Do you know the feeling? When you’re young and fit, and think you’re pretty good at the game. Then you step onto the court against an ‘uncle’... only to lose to them.
And just to be clear, I'm not referring to the 'Daddies' of badminton - Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan. Because they're of a completely different calibre to the traditional 'uncle'!
You come off the court in a state of disappointment and shock, thinking “how did I just lose to someone who can only move slowly around the court? I’m so much faster, I can hit harder and am so much fitter than them!”
The ‘uncle’ might be unfit and have a big stomach hanging over his shorts. Yet his ability to read the game allows him to always be in the right place at the right time which makes it seem like he’s just walking around the court - while you’re working doubly as hard trying to chase the shuttle.
So you change your strategy and try to play faster at his body but his hand skills are exceptional after years of playing and he’s still able to control you around the court.
Has anyone ever experienced this?
I certainly did, especially in my junior days when I’d play in graded tournaments which weren’t age-based. I’d play with and against ‘uncles’ and think: “how come I can’t win against these guys?” They’d often have a smile on their faces when they were beating me too!
Advice was something they’d give openly and freely too. I remember playing with an uncle when I was around 12 or 13 years old. He said to me: “you shouldn’t make any mistakes. Look how big the court is. There’s no reason why you should hit it out”.
And I remember thinking: “that makes sense!”
One of my most memorableass-kickings was at the hands of the one and only Misbun Sidek. I was 14 years old at the time, and my brother, Gary Tho, and I went to Malaysia to train for 2 months during the Christmas school holidays.
We trained at SBA (Selangor Badminton Association) and Nusa Masuri, which, at the time, was headed by Misbun and his brothers Raman and Rashid, who were also badminton heroes in their own right.
During the very first session that we had at Nusa Masuri, my brother and I played a set of singles against Misbun. I don’t remember actually scoring many points, or anything very much about the match other than losing the very first point after Misbun had only hit one shot - a shot which I later would find out was his trademark special called the “Super Chop”.
As a side note, he had his own badminton racket that was called “Super Chop”!
Despite losing so easily to him, Misbun still took us on as students and we were lucky enough to train with such greats as Muhammad Hafiz Hashim (in the same year that he won the All England Championships), his brother Muhammad Roslin Hashim and former world number 1 doubles player, Tan Boon Heong.
Now I know that everyone doesn’t get the chance to be dominated by Misbun on court. But thereis good news.
The more you keep up with your training and improving your match play, your win:loss ratio against uncles should improve! And then it will be your responsibility to repay the favour to the junior players when the day comes!
I’m not sure when you can identify yourself as an ‘uncle’, but when that day comes, be sure to teach the younger generation what you’ve learnt throughout your badminton life and make them feel the same shock that you once did when they lose to you for the first time!
Please note: no ‘uncles’ were harmed in any way before, during or after the writing of this blog post!
Last year in August, I was lucky enough to travel to Basel, Switzerland to coach the Australian Team at the 2019 World Championships.
Being a former player that has competed at such tournaments such as the World Championships, I found that the experience was vastly different as a coach compared to an athlete.
Some of us train a lot. Some of us train a little. Some not at all.
Regardless of which category you fall into, we want to make sure that when we're on court, we make the best of it because let's face it - with our busy lives, it's likely that we don't get to spend as much time playing or training as we'd like.