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!

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