It was like any other night. Well, not like any other night. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a message from a friend asking if I wanted to play badminton over the weekend. I didn’t realize that this friend played badminton and since I had not played badminton in a long time, figured what the heck, I might as well check out the facility and get some play time in.
When I got to the gym, I thought that there would be a lot of other players but only saw a few players – all older. I had not realized how old they were until my friend had a chat with them on the sidelines while I was playing. My friend and I played one couple who was actually 68 and 71 and they apparently played four times a week. After playing badminton, I had somehow subconsciously learned a few things as I played them – I usually learn a few things from everybody that I play with and it’s usually badminton tactics or strategies but this time, I learned a few things about life that I wanted to share.
On losing and taking it personally
When I was younger, I took it very personally whenever I lost anything – whether it was a game of badminton or a board game or getting schooled in a video game. It was awful looking back at it at how angry I became and how tilted I was trying to get back, often trying to get back at the individual at the expense of winning.
As my friend and I were playing the couple, we did lose but rather than getting angry or upset, I realized that there was nothing that I could have done. As I got older, there are always players that are going to be better than you. They worked harder. They had more talent. Maybe they had a better mental game. Or are much younger. Whatever it was, it’s not something to take personally but rather, to learn from. A really good book on this subject is Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.
On having fun
My friend was not as good at badminton as I was. And when you play badminton, it’s a lot more fun when you have players at the equivalent skill level as you playing against each other. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t have fun. It was good to just get out, hit the shuttlecock and to run around trying to retrieve the bird from everywhere.
On teaching others
As my friend and I were playing, I was trying to teach him different things. It was a challenge, not because my friend wasn’t a good learner but more that it was hard for me to describe what exactly I was doing. This made me think about the value of a really good coach – that special person that can watch you objectively and provide you with the specific advice you need to improve. Coaching is much like any other skill, you try to teach, see what’s not getting through and then try to describe it in different ways. It’s about knowing your style and then understanding how what you say is interpreted by the person you are trying to coach. A really great book on this subject is The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.
When I think about the past weekend playing badminton, I thought about how I approached badminton when I was first learning the game. I had such passion and energy for playing all the time and watching others’ techniques to learn and improve. I thought about whether I had that fire still and the weekend was a good way to remind myself of what I had lost over the years due to my ‘complacency’ in my skill in badminton. I hope that whatever you do, you never forget your beginner’s spirit.