Any Sports Psychologist will tell you that the basics of controlling your mind in sport are the 5 C's:
Commitment | Composure | Concentration | Confidence | Consistency
I certainly found that looking at these areas had a big effect on the way I played...
Not only is commitment a vital part of being successful in badminton, but having high levels of commitment makes it a lot easier to get there as well.
One of the fundamental, core attributes of a successful player is that they have made a decision.
They have made the decision to put everything into achieving their goal.
Everything worth achieving in life is going to come with a price; the price of sacrificing free time, the price of hard work, the price of frustration when it all goes wrong.
But with a solid commitment to yourself that you are going to stay with it, the bad times just won't stand a chance.
Can there be a more frustrating game than badminton?
How many times have you just completely lost it on court due to a bad shot or miss, and then never been able to get it back again?
Composure is vital if you are to play your best game - keeping in that optimum mental state with no distractions or stresses affecting you.
I certainly found that lots of the exercises that you will see later made keeping composure during a game that much easier.
In fact at one point I was appearing so calm on court that one of the other players thought that I didn't care about winning!
I certainly found that concentration was one of the hardest things to control, but also one that got a lot better with practice.
It is focusing on each point as it comes, and stopping the distractions from previous points, bad calls and future worries that are the fundamentals to good concentration.
Once you have high levels of concentration, you will find that your game flows a lot smoother.
The blocks that are subconsciously causing you to make mistakes won't affect you as much and playing will seem almost effortless.
We all know that when we are winning we are confident, and when we are losing we're not so confident.
Why is that?
Confidence is merely a state of mind, so why shouldn't we be able to summon it at will, regardless of what is going on around us?
The answer to that question is the reason that confidence is my favorite of the 5 C's - because you CAN control it, and it's often a lot easier than people imagine.
Once you realize that confidence doesn't have to be a factor of what is happening outside you, you are set free to concentrate on trying to always be in a confident state.
When you are confident, certain things are happening in your brain and your body.
And the ability to change that can have a big difference in your badminton, more specifically affect your...
Looking at your badminton game as a whole, there are few things that will make more of a difference to how successful you are than consistency.
Consistency means maintaining a high level of play over a long period of time.
Much of that comes with preparation (which we will be looking at a lot!), and much comes from concentration too.
I certainly found this to be an important factor to how good my results were if nothing else.
I would put my everything into the start of a game and play absolutely brilliantly, but then get complacent, lose that consistency, and thus lose the game.
When I realized that it was more important to keep a consistently good level of play going throughout the game, rather than trying flat out to win the first few points, I found it easier to win games.
After all, you can only win one point at a time!
Knowing Your Goal
I never really started to see results in my badminton until I realized the importance of having goals.
Unconscious direction | Setting goals correctly
The only problem with goal-setting is that it always seems like such a chore, and because the results are so gradual it never seems like it is doing any good.
But I was concerned with what was going to make long-term differences to my success in badminton, and am glad that I attended to this basic principle quite early on.
You must have goals.
Goals give your mind something to focus on, but more importantly it gives you unconscious direction.
Let me explain.
The vast majority of everything that you do on court is governed by your subconscious.
The subconscious is the part of your brain that you do not have direct access to, but it is the part that you need to influence to make real change in your game.
How do you do that?
By repetition, which is where having a well-defined goal comes in.
Anything that seeps into your subconscious has to go through the conscious mind, and it has to go and knock on the conscious mind's door a number of times before it gets in!
So by defining your goal, writing it down, you are getting a consistent message to your conscious mind, and because it is consistent, that message will eventually seep down into your subconscious.
And when it is down there, without you knowing it, your actions will lead you towards that goal.
Because if goal-setting only worked on the conscious level, we would all set a goal and then go out and achieve it.
But of course it doesn't quite happen that way!
Setting goals correctly
In the Badminton Secrets Newsletter we look at how to set goals, what they should (and shouldn't) contain, and how I used them to measure how well I was doing.
Once I knew that I didn't just 'want to play a bit better', but that I wanted to be the best player in the club by a specific date, all of my energies were then focused on achieving that.
And, though it seemed quite impossible at the time, I did reach that particular goal - as I'm sure that you will reach yours.
4 Stages of Learning
This seems like a good place to introduce another basic of using psychology to improve your badminton; the 4 stages of learning.
Unconscious Incompetence | Conscious Incompetence | Conscious Competence |
This basically means that whenever you learn how to do something, whether it's play a new shot in badminton or do something a different way, you go through these 4 stages...
Unconscious incompetence is when you don't know that you can't do something.
It's like the exercises that you are going to learn from me that you haven't read about yet - you don't know what they are, so you can't do them!
But then if I tell you that I worked out how I could serve nearly every single serve exactly where I wanted it, we get into conscious incompetence.
You are consciously aware that you can't do that (let's assume you can't!), and you feel a drop in confidence when you realize that there is something that you can't do.
Don't worry! This is all part of going through the 4 stages, and will work out because you will get to step 3 which is...
Conscious competence comes when, basically, you learn how to do something.
You will put them into practice, and hopefully they will make you serve better than you ever have (well, they did for me at least).
You will be able to serve brilliantly, but you will still have to think about it while you do it. You have conscious competence.
Then imagine a few days/weeks down the road, and you are automatically using the principles and your serve is magnificent.
You don't have to think about what you are doing when you go up to serve; it just seems to 'come naturally'.
What has happened there is that you have reached the fourth and final stage, that of unconscious competence.
You have mastered whatever it is that you were learning (in our case how to serve perfectly), and can move onto the next learning task.
One of the main benefits of knowing about the 4 steps is that it keeps you from giving up when the going gets tough.
We are very programmed to view failure in a harsh light, whereas in fact, as we have just learned, it is a vital part of learning a new skill and developing our abilities.
We take a look at failure in our next session...
Why Failing Is Good
What! Surely I'm not encouraging you to fail, am I?
Not at all, but there is something that you need to know about failure that can really change the way you look at your badminton.
I found it made me a much better player, able to keep going and improve a lot quicker than the way I regarded failure before ever let me.
I was always the kind of person who was good at most things, and not necessarily used to failure.
So when I tried something new, there was a good chance that I would have some modicum of success with it.
But if any kind of failure occurred, I would give up, saying it wasn't for me.
To relate this to badminton, I found that I would start the game in a very good state of mind, and this state of mind would continue until I made a mistake, whether in the first point or the fifteenth (that didn't happen very often!).
On the first mistake, my confidence would take a little battering, but I would continue.
And what I found when I started to analyze my game more was that each mistake, each shot that went out, or into the net, was eroding my play a little bit, because I was regarding them as failures.
It was as though I had a 'full tank' of ability at the start of the game, and each mistake drained that tank in my mind just a little, making me play a little bit worse.
It was only when I changed my attitude towards failure that I managed to keep that 100% play up all the way during a game (and that makes a REAL difference!).
My attitude to failure became:
"Failure is natural; failure is not evidence that you are no good, rather it is an excellent chance for you to learn from what is going wrong and move on. The more you fail, the more you succeed!"
Again, we go into this in much more detail later on, but I will say this here.
Say you hit a smash into the net. Most of us would view that as bad, and move onto the next point in a worse state than before.
But if you can view that bad smash as a good thing, a chance for you to realize what is going wrong, you will go into the next point in a positive way, and keep that positive attitude throughout the game.
Can you see what a difference to your badminton THAT would make?
Seems a good time to introduce...
Positive thinking has had a bad rap in recent times, as many powerful things do.
Maybe when you think of positive thinking you think of people thoughtlessly shouting out 'yeah! Go for it!', and have maybe tried that and nothing happened.
Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) is a phrase that has been bandied about a lot, and is often just seen as blind optimism.
Well, I would like to tell you how to use positive thinking to good effect in your badminton.
Everything that happens in your game enters your thinking, and it is then up to you how you represent that to yourself.
You can represent it as a negative thing, and start a train of thought that goes off in a negative direction.
Or you can represent it as a positive thing, and start a completely different kind of train of thought (I don't need to tell you that this is the better train of thought to have!).
Before you start to think this all sounds a bit woolly, let me explain how I see positive thinking.
To me, positive thinking is not just making myself think good thoughts about what is going to happen - "yes I am going to win this match".
Because when you don't win the match, you go even more negative than you were before, because you have been lying to yourself!
Rather, I see positive thinking as a much more passive activity.
By that I mean, everything that comes to me is interpreted through a positive thinking 'gauze' if you like, sifting and sorting it into a form that serves me rather than just makes me depressed.
I'll repeat that:
"Your thoughts, whatever they are, should serve you."
So if the thought that you are 0-14 down and are going to lose makes you really scared, that thought is not serving you.
But if you use that thought to say something along the lines of 'here's a fabulous chance to see how many points I can get back', you are reframing that negative situation into a positive thought, and ultimately you will gain the benefit.
It sounds twee, but who cares if it works!
And it DOES work - like anything it takes work and repetition, but if you can develop a positive thinking habit, your badminton will seem so much easier!
The Power of Habits
Which habits? | Identifying habits
It may not sound like something that has much power, but the habits that you have basically determine what kind of badminton player you are.
It was when I determined to improve my habits that things really started to change in my badminton.
Specifically, some habits are more important than others, such as the habits of self-discipline, self-control, perseverance, attention to detail and so on (and we look at these things in detail in the
Badminton Secrets Newsletter).
But it is the habit of improving your habits (!) that I want to concentrate on in this article.
To a greater or lesser degree, we all have habits - they may change a little sometimes, but they generally stay the same unless forced to be altered.
For example, you may have the habit of getting nervous when you have match point.
You may not even know that you have the habit; because it is so ingrained deep down that it happens without you knowing it.
But once you ARE aware of it, you can then go about changing the habit (we will reveal how in the Newsletter) - and, as in this example, NOT get nervous on match points any more.
But it is that first step of making a resolution that you will get into the habit of improving your habits that you have to make before you can go on to identify and then improve them.
So take a moment now and write down any bad habits that you can think of in your badminton, whether on court or off.
To give you some help, here were some of mine:
If I do a bad backhand clear, my next backhand clear will be even worse because I am thinking about the last one.
If my opponent is standing right on the service line to receive my serve, I lose confidence and serve badly.
- I always arrive late to training.
- I got into the habit of not warming up enough before playing.
- I also got into the habit of always going for the tramlines with doubles smashes.
- I had no idea that I was doing most of these things, and I certainly hadn't taken any steps to prevent them happening.
So take the list that you have made, don't worry about curing them at this stage, but just resolve that you will get into the habit of improving each and every one.
And once these destructive habits are conquered of course, your game and your whole attitude will come on in leaps and bounds.