We all used to be younger in the past. And oh boy, when you look back, those days were great!
You’d run around, train and play all day at full intensity, wake up the next morning and still feel fresh. Flexibility is your friend, muscle stiffness isn’t too common and you seem to recover from any kind of niggles or injuries within record time.
When you’re on court, you warm up quickly, move freely without restriction and seem to get faster every day. And while your body gets stronger and more powerful, your mental and tactical game improves as your awareness of the game develops.
Now with the speed, power and game-smarts, you begin to start playing the best badminton that you’ve played before. And you think that it’s going to be like this forever!
But then something happens. It could be that you don’t train as much anymore. You’ve decided to focus on your career or family. You’ve developed an injury. Or you’ve just gotten older.
One day you feel like this:
Then it feels like you're moving like this:
Whatever the case is, you can’t do what you once could when you step out onto the court again. Your mind could be more switched on, developed and mature than ever but your body just can’t seem to keep up with it. It can’t do what the mind knew it could do in the past.
Your muscles seem more stiff, it takes longer to warm up and your body doesn't stretch the way that it used to.
It’s so frustrating!
You know a shot is coming but you’re too slow to reach it. You know exactly which shot to play at the right time but can’t execute it. The speed of your reactions have slowed down just a split second, but enough that the quality of your shots is poorer and your opponent has more time to react. You know the exact strategy to use but it’s hard when you’re off-balance and scrambling around just to try to retrieve the shots - let alone use a game plan!
Speaking to you as a former Australian number 1 Men’s Singles Player and 31-year-old who has had surgery on his left hip, I know EXACTLY HOW IT FEELS. You may think that at 31 years old, I'm not 'that' old - but all of the feelings above are what I have experienced when I've stepped onto the court.
When I play singles now, even socially, I cannot comprehend how I used to cover the whole court. I never recall that it was so difficult to cover the court in the past but now, the court seems bigger than ever before. My reaction times are slow, my hips and feet don’t work at even half the speed that they used to, the fine motor skills and feeling in my technical skills are rusty and I feel like I’m being pushed around the court according to my opponents plan, rather than the other way around. And it feels horrible!!!
'Why do you keep playing?' you might ask.
Regardless of how it feels, I still go and play because I love to play badminton. I still love the game and how it feels to be on court. I love to push myself, get a really good work out and spend time with my friends at the same time.
This post wasn't aimed at giving you strategies to combat ‘feeling old’ on the court. It’s to share how I feel on the court and to see if anyone else feels the same way!
But for completeness, here could be a few ways to maintain your badminton level despite getting older. Although I think that everyone knows the answers without me spelling them out:
Do you feel the same way that I've described? Or do you have any other opinions or strategies for managing this feeling of getting slower, older and stiffer? What keeps you enthusiastic about badminton? And why do you still love to be on the court?
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.