It’s been a long old season, but how do you still deliver your A game whilst being greeting by last place…

By Katie Garner

Keeping motivated mid match is important

Keeping motivated mid match is important

I’m not going to lie to you – this season has been hard. More than hard. It’s been incredibly challenging, exhausting, knackering and generally depressing when I consider our mixed doubles performances in particular. For our mixed squad, the 2011 to 2012 season was most likely the best we have ever played. As a team, we gelled together like never before to create an unshakable foundation of front and back wonder play, that saw us stack up victory after victory as we lunged, smashed and swore our way into the highest ranking possible in Division Two. We believed in ourselves, we had confidence, and dare I say it, a certain amount of swagger? Winning that division and getting our mitts on the engraved trophy was undoubtedly our proudest moment to date.

And from these peaks of success, began the struggle. We were swiftly moved up to Division One and placed like Jack among the giants of big name clubs that commanded the court with the same ease and grace that Wychelm members traditionally consume gin based beverages. Still pumped from past wins we approached the new season with gusto, but it was only after a string of unflattering defeats, that we slowly began to deflate as our energy and enthusiasm sapped with the unpleasant bitterness of pointlessness.

Firstly, we are going to come last in the mixed this season. Secondly, we know this certainly and we now need to clear the cobwebs and get our game faces on, for this will most probably result in a drop back down to Division Two and back into the realm of vague security and belonging. However, we shouldn’t forget our time in Division One – yes it was a challenge, but those were clearly the kinds of games we need to expect to play if we are going to progress and develop as a squad and improve our play in general. It may have been humiliating, but it was a learning curve, and we now need to work our butts off to get back in there and prove that we can give any club a run for their money.

When faced with super human smashes, ninja style speed and impossibly annoying general brilliance, staying motivated is vital and is definitely something that we let slip by the wayside. Because we expected defeat and couldn’t even contemplate winning, our battered inspiration jet setted off for its summer hols early. We can’t afford for this to happen again, and never mind how difficult it may be, we absolutely must stay focused and more importantly, 100% motivated.

Our moment of glory last season

Our moment of glory last season

Here are some tips to keep us relishing in our own motivational pool of pure kick ass will power:

  • Keep a log of our breakthroughs:

The most common thoughts during a game are ones that beat yourself up for opportunities missed or shots played poorly. However it is so common to overlook what we actually did well, maybe the shot that provided the opportunity and it is these that need to be focused on and built upon instead of being brushed under the carpet. We need to recognise these.

  • Buy some new sportswear:

Probably more one for the ladies, but investing in a brand spanking new pair of trainers, or a sleek new sports top will make you look like you mean business – especially if you treat yourself to a branded item that blasts colour. If you look devastatingly professional, then this will rub off on to your mood as you strut on court with confidence.

  • Regularly assess your progress:

The season as a whole may look like an intimidating block of thrashings after thrashings and it may feel like we are going nowhere fast, but it is important to bear in mind the whole journey and break it down into reasonable chunks (for example, one home game and one away game against each club in mini battles). If we count our smaller milestones instead of looking at the looming larger picture, it will make the task seem more manageable.

  • Talk to other members:

The more you talk about it, the more it will push you to perform, as you want to have something good to report next time people ask how you did. Creating a bit of a buzz and gathering support are great for helping to drive you on.

  • Avoid pessimism:

Some people are just plain old negative and this doesn’t help anybody. Avoid negative thinking and pessimistic people to keep up optimum levels of happiness, drive and ambition in your abilities.

  • Writing down / setting out your goals:

At the beginning of each match we should have a group huddle and set clear targets about how many points we want to achieve as a minimum. Let’s be ambitious and push ourselves to learn and grow as players instead of sitting on our laurels in a fug of self-defeat. Writing down these goals will make them more set in stone and help us monitor our progress.

  • Pretend to be a pro:

Release your inner Lin Dan in a spot of wistful role play, thinking about the movements and style of the pros to give you an added confidence boost.

  • Don’t fear playing catch up:

It’s not over, until it’s over. Anything can happen in a game, so don’t fear failure as soon as you fall a few points behind. I tell this story all the time, but as I was learning to play badminton, when I was about 13 maybe, I took part in a singles competition as part of the course. The games were to be played up to 11 and I was against a boy who was clearly one of the best in the group. He was winning 10-2. I won 10-11. It was all the more satisfying as it was a challenge.

  • Set a personal challenge:

Talking about challenges, why not set yourself a personal challenge to push your own boundaries. For example, why not aim to create five drop shot winners, or win a net rally? Think about what you want to improve on and what your best shots are and aim to get better.

  • Get excited about the end goal:

It may look like a long way away when September comes around, but at the start of a season, all clubs are in the same boat, with the same ambitions to grab the division win. It’s a free for all and it’s anyone’s shot – we deserve it just as much as anyone else, so why shouldn’t we win it? There is nothing to stop us.

  • Support:

Round up stray members, free family and friends and let’s get a cheer squad involved. You’ll feel more motivated and involved if you have someone in your corner rooting you on. You won’t want to let yourself or them down. Go team!

  • Celebrate the small victories:

It’s important to reward yourself when you do well, whether it’s cracking open a packet of wine gums when you take all matches to deciders, or whether you opt for a sneaky pint after winning one more game than last time. If we focus on these, we’ll boost our morale and encourage ourselves for the next round.

And most importantly…

We never give up. Ever.