I like keeping track of my schedule during various seasons as I’m a teacher so I have a clear, rigid schedule that only lasts for 4 months before changing again. So this probably won’t be the most interesting post, but it’s for posterity’s sake. After coming back from America I still had five weeks of holiday so this is what my summer schedule looks like.
Monday – morning – training with my coach
Tuesday – night – Play with the all women’s group
Wednesday – night – play with my team
Thursday – night – play/train with Yang Ping and his group
Friday – Rest day
Saturday – night – play with my team
Sunday – night – play with my team
As you can see I’m a member of a few different groups around the city. I’ve somehow really lucked out and I’ve been invited to play with other excellent groups. Of course it takes me away from my coaches gym (and he’s just started a new competitive team). I’ve gone from playing 5-6 nights a week with them to only three, but I think playing with different groups is really good for me and I’ve seen improvement because of it.
(It also means I can’t ever play with my original group of foreigners who are my good friends but sometimes they come to my coaches court on the weekend so I still see them from time to time.)
While I met my coach almost two years ago, I consider one year ago to be the real start of my serious badminton career. Before that I was just playing two times a week (four hours total) with a low level group and had one hour of class a week. Now I play almost everyday for 3+ hours.
In fact, for the past year I would easily play five to seven hours a night, then go home and do it again the next day. Getting to the court at 4pm and playing until close to midnight was really common.
Too much? Perhaps. But I was new to badminton and as a believer in the 10,000 hour theory I knew I just needed more time on the court. As I was so unfamiliar with everything badminton, I had no idea of game play, basic strategies, shot strategies etc. So I made a conscious decision to just play as much as humanly possible. With anyone at anytime.
But now, one year later, I’m changing my mind. Now I’m moving onto deliberate practice. I’m no longer willing to play with people far below me because it doesn’t help me.
I’m also not willing to put in seven hours a day for 13 straight days like I did almost one year ago. I’m being very careful and (trying to) play for no more than three hours. Exhausting myself night after night also isn’t helpful. When I’m tired I play sluggish and have less strategic thoughts and playing like that isn’t good. I need to focus on the game, and moving my body right. Quantity isn’t the main goal anymore, quality is.
To that end I’m also taking one day off each week. My coach bullied me into playing on my day off this week, but after he played with me for a bit, he realized it was a mistake and didn’t pressure me the next night when I said I was finally taking a break. While we were playing he didn’t even get mad at me because he saw that my mistakes were due to exhaustion.
Something has been happening to me since I came back too. I’m good. I’m much better than I was before I left. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just like everything makes sense to me now. I’m not perfect but I know where I should be more often than not, and my (still ugly) footwork is getting me there faster.
A friend told another friend that playing with me was like playing with a different person. That’s what a big change it is. My coach has also taken to playing with me in the most challenging games and using me as an example to a new female student of his. (Whereas before he used to use other woman as an example to me.)
I think it’s down to confidence. I’m not as nervous about making a mistake anymore, and thinking less consciously about every move I make so I’m smoother. But my coach said it was just “time.” That I needed time for things to sink in. Whatever it is, I’m cool with this level up in ability and this feels much more real and permanent than my “golden week” a few month ago where I was randomly amazing. This feel permanent, like a new state of being.
School will start in the middle of September and I’ll need to re-arrange my schedule. Every semester I choose a new “goal” and focus on that for four months. I’m working now on preparing my next goal and I’ll let you know soon what it is!