I thought that I knew how my players performed as watched them in training every week
But, I hardly ever watched them in badminton competitions
When I did I was shocked !!!
The difference between performance in Practice and Competition should not be underestimated!
This was another lesson I wished I’d learned much earlier
It would have saved me from much heartache and soul searching
I need to explain a few of my beliefs
- Competition is the TRUE test of a player’s current ability
- There IS a difference between training and competition
- Valuable information is EASILY seen in competitions
Why you should go and watch your players
They are your players
It’s your duty, your responsibility as a coach to watch them in badminton competitions.
If you don’t then they may start to believe that you don’t care. There is no need to attend all the tournaments of all your players, that would take up too much time.
However, sit down with your players and explain your thoughts and reasons about attending competitions.
Let them know how valuable the information you see will be to their development. Also, explain that the likelihood of playing as well in competition as they do in practice is variable.
Often players don’t perform as well in competition, well throughout a competition as they do in your practices.
Have you read: 6 Ways to Improve your Badminton match observations
What you could be missing
This has always been one of the biggest benefits of going to tournaments.
How your players respond emotionally to all the different situations is very interesting. Keep your eyes open for obvious situations such as reactions to winning, losing, and on-court distractions (scoring mistakes, line calls, etc).
But also pay close attention to subtle situations such as distractions from off-court, parents ‘support’, and even your coach ‘support’.
The way players react in tournaments often surprises coaches, if they are actually there.
How often do you discuss with your players how they could react in a competition, or do you leave this to chance and hope that they “gain experience” without your preparations?
Some great shots
I’m always surprised at which strokes suddenly seem to appear.
At home will have practised a range of strokes but in a competition one suddenly seems much better than you imagined. It’s important that you look for these strokes to gauge how effective it is in competition.
Something that looks ‘ordinary’ at home may become a great weapon against opponents who are actively trying to return the shuttle whilst also playing the game.
Plus not everyone in a competition performs as your players do. Be aware that your practice sessions may produce very similar players. Your players need opportunities to play against new styles.
In competition, new opponents offer opportunities to experience playing against different styles. Your players may suddenly excel.
Good shots in practice can turn into great shots in completion, look for them
This is obvious, but if you don’t watch competitions you won’t see how players decide their own tactics
Watching in competition may present you with some confusing thoughts :
- “why are they playing so many clears?”
- “it’s obvious that they keep getting crossed after their straight smash, can#t they see that?!”
- “not another straight slow drop return of high serve !!!”
- “your winning, just keep it in and wait for a mistake, why are you going for the lines !?”
- “it’s all rush, rush, rush, remember what we discussed last week, where is your ritual !!?”
Glimpses of Excellence
You are sitting behind the court and suddenly see something that is excellent. It doesn’t matter if the player wins or loses the rally, it was just an excellent shot, movement or decision.
It doesn’t always have to be a winning stroke. Maybe it was a great crosscourt slice or the sound when they hit that deep fh hard into the opponent’s backhand.
The Coach voice in your head says “Wow, I didn’t think they could do that so well!”
These glimpses of excellence in the badminton competitions you go to often give me the motivation to know that things in practice were working in the heat of completion even though I couldn’t see any progress in practice.
A fighting attitude
Again surprises may jump out when you watch.
Some players who you think have a soft mentality may suddenly play ‘tough’ stand tall, and look like they are in charge. They chase every shuttle down no matter the score.
It happened so many times to me that I started to understand how different practice was from competition. How players react differently and to think about how I could change practice to be more like competition.
Off court activities
This was more interesting than I realised. To see which players prepare off-court was an eye-opener for me. Who brought what food, who warmed up in plenty of time without any prompts.
Did they spend all their time with friends or do they watch matches?
Neither is good or bad, but you do need to know what your players do between matches. You could introduce ideas about ‘tournament management skills’ to your players in your practices.
What do you think your players need at this age, and what type of aspects come under the heading of ‘tournament management skills’?
Maybe: how to cope with an opponent who keeps changing the shuttle, someone who shouts loudly, when to warm up, when to and what to eat, how to know when you are on next, what to do in te break between matches, etc, etc.
Look out for a post on the reasons why practice is different from Competition & how to close that gap
Why don’t Coaches watch their players in Competition
WARNING these suggestions may apply to you 🙂
- Coaches don’t get paid to attend competitions
- Coaches prefer to be with their families at weekends
- Coaches prefer to be running weekend sessions to create income
- Coaches watch their players in every practice session, they believe that they know what they require
- They don’t value the time to see if Practice progress = Competition