We have three boys, almost exactly 2 years apart in age. When we lived in Plumpton Green, the only “after school club” was a beginners badminton group and when our boys reached Juniors, they duly joined. They enjoyed it immensely and it gave them good exercise and taught new skills, both physical and mental. Nothing more was expected!
We have found that being a parent is probably the hardest job of all. You’re in a no-win situation and sometimes you need an outside hand to help. We would recommend this to anyone whose child (of whatever age) wants to gain the edge over their competition or who suffers from stress/nerves and lack of confidence.
They started playing when they were about 8 years old. Philip had been allowed to start early as he showed excellent hand-eye co-ordination from the word Go. We then moved to Eastbourne when they were 11/9/7 respectively and eventually we tracked down a Junior Club for them to join.
It quickly became clear with proper coaching that they all had a natural ability for the game and that Autumn they went for Sussex trials. All boys have played for Sussex ever since, some 5 years now and our lives went from fairly sedentary to manic almost within 6 months!
We have three very different characters. The eldest has taken the long route and only made the Sussex Team (top 4) in his last year of Schools badminton. He is quite competitive but accepts that there are people who will beat him. The middle boy is very competitive, very determined but can accept losing provided he feels he has played well. The youngest is extremely able, has the most natural ability of the three, is small, fast and (unfortunately) a perfectionist who really hates to lose. This is where the fun began!
We first noticed that nerves were affecting his playing ability when he was entered by Sussex for the National Singles Challenge competition and given “very high hopes” of winning it. We duly went along and were devastated when he mentally “collapsed” under the strain of other people’s and his own expectations. In fact he came 10th and was very disappointed. It was a new experience for us and we were unsure of how to tackle it. He had, up till then, enjoyed a string of wins locally and had even won a bronze medal at his first national tournament. He was not, at that point, having any personal coaching so we had no “back-up” so I bought a Sports Psychology book and read it from cover to cover several times. It suggested setting player-dependent goals and for a time this was a very successful strategy. This event had been at the end of the Season and over the Summer (the closed Season for badminton) the boys had some one-to-one coaching ready for the new Season. Philip seemed to settle down again and in the Autumn came back to trials (now aged 11 and in the Under 13 squad) with new skills and determination which quickly put him not only in the team, but at the no. 1 spot.
In the early Winter he was put forward for an Assessment to join the Elite squad with Badminton England. He was very excited rather than daunted by this, which again was a positive reaction. He sailed through the two regional assessment days and was invited to National Assessment. Out of 24 trialists only 4 went on for the National Assessment, so he was very pleased. From the National Assessments he was put on the World Futures Bronze Training Camp list and has enjoyed various camps with other top badminton players since then (one year approximately now). He plays competitively and listens and learns well at camps and has been well praised by all coaches.
The new season started in September and he had been moved into the Gold tournament group, which, as you will guess, involves only the top 25-30 children (boys and girls) in the country. He played brilliantly at the first one in September, and in the first few Silver tournaments, struggled a bit in County matches and then after Christmas “the wheel seemed to come off”. He was playing in a depressed manner, not seeming to care or try. His Dad took him to a Gold tournament in February where Philip and his doubles and mixed doubles partners only narrowly missed out on medal positions, but Philip was very depressed and lacking enthusiasm. I re-read my Psychology book, but felt that I had reached the limit at which I could help, as sometimes it’s so difficult when you are too close to the situation. Sometimes we say things we don’t really mean, or they come out all wrong ….. very difficult situation. Did he really want to play for England … it was so close for him now, his friends, both partners in fact had been selected. The closer it became, the more difficult it was to reach somehow.
After a good deal of brain-wracking and many dead-ends I contacted Paul Miller. After talking to Paul I discussed it with my husband David and we talked to Philip about having someone to help him with his nerves and he was very keen. So we eventually met up with Paul and he talked to Philip. At a second meeting he brought the CD with him and taught Philip how to use it. He also taught him some relaxation, calming and concentration techniques, which he can now do within seconds in between rallies on court.
Philip listens to the CD for the last ½ hour of the journey to a tournament sitting quietly in the back of the car. He has very high opinion of Paul and everything he has talked to him about and I know he draws confidence from this.
I can see when he is feeling the pressure on court and see him perform his “circle of confidence” which Paul taught him to calm himself down and build confidence with.
At the National Championships in April, the boys were under immense pressure in the semi-finals of the boys doubles (one set all and one to decide it) but by using his breathing techniques Philip was able to keep calm and play the best game of the tournament. They went on to beat the no. 1 seeds in the final 15-4, 15-3.
We have used the Logs to set achievable long-term and short-term goals and to plan how these will be reached. This has given Philip a focus and at the moment his long-term goal is to be picked for the England team in 2010 when he’ll be 16. Seems ages away, but it’ll soon come round, I’m sure and meantime he is working towards it steadily. We know we’ll have bad times and good, but as long as the good are there, the bad don’t seem quite so bad.
These are techniques which I believe will help Philip through other times as well when the pressure’s on, like exams, interviews and life in general.