The Mental Aspects of the Game

For many athletes in any top sport, the mental aspects can be the most difficult to master. Most players don’t knowingly work on their mental ability, but every game will intrinsically introduce a mental aspect to it. Competition requires players to push themselves to find an answer to every problem they encounter in the game, may it be a technical, tactical, physical or mental obstacle. The manner and forcefulness of their pursuit determines the strength of their mental skills. It is possible to observe the differences in mental attitude from a young age. Mental training for beginning badminton players is best trained without the knowledge of the player by introducing it as a tactical part of a game in order to play better. With older players you can discuss the subject more easily and make them aware what mental aspect they need to work on during practice matches.

The mental aspect of the game is one the most dominating factors to win matches, however at the same time, it is one of the least trained aspects of the game.

As players progress and become more competitive, mental training should become a part of practice. Starting young players with “good habits” can have a long lasting affect on the success of a player. Creating good habits in dealing with playing under pressure and having the proper competitive response to situations has to be taught at an early age. Players usually pick up improper mental responses by copying them from others. These responses, if not corrected immediately, are very hard to change later on, as they become a customary response or a ritual of the player. The following examples are common in pre-pubescent and pubescent kids due to the peer pressure of trying to fit in with everyone else.

For example, many juniors don’t start throwing their racket or having extreme vocal outbursts until they start playing competitively and observe other juniors doing this.

Many rituals are part of the learning process of mental training. They help to maintain focus to stay on track with the game plan and execution of the strokes during play. It stimulates the thought patterns to stay calm but alert. When you are distracted or agitated, it adversely affects the quality of play. As a coach, it can be very beneficial to teach these rituals to your players to enhance their focus on the court. As a player you would be wise to learn these rituals and find out which ones fit with you.

Note: When a player constantly looks to the side for reassurance from the coach or the parents, it will have a negative affect in maintaining the rituals. The same goes for too much attention or coaching from the side. Rituals maintain focus within and maintain the thoughts on the strategy of the match instead of the distracting factors outside of the court.

Some Rituals for Beginning Players:
After finalising the point, hold the racket in the non-dominant hand.
When losing a rally, compose yourself before getting ready for the next point
Take your time in between points. Don’t rush.
While getting ready, look at the strings of your racket to help maintain focus
Think of your strategy in preparation for the next rally
Don’t rush the preparation of the serve or return
Towel off between games
Maintain a good attitude and demeanor throughout the match

Adopting a winning attitude
Every player experiences some doubts or negative thoughts during competition. Those usually creep in when you don’t have a game plan and a winning attitude. The game plan is your tactical purpose for the match and keeps your mind focused on ways to beat your opponent. The winning attitude are the thoughts you adopt of how to approach the match mentally. A positive attitude helps you to believe in yourself in order to succeed. A winning attitude takes it a step further in adopting all the traits of a winner. A player with a winning attitude will act with determination, purpose and confidence. They will control their emotions at all times to maintain focus on their game plan and to enhance their execution. Positive thoughts, your game plan, and a winning attitude keep the mind occupied from letting negative thoughts creep in.

Focus and Education
Badminton is not an easy sport to play considering all the different shots, possibilities of patterns, strategies and the mental aspects involved. To play badminton well takes great focus and discipline in executing. It also requires great mental and physical stamina to endure in long matches and tournaments. To consistently perform well you have to train the brain as well as the body. Education is a great tool in developing the focus and mental stamina needed in the badminton game.

Mental Training in Progression
Play as many games as possible with young players. They love to compete with their peers and will try harder in a game. Use games with and without points to see if players show a difference in mental attitude. This will be a good indication of the mental ability of a player.

Play actual matches with normal scoring to see how the player responds to the pressure of a match and competition against their peers. Ask them what strategy they intend to use.

Practice playing with a different tactical or mental subject in mind. You can do this for one or both players. This trains the focus and problem solving aspects.

Practice playing under pressure by shortening the game which will increase the intensity considerably. Players will feel the urgency to play more tactically and physically and automatically increase the mental aspects.

Play five games to see how the physical stress will influence the mental aspects of their game. The endurance of a player will have a large impact on the mental stability over time. Playing longer matches will teach them how to cope with the added physical stress and enhance the mental toughness.

Playing points and practice matches will enhance your competitive skills tremendously, but there is no substitute for playing matches in tournaments. Make sure to compete in tournament play as often as possible to enhance your mental skills.

During competition the mental aspects become increasingly more important as players progress. Some players already possess the mental toughness and perseverance to compete and succeed. But for others it does not come easy and is usually a learned behaviour.