One of the worst feelings in the world is to train extremely hard and play like you never improved in a tournament setting. I’ve seen so many people play well in training only to play like a beginner in a tournament. After experiencing it myself in a provincial tournament this year, I realized the need to develop principles to achieve maximum success in badminton competitions.
Ultimately, everything comes down to our mindset. So many of us can play well in practice but choke at tournaments because we’re not thinking correctly. We put undue pressure on ourselves when there’s already an immense number of factors against us in tournament scenarios.
To help those who have issues performing at your best in tournaments, I developed these five must-follow mindset principles to achieve maximum success in badminton tournaments. These principles have helped me play much better, and I hope they can help you do the same.
Play With No Expectations
The first must-follow mindset principle is to play with no expectations. Yes, we all want to play our best and win, but it’s unrealistic with how many factors are stacked against us.
Think about what happens in a tournament setting. You’re often playing in a new location, with people watching, and against different people. These factors already make it difficult for you to play at your best. If you put additional pressure on yourself and become frustrated, you will only play worse.
Having too high of expectations is precisely what happened to me at my provincials tournament this year.
I trained so hard during the year and improved so much that I thought it was within my ability to win the tournament. Then I lost to a kid half my size in straight sets, 21-13, 21-6 in the first round.
It’s extremely frustrating when you expect things to go a certain way and they don’t. This frustration will only cause you to make even more mistakes and repeat the cycle to the point where you don’t want to play anymore.
So if you want to play better in tournaments, don’t set any expectations for yourself. Just play.
Let Your Subconscious Do The Work
Many of us have seen or experienced the art of choking in a badminton tournament. I’m not talking about literally choking, but rather, the act of underperforming significantly, like playing slow drop shots that don’t make it over the net when you could easily be jump-smashing those shots.
Choking stems from thinking about our technique. The pressure from your expectations to play perfectly makes us think about where exactly we want to place our shots and how to do so. We become more mechanical and slow down our movements by thinking about our technique. What was supposed to be a smash down the line turns into a mishit with the shuttle flying straight down.
Choking is why we play with no expectations. No expectations reduce the chance of us trying to play perfectly and, thus, fewer thoughts about how to hit certain shots.
But we should also understand how important it is to let our subconscious do the work.
Think about the last time you were in the zone and playing at your absolute best. You definitely weren’t thinking about how to swing your racket for various shots.
That’s what needs to happen in a tournament. Stop thinking about each individual movement and let your body move on its own. If you’re not good enough, save your thoughts for practice.
Never Blame External Factors
As you read this article, one common theme is that many of these principles are implemented to reduce frustration. Generally, we play at our best when we’re happy and calm.
Many players often get frustrated by external factors out of their control and ultimately lose as they continuously make more mistakes. To counter this, you must understand that you can’t control everything that happens but can always control how you react.
Bright lights, net rolling shuttles, bad line calls, fast or slow shuttles, slippery courts, and other factors can all be highly annoying. Unfortunately, you can’t change any of these things. The only thing you can do is neutralize your emotions and be unshakeable.
Also, remember that your opponent is dealing with the same things. You have a significant advantage if you’re unfazed by something out of your control and your opponent is. In tight games where your skill level is similar, the person who wins is the one with the mental edge.
Always Push And Constantly Apply Pressure
If there’s anything worse than not playing to your full potential, it would be playing in a winning position and then losing. It’s absurd how many times I’ve seen and had this happen. It’s tragic when you’re up 20-13, for example, and somehow lose.
It’s always important to push the pace regardless of the score and who you’re playing. If you slow down and give your opponent opportunities to come back, they will think they have a chance and begin playing better.
This principle doesn’t just apply when you have point leads. It’s also how you build leads.
Start the game off strong and apply pressure. Building big leads will affect your opponents’ mental and make it extremely difficult for them to come back. Don’t rely on this effect, however.
Conversely, even if you’re down, you should still push hard. Make the game hard for your opponent, and don’t give them easy sets. A lot of these matches turn into mental and physical battles. Trust your ability to be stronger than your opponent and continuously weaken them.
Focus On The Now And Enjoy It
Finally, the last and most important principle is to focus on the now and enjoy it. After all, what’s the point of playing these tournaments if you’re not enjoying yourself?
Stop thinking about what will happen if you win or lose. Focus on each point and each rally. Take things one step at a time.
I learned from reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now that there is no future or past. We only ever live in the present, so why not enjoy it? You’ll improve way faster if you enjoy doing what you do. Stop putting unnecessary pressure on yourself and simply enjoy the game.
Hopefully, you learned something from the five principles in this article and can apply them the next time you play competitively. These principles have benefited me a lot, and following them will give you a mental edge in tournaments.