Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Elephant In The Room

Have you ever heard of the expression, “the elephant in the room”? It more or less refers to an obvious problem that is ignored or not addressed. I’m going to talk to you about the “elephant in the room” and by no means am I justifying, nor defending it. I simply hope to provide information and wish to remain as neutral as possible, although it’s hard not to be biased…

… because the monster elephant in the room is me.

Whether you agree with that statement or not, tension exists and I want to take steps to remove that tension. Consider it as taking a lacrosse ball to release the fascia of my ego, apparently some people feel that I’m always right, whatever I say is true, or everything has to be done my way. Some feel I’m a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode on the next person that lights my fuse. Some people feel I have a temper and they just don’t want to deal with the stress I can incur to others when things aren’t going my way. Sure, bad things have happened before, but I think it’s unfair. Why is it that people get so caught up on the bad things, so much that it takes away from all the good things I’ve done and what I continue to do? Why are people so intimidated by me where I train? It’s not fair that I take the time to go to school, read books, and do extra learning, while the others enjoy doing their own things, watching their TV episodes, movies, listening to music, or playing their phone games. I gave those up so I can learn and hopefully use that knowledge to further my badminton. I’m happy to teach others, but I feel resentment from others. Maybe they just want to do it their own way, okay… fine. I just wanted to try to help.

So, I must apologize. I apologize to all those people that I made an attempt to help, but may have hurt instead. Or even if they felt uncomfortable or didn’t want or need my help, I’m sorry for invading your personal space. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, and in our faith, we don’t simply believe that we go to heaven just because we believe in God:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. - James 2:14-26.

(Original Source: via Google Images)

After 12 years of religion classes in my elementary and high school days, I have come to interpret opportunities to assist others as a potential test of faith AND good works. Should I do the right thing, or should I just leave it be? This would bring me back to the unfortunate events at this year’s Nationals, where I wrongfully stepped in and made my coach look bad. The only question that popped in my mind at that time was, “If I took action, would I be able to make a difference?” Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to change anything and it only made matters worse. Now, many people write me off because they feel I don’t respect my coaches. So, if you were in my position, do you think you would want to risk helping someone in the future? I didn’t want to at first, but after reflecting on it, I would like to ask you this: “What would Jesus do?”

I have learned from the lesson, and it cost me dearly, but I have decided that I will not coach anybody on court at a tournament from now on due to risk of making the coach look bad, even though there was never any intention to disrespect the coach. Perhaps you have already heard my side of the story, or perhaps this is the first time you heard of it, but shouldn’t I get a chance to defend myself? I’m not justifying my actions, but I don’t deserve the snap judgement and assumptions that some people make, including many of the coaches I work with. It makes me sad, because many times in my career, I wanted to succeed so badly, not for my own glory, but so that they can be rightfully recognized as great coaches. I wanted to do well so badly when I was with Kim Dong Moon, because the best thing I can do for him is to succeed. Same with my coaches at ClearOne, but sometimes, it’s tough because I’m in a partnered-event. I can only guess you have already assumed that I’m trying to blame my partner. See how easy it is to jump to conclusions? All I’m saying is that if partners have different goals, it’s hard for the team to reach their goals because they could be going in very different directions. Perhaps there are different ways of getting to the same goal, but if both partners are trying to attempt different paths to the same goal, it’s not likely to work. For example, if I want to win by attacking, and my partner wants to win by defending, we are probably less likely to win. Regardless, people automatically assume that it’s always my ego, but I disagree. I don’t have to win all the time, except if it’s something I’m actually competing in (i.e. badminton tournaments). Some people say that I can’t lose an argument, and obviously that’s not true. Sometimes, I think it’s due to a lack of communication that causes the argument to begin with, and while I want to find a mutual solution, others just don’t want to change. Why would we want to change if we are already in a good place? But… what if we can make a change to go to a better place? Am I the only one asking these questions?

(Original Source: Google Image Search)

Another problem I possess is that some people think I hold a double standard, where I can do a trick shot on someone, but I get mad when they do one on me. Yes, I get frustrated because I feel it’s a low percentage shot that would probably not succeed in a real tournament setting. I don’t gloat when my shots work, and there are many times I tell myself the exact same thing. Sometimes I even apologize for hitting wrong shots that work out in my favour because I didn’t intend it that way. When I see other players hit riskier shots in practice, sometimes it bothers me because I feel that things would be different in a real tournament environment. I’m not looking for confirmation bias, but those who simply rely on hindsight bias can believe what they want. Again, I’m not justifying that my actions are right, but merely pointing out that things may not always be what they seem. A good analogy of this is if someone accidently runs a red light. Sure, they may have gotten through the intersection safely, but it was still a mistake that should be identified. However, some may feel that it’s justified, and claim they couldn’t stop in time, and that it was just a late yellow light, not a red. To each their own judgement…

The final problem I will identify is my temper. Many times my temper has flared up and caused unnecessary stress to many people. I won’t defend myself, saying that I can’t help it, maybe it’s genetic, or other empty excuses. I’m sorry if it happened, and I’m sorry if it will happen again. I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again, but I do my best to learn from each time I’ve failed to control myself. For example, I lost it when I was at a practice the week between 2 international tournaments. I wanted to maintain a high quality training session, but it was going nowhere. What set me off was when a player smashed the shuttle into the back of my head. Sure, we’re in the most elite group at the badminton center, but I mis-hit poorly as well. I suppose I could have made a stronger effort to communicate my needs to the coach that day, but I clearly remember telling him what I needed, but due to court scheduling, we were limited. I was the only one in the group who had to play another tournament, and I decided to play that international tournament because I wanted to help represent my badminton club, because the tournament was held at ClearOne Orlando. It was a tournament that wouldn’t have helped my world ranking, and I’m certain I would not have lost my temper if I didn’t have to play that tournament. But I did, so I went to train. And I told my coach what I needed, but we couldn’t do anything. I tried to make the most of a bad situation, but then I get a shuttle to the back of my skull. I lost it, I got mad. I’m sorry.

My temper is the other elephant in the room, the temper that was inspired by some of my coaches, because I wasn’t intense enough when I was a junior. The same temper and anger that my other coach said that made me play faster and move better. I think we may have some mixed signals here, but it’s also the same temper in which I’ve lashed out on many partners. It took a long time to realize it coming up through the junior/U-23 years, but I eventually came and understood that I was wrong, and I apologize. To all the partners that I’ve hurt or even traumatized, it wasn’t your fault; it was mine. Whether it was driven by my desire for success or fear of failure, I’m not justifying my actions. I’m just telling you it was never personal and that you got caught in between. I’m sorry.

The reason I decided to write this post was primarily meant as an apology. My desire for success and achievement has made me difficult for some to work with. I understand that I need to work with other people, and I hope I can reconcile with those that I have wronged in my pursuit of excellence. In the future, I hope that we can maintain a good level of communication to minimize problems so that we can all work together...

… because at the end of the day, elephants are pretty friendly unless threatened.

(Original Source: via Google Image Search)


  1. Toby, even though I only get to know you recently, and know of very little of your pass. Just by reading your blog and Facebook entries, you come across to me a person who loves to get to the bottom of things, to find the real truth. Also you have a hot temper like Jesus' disciple Peter, who couldn't hide any emotion for a minute. I truly appreciate the way that you expressed your apology in this blog entry, you taught me how to make a proper apology, not the cheap easy type that the elephant was never dealt with! You gave yourself time to confront with the elephant inside of you first, and by doing so, attempt to make yourself a better person, and in the process, learn how not to commit the same mistakes again. Comes to think of it, you're more like the Paul in the Bible who turned from a hot temper Christian killing extremist into a well studied truth-seeking enthusiast. Toby, I wish you well on your future badminton ambition, but most of all, continue to strive for excellence in all aspects of your life as you always do! And in the mean time, bear with those of us who are older, or slower, or for whatever reasons, stubborn and not willing to change, yet!

  2. Joseph, thank you for your comments and your support! I know it has been a rocky road and we will always face constant ups and downs, but it's good to know I have people who believe in me and what I hope to accomplish. Thank you for taking all those photos of us at the tournaments, because it gives others a glimpse of what we do. I feel the sport needs to grow as a community, not just through results of individual players. Though it may help bring us together, I think we need to progress together to make any significant chance to this wonderful sport in Canada. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. Great post Toby. You always seem chill to me, except when I watch your match videos, then I see you pounding on yourself in your head haha. I think it was well put, it covered all the bases, and it was very open and forward. That being said, there ought to be not one person who doesn't want to work things through, if they have issues with you. Every person has offended someone, every person has lashed out, and every person has stepped on another person, even if unintentionally.

    One thing I do know is the only reason giving advice to someone during a match makes the coach look bad, is because he (or she) has pride and a big ego. The coach should be open and look for others to point out other possibilities or even flaws in his point of view. He should want what's best of the player. And everyone else should mind their own business. That's between the coach and you.

    Anyhow, nice post. Really hope it repairs some bridges.