Mind Training in Badminton

 
 

Why mind training?

You might rightly doubt whether there is any need at all for mind training for such a physical sport like Badminton. If you can move better, hit harder, be more accurate and have more endurance than your opponent, you should win and then where does mind come in?

Imagine being asked to walk between two lines drawn two feet apart on the ground. Even a child should be able to do it. Imagine similar lines being drawn on a platform fifty feet up in the air without any support on the sides. How many of you would be able to do it? Imagine raising the height further to a thousand feet!!! Here, the physical effort required was the same but the mental factor came in the way preventing most from performing a seemingly simple action.

It is often seen that players find it extremely difficult to reproduce the form they show in practice in an actual match situation. It is attributable to match tension, which in turn is mainly due to excessive secretion of the 'flight or fright hormone' adrenaline. A certain tension is required for an athlete to perform optimally but excess of it can become debilitating. So mind training definitely has its relevance in Badminton training.

The famous sports psychologist James Loehr says that players when faced with a pressure situation react with a

  1. tanking response

  2. choking response

  3. tantrum response

  4. challenge response

Tanking is when the player fails to turn up to play the match, overcome by pressure and therefore unable to even appear to face his opponent.

Choking is when a player, when faced with a tense situation in a match like being match point up - fails to win the remaining point and crumbles under the enormous pressure built up.

Tantrum is when a player under stress in a match situation, picks up a quarrel with the umpire, linesperson or opponent, loses the match and attributes his loss to the tantrum he threw.

Challenge is the response of the very few genuine champions; to fight for every point whether he wins or loses and that too under what ever conditions that might prevail be they hostile crowds, unfair umpiring, inspired opponents etc.

Thus, mind training has a lot to offer to get your player to come up with the challenge response when he faces match pressure.

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Behind every physical process there is a mental process. Any physical stimulus and your response to it, is recorded in your muscle memory. The more you respond to a stimulus, the record in your muscle memory becomes all the more embedded and easier to reproduce. This is the reason why players with more practice do better than those with less practice. Word TT Champion Ogimura was a great example. So was Yehudi Menuhin the great violinist.

Taking the badminton example, your ability to play a particular stroke, however skilled you may be, under various circumstances differs. The circumstances are:

01. in practice without pressure
02. in practice under pressure
03. in a match without pressure
04. in a match under pressure

The supreme test is to perform well in a crucial match under extreme pressure. Here the player's reproduction from his muscle memory has to be exceptionally good. In order to be able to do that his mind has to be pure, relaxed and focussed.

Pure: The player should have respect for his opponent and should wish him no harm. The attitude should be that one must play to the very best of his ability and if the opponent plays better on that day-he deserves to win. A great player always would want his opponent to play very well so that he can play better.

Relaxed: It has been observed that if you are relaxed you will not have any fear and also that if you have fear you cannot be relaxed. The trick is to be relaxed during your match. It is very important that the player does not confuse being relaxed to being lackadaisical, casual or feeling kindly towards his opponent. What is meant here is that the player has to be relaxed to execute his task - the task of mercilessly beating his opponent.

Focus: It is the ability to concentrate intensely on one thing at a time. In Badminton it would mean being able to concentrate on only the point being played and not on points, which are gone by, and on points, which are yet to be played. Care should be taken to ensure that the player realises that he has lost focus during the match and succeeds in getting it back. Also important is to remain in focus till the very end of the match i.e. till the umpire announces the final result. (Eg. Andre Pavel against Michael Tillstrom, Arvind Bhat against Abhinn Shyam Gupta).

A Good Pre match Routine

The trainee should reach the venue well in advance and take in the ambience of the playing area paying special attention to the particular court on which he is going to play, positioning of the umpire's chair, crowd, lighting background etc.

Sit with your player in a relative calm place and ask him to close his eyes; and relax in a suitable posture for three to five minutes. (Nishpanda Bhava)

Once he is relaxed, tell him positive things like 'You are going to play the second round of the Men's Singles event of the Malaysian Open Tournament in a few minutes from now. You have trained hard and you are feeling fit and keen to do well in the match. You have the blessings of your parents, coaches and well-wishers.

Ask him to start his visualisation session telling him to visualise himself playing a few rallies most positively. Tell him that his serves are going high and right to the base line; low serves skimming the net; net shots very close to the net. Smashes powerful and on the lines. Ask him to visualise himself winning the match, shaking the hands of the opponent and the umpire. Ask him to enjoy the pleasant sensations of victory.

The player should be asked to slowly come out of his visualisation session and start his warm up. From then on, he should be advised not to talk much and mingle much with others before his match.

A very important thing to note is that there should not be any negative statements as you speak to your player. You should be telling him "You have lots of stamina" and not "You will not get tired; "you will play positive" and not "you will not make mistakes". This is because your sub conscious mind is unable to understand negative statements. This is very much applicable in the case of self-talk by the player as well.

During the match: A Badminton player has no problem in concentrating when the shuttle is in play as he has an "alamba" or focus of attention i.e. the flying shuttle. The problem starts when the shuttle falls on the ground and the mind gets an opportunity to wander. The player should be taught to develop a regular routine while picking up the shuttle and giving it back to the opponent and while receiving the shuttle from the opponent's side and getting ready to serve. This when fully developed, enables the player to be calm and collected and less susceptible to make unforced errors.

When the player loses focus: It is very natural for any player to lose focus during matches. The important thing for him is to realise this and make efforts to regain it. It is a good habit to train him to regain focus during practice sessions so that he can gradually do it successfully in match situations.

It is imperative that both the coach and the trainee realise that mind-training techniques require lots and lots of dedicated practice before one can master the same and put them into effective practice in match situations.

Balachandran
Coach,
TATA Padukone Badminton Academy

 

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