Monday, December 07, 2015

When age catches up

So, I have to admit that I've been slacking lately - not as many games and not as diligent during the games to play a good one. Which led me to the conclusion.

Blame age.

Convenient, but not totally baseless. As many of us has / soon will discover(ed), the grip of death and decay ruins our game on the court. Heck, we've all seen that disgraceful fall from the Hall of Fame Ivory Tower from Taufik Hidayat (check out his game against a fresh Viktor Axelsen, one of his last and most discouraging IMO).

He was such a great player. He was a legend. He got old, like all of us will no doubt do.

With that experience under my ever-expanding belt, I am obligated to share my experience. Because this blog is about my experience in badminton. And also because it's been awhile since I posted and I sort of owe the readers a short and hopefully relevant read.

So what happens to me when I grow old? 

More importantly, what happens to my game?

I found myself the Viktor to my Hidayat - an excellent specimen of a badminton player, quick on the footwork and punishing to let your guard down.

First thing that goes is always the stamina. I remember the days when I could run circles around the court for two hour sessions at a go... now I can't even last four games! One long rally is all it takes to wind me down, and the recovery is a lot longer than I had anticipated.

Next to go after your're panting and wheezing around the court is of course, accuracy. I prided myself on being quite good at this, but it seems being short of oxygen rids you of a sense of touch. Who'd have guessed? The soft touches were a tad too hard; the clears were a tad too wide; the smashes were wildly ineffective both in power and angle.

And when both stamina and accuracy go, all that's left is to bring in the clowns. Pride is the final pillar of a badminton player, and when that goes we're just left to watch the crowd go home. Nothing beats the sheer disappointment of having to finish a game you have no chance of winning, or trying every tactic you have up your sleeves and realizing that it's too sheer a wall to climb.

So what do I do to win?

Because kidnapping his parents and demanding he lose to me is a little drastic, for now.

The first thing I did was to realize my limits. I knew that all he had to do was to wear this old man and his knobbly knees down. A few long rallies at the get-go will mean an easy game for him past 15 points.

My job was to not let him have that, though it comes at a considerable risk. The plan was to take the attack at each given opportunity in order to bring the rally to an abrupt close. This involved taking very measured and accurate shots that will most likely succeed in hitting the ground.

And so that's what I did.

The result?

Very good findings were reported from the first two games, but once the kid got in a few long rallies it was all downhill. The shots became harder to hit and the intimidation of a constantly attacking tall guy gradually faded into something less scary than a fluffy kitten on catnip.

It boiled down to a game of determination and sheer gut. The boy was no longer my opponent - the side lines, net and increasing expanding badminton were. Once I got that out of my head, it meant a higher chance of victory.

So all in all I guess it still boils down to training and consistency. When I first started being very involved in the game of badminton I trained hard on technique and footwork. I wanted to be better at making shots and better at knowing what shots to make. I devised tactics and strategies for keeping the game fresh and for handling different types of opponents.

Now that all this is sort of in the bag, I have to now revisit the earlier periods of intense training to include upping my physical endurance and cardiovascular vitality. Because in the end no matter how skilled you may be, you're bound to suck once you run out of energy.

So that, my dear readers, is my reflection on growing old as a badminton player.

Oh, and not to forget - the muscles screaming for release the morning after. God bless the massage industry.

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