Katie Scott investigates what could derail your shots on match day

You’ve warmed up, stretched the old muscles and limbered up on court. Your opponents are striding confidently towards you, rackets in hand, while you nervously straighten the feathers on the brand new shuttlecock. Match days are always a mixture of excitement and nerves, and despite all your best efforts, sometimes the unexpected will rear it’s ugly head to mess up your poise and distract you from performing your best.

I’ve been representing Wychelm BC in league matches now for nearly nine years (wow that sum was a shock! Please note, I joined the club at 16), playing in both the mixed doubles and ladies pairs with varying degrees of success. I’ve certainly learned a lot over this time frame, but some of the most important lessons I’ve taken on board are those that help me ensure I play my best. They are also completely unrelated to badminton or your sporting ability.

Here are my top three considerations before playing matches – get these ironed out and you needn’t let anything hold you back from winning the rally.

1. Raynauld’s

Ok, granted, this one is rather a unique point and won’t apply to everyone, however I still feel it is a valid issue to raise. I suffer from Raynauld’s which is basically a circulation based condition that means my hands get really, really cold in the winter months. Imagine the freezing conditions you encounter on top of a mountain, where the altitude is high and snow scenery is common – in this scenario, your fingers will probably turn white or blue with cold, will sting and go completely numb so you can’t feel them. My hands feel like this on normal ground level during winter and as you can imagine, this can make playing in a drafty and unused sports hall rather problematic. In the past, I have been unable to serve properly because I couldn’t feel my hands, and I have even resorted to stealing a friend’s driving gloves to play in once – not a good look. Now, I counteract this issue by bulk buying disposable hand warmers which I keep in literally every bag I own. I find the disposable hand warmers more effective then ones you can reset and they are simple to use too – just take them out of the packet to activate them. If I am even feeling one little nip of cold, I’ll whip a hand warmer out and ensure to keep my hands as toasty as possible before and in between play. My short serve is one of my best shots, I can’t afford for it to be out of action because my fingers are resembling LED lights changing colour.

2. Hunger

Even something as simple as a grumbling tummy can destroy your match day efforts. Over the years, I have noticed that as soon as I even get a whiff of hunger, or start musing about what I’m going to have for dinner when I get home, my play goes completely out of the window. I literally get so distracted by the thought of food and then getting hungrier by the thought of said food, that I can’t string two shots together. It then becomes harder to regain your focus. On match days, I now make sure to have my main meal before the game. If I am working from home or at home, I’ll eat dinner between 5pm or 5.30pm for a 7pm or 7.30pm match start time. This means I can fuel up and won’t get hungry mid match and also allows enough time for the food to go down so there are no fears of puking. If I am out and about or office based, I’ll have dinner at lunch time, preparing either a lovely tupperware of pasta or a jacket potato to chow down on. Then, I can just top up with a light snack come evening to keep hunger at bay. I have definitely noticed the difference since eating pre match!

3. Trainer and sock positioning

We all know that new trainers tend to rub, but getting to know your court shoes and what trainer socks work best for you is vital for ensuring comfortable match play. For example, when I received a shiny new pair of Adidas court shoes for my birthday one year, I wore them with low riding trainer socks, not realising that the sides of the trainer actually came up higher on my ankle than my regular trainers. I then got some rather sore rubs around my ankle that could have been completely avoided if I just wore different socks. Such a simple solution, but not always one that we think of. I now make sure to wear socks that cover my ankles when I wear my court shoes and have since not had any trouble with rubs or blisters. Being comfortable in your footwear makes all the difference if you want to stay light on your feet.

So, these are my top three factors that could hamper my play and what I’ve learnt about how to tackle them. What are yours? How do you support your match play?