I think this is a topic we must take the courage to talk about. This can sensitively affect players’ lives but if we keep silent, even worse affections can happen in young people`s lives without any kind of narrative or control to direct them in such a decision. I am personally not against love or a relationship so please don`t get me wrong. I am the person who takes performance goals seriously and gets annoyed if someone wants to turn my passion in another direction. Badminton, as any other sports requires a clear mind and what love doing with us is just the complete opposite. This article is about doubles partners. Sometimes, they may start a relationship with each other and these always have side effects on their performance.
Have you ever wondered at any time of your career: How do good pairs meet?
And then you struck by a bunch of related questions, like Have they met at the same club? They must be very lucky if they are originated from the same club. Was that an easy and quick thing to figure it out that they`re a match? Who found this out? Was the coach or their parents? How much time they have spent with each other before they have reached their first big title? What if that no one is good enough to me in my club to thrive or what if I am not good enough to deserve a good pair throughout in my whole career? Is my coach good enough in finding someone could be my match or even find out the fact that I am special whether if I am currently performing low? How could I meet someone who is as determined as me in badminton?
I found a good example of a top-level duo here, read it carefully because it is mentioning some vital things:
(Yuta Watanabe, male player) “I started playing when I was seven because both my parents played badminton and baseball, so I wanted to try both. My badminton was better, so I decided to stick to that.
I didn’t play very well in elementary school or junior high, but I became No. 1 in the whole of Japan in my first year of high school. That was a very special feeling; being No. 1 and I wanted to keep being the best, so I turned professional.”
“My mixed doubles partner, Arisa Higashino, and I went to the same high school but she’s a year older than me. We are really good friends and I can talk to her about anything… I don’t have anything I dislike about her. She’s perfect.”
I would be going to this idea that their respect level in each others direction is sky high and that sounds like a good start. Respect based on the Cambridge dictionary is admiration felt or shown for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities. See more here. Another dictionary emphasized the word as the esteem of the other. I believe, first, you should esteem yourself and second, now you are okay to find another person who can reflect the same towards your direction.
Their technical proficiency or their tactical intelligence?
Physical abilities are important to reach a good level of technical proficiency.
You must be able to perform shots with a sustainably efficient technique during a game to save energy but maintain accuracy. Physical abilities are also responsible for avoiding mistakes related to stamina and strength. There are things you can control, like racket carriage, movements, the orientation of the body, but you have limited impact on your other physical abilities like your vision (how your eye as an organ function) or other conditions which could affect your physical performance (ocular/visual migraine, asthma, lung or heart conditions, overall flexibility just to mention a few).
Tactical intelligence is rather a way of learning the paths in playing badminton to your favourite situations against any pair you would meet.
Where you can perform at your best. Whether the opponent is well-known by you or an unknown young prodigy. The lack of physical abilities can cause numerous tactical mistakes like impatience, overuse of shots, change of intensity or become defensive instead of maintaining an aggressive style.
But what I believe elevates a good badminton pair above average is a similar badminton mindset. Similar beliefs, similar goals and similar attitudes bring them together to reach higher levels, get great achievements and incredible titles.
Strong mindset makes good pairs outstanding. If you have seen lots of badminton tournaments at some part of the world at International Challenge stages then you could see there are good players with beautiful and exciting techniques and admiring tactics but they are usually exiting the tournaments at early stages, or at least not reaching the finals. So they are never going to reach the top. Mindset is not thought widely at early ages so children often growing up without the correct mindset. They are not groomed properly by their coaches or their governing body is overlooked in this aspect of the sport.
Another topic regarding mindset not heard enough in badminton is the mental fatigue which eventually creates technical or tactical mistakes. If these situations are misdiagnosed, they are only creating more frustration and the player eventually decides to reduce stress and then give it up. This is how we squandering the next generation.
So when a good pair is met, how they think about the game, how much they respect each other will determine their relationship. You know, the human things, not the technical ones. Their current self may not a perfect match but it could change over time applying the right guidance. The coach`s job to understand its players on a deeper, emotional level and find a pair accordingly.
At my time at Budapest, we have had club nights at Uni every single weeknight. I remember once when I was going to training that some of the players started some gossips that someone seen someone else with another guy somewhere (you know how gossips are evolving..) and they have done some things with each other. I always ignored these topics as I thought that everybody is here to do badminton (falsely…). I was the badminton geek of them so I suppressed instantly every topic like that and started to focus back on badminton. I love the sport so much that I could hardly focus on anything else. That tells the story about my early relationships…
Anyway, when I played singles, I was fell in love with someone and I remember how did that affect my performance. When you are young and foolish, you think I play well/bad because the other, but later on (too lately) you realising that it was you all the time who ruined its own performance. When you made the decision that you will start a relationship with someone else outside badminton or a teammate, you need to understand that the other might slow down your development or might end your career, unconsciously.
But when love happens it is soooooo intense. You cannot think of anything else. You will turn into romantic on the court, instead of getting more aggressive and agile in your work during training. Love will block you to focus on things whether if it is important to you anyway. It is affecting every aspect of life requires focus. Your performance on and off school, even walking on the street could become unsafe.
The excitement of a new type of connection shifting the ground and changing everything. Especially when there are girls or boys watching each other for a period of time and finally they just get a chance to open to a new stage of proximity. Because it is unknown territory, they think this is love – and it might be – but most of the time they are rather confused about sexual attraction. Which is not love. Believe me, for an athlete, it must be clear.
As I expressed it before I am not against love or a relationship at these ages, but if you have goals and those are important to you, you should consider whether you want a relationship or a career in badminton. Sooner or later it will affect your performance for sure. Life is hard and this situation will only make it harder. It is a different thing when you have someone, who does support you on your road, let you focus and train, no matter what and those someone will promote your goals in front of the relationship. So I believe it works better if nothing else considered serious in your life.
Of course, it does open up another chapter of an athlete`s life and it will be detailed in another post.
The current top-level of badminton has a direct effect on the coming generations and how the conquering athletes behaving on and off the court, what they are doing with their lives creates thousands of followers. So top-level players can be inspiring and also unknowingly destructive.
I personally do not recommend to anyone who has dreams to perform at the highest level, to start a relationship with their partner. It eventually makes it hard to be with the other, losing your personal time and space, precious spots and a nice situation start getting into a choking one. It is vital to start discussing it early and teach kids this is not the way of reaching the top of badminton. For athletes, there are lots of things they need to focus on: nutrition, sleep times, personal recovery techniques, periods and their consequences on performance (girls/women), training preferences, sexual appetite, coaching preferences because of their own learning methods. If they start a relationship with the other then they will try caring more with the other in the sake of love and forgot their own needs.
Quoting from the legendary Liliyana Natsir who paired up with Tontowi Ahmad and won the Olympics and many more top titles.
One thing to be attracted by the other, feel some vibe, can ease the pain sometimes and feels good. But it is another thing to start living with her/him with all the unknown behaviours which will eventually make difficulties within the pair and it will definitely affect their performance. It is okay if the coach and the pair find a consensus on how to manage this situation what can happen and cannot happen on the training sessions and at tournaments. If they set up all the rules early, and everybody agrees to keep them, then it could be okay for a while but it does not mean that these kinds of situations will not reappear.
Badminton is important. Such as love if it is real. It is confusing and you need to make the decision to give up your career and win love in turn or chase away feelings and focus on the thing you want the most. Avoid mixing them.
Try to know more about each other in line with respect, brotherhood, sisterhood. Cooperate, talk about strengths and weaknesses. Train together in a gym and on the court for the goal both of you want to achieve. Talk about mutual goals, the future steps and walk that road instead of a path through the swamp.
Having a relationship with a teammate or such is not the way to become a top player. Practice and commitment must come first to reach the top. In love, you may reach an incredible performance which is great but not consistent. Sorry, but it cannot justify the relationship.
As a first step, a relationship will take away from your recovery time and eventually start claiming your training times. Love is beautiful, so as high-performance badminton. Avoid regrets and ask your coach, mom or dad, whatever but speak up for help if badminton is precious to you.
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