time, we would rather do a drill 3 times each, for 3 minutes per person, which would be pretty much the same amount. However, the breaks in between allow greater focus when we work, as we get to rest a bit when we are feeding. Also, for those who may lapse out when they start fatiguing, the quality tends to go down toward the end of a longer set. The short sets allowed for a greater focus, especially from the beginning because the set is so short. Those who don’t concentrate will find that they get very little work in. There were also times when we had to count our easy unforced errors, meaning that if we made a mistake in an unchallenged position (e.g. overhead stroke). As there were punishments (or “forfeits” as Nathan called them) for errors at times, it gave an extra edge for us to stay focused during the drill.

1) Practice must be the same as match play – Forfeits

Nathan reinforced this concept all the time during the camp, as practice quality should always be at a high level as it will reflect the quality of our match play in a tournament. As discussed in the previous concept, ‘forfeits’ were used to ensure that everyone is playing to win and staying focused in drills, especially in those which replicated consistency. There was a drill we did where we have to play at our minimum tournament speed, but at a pace where we shouldn’t be making unforced errors. Excessive errors were punished, with some type of extra physical work in the legs or the trunk/core after the end of the drill. For fear of misquoting Nathan, he said that there are ‘forfeits’ because when you lose in a tournament, you go home. Additionally, there should be less structure or patterning in drills, as it strays away from tournament/match situations. Although there are times that exist where patterning of drills are necessary (e.g. front court combos), my interpretation was that there shouldn’t be a patterning of more than about 2 shots, because match play is quite chaotic. 

Bonus: Practice deception AKA trick shots

One final piece I would like to add was that we took about 15-20 minutes at the end of every afternoon practice (the final session for the day) to work on deception. Nathan told us that deception is used much more frequently at the highest levels of badminton, much more than it used to be. The idea of doing a bit of practice with these shots will give us more confidence if we want to use it in a real match. Even though we may try a deceptive shot once in every ten shots, a bit of extra practice is much better than not doing any at all, and attempting it in a real match.

This concept was new to me, as I generally frown on low percentage shots. However, I suppose if you regularly practice some of these shots, those percentages should shoot up quite a bit. Interestingly enough, these shots are not intended to win rallies, but an attempt to make the opponent late for a shot. A full step in the wrong direction can give considerable advantage in a rally, sometimes even winning a point out right, but relying too much on these shots is probably not the best idea. Again, there is a purpose in practicing some DECEPTIVE shots, but within reason!

A big thanks to Nathan Robertson for all his insights and I’m sure a lot of us hope to work with him again in the future! I had a great time in Toronto with the camp, the exhibition at the Granite Club, and getting to see familiar faces in addition to meeting new friends! I know I didn’t get to see everyone, but I hope to return in October for the Pan Am Championships! Special thanks to Stephane Cadieux for organizing an awesome camp for many players and even billeting me for the duration of the camp! I hope you enjoyed this blog post and hope you can pick up some new concepts! Work hard, train smart!

#perspire #inspire #aspire