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November 06, 2019 5 min read

Jeff and I have this acquaintance.  Let's call him Bob. And damn he’s a good badminton player!

We're talking good as in; he was born to be an athlete and badminton player. Bob would come onto the court and steam roll people without training. It always looked so easy for him and it never looked like he even needed to work up a sweat.

But in most tournaments, he would pass the first couple of rounds and then lose relatively closely to another competitor. The competitor was usually someone who was seeded and Bob would be very competitive against them, often losing in very close sets.

And this is where it gets interesting - the flurry of murmurs in the badminton community would always be along the lines of: 'If Bob actually trained, he would be so good!"

We see this over and over again.

That's why, in this post, we would like to focus on players like Bob because we're sure that you all know players like this in your badminton community.

There are three things we need to consider in this discussion about talent vs hard work:

  1. Can a player's pure will and drive triumph over Bob's natural ability?
  2. Would Bob ever put the effort in to train properly? Does he have the willpower?
  3. Would Bob improve dramatically, be as good as everyone thinks he would be and succeed, if he put in the hard work at training?

 

Please take into account that the answers to these questions that we provide are our opinions only and we'd more than happy to hear what you think. 

Can a player's pure will and drive triumph over Bob's natural ability?

This question really depends on the overall level of both players. And because of this, we have to answer the question with a: MAYBE.

If the player is of a comparable level to Bob, then yes, the pure will and hard work can triumph - especially if the match is long in duration. But on the other hand, putting players like Bob to face up against others of a similar level can also result in victory for the more talented player (like Bob) - more likely to be in straight sets.

Conversely, and quite obviously, if the overall level of the players is vastly different, the player who is at a higher level is very likely to be the one who is triumphant.

A general rule of thumb would be: talent gives a player a head start in badminton, but if they wish to not finish the race, then of course hard work will prevail. 

Would Bob ever put the effort in to train properly? Does he have the willpower?

This is the million dollar question and where it comes down to our personal opinions. But before diving into the answer, we need to take a step back and see what "created" the talent in the first place.

Talent, to us, can originate from several sources. So we've categorised them into different types:

  1. You're born with it. Your Dad was a great badminton player. Your Mum was a great badminton player. Their parents were players also. And the list goes on. There must be something in those genes!
  2. You're just naturally gifted - even if there's no badminton-genes in your body. Your hand-eye coordination comes extremely natural to you, as too does swinging your arm and racket
  3. You were obsessed or extremely fond of badminton at a very young age. You just copied the top players and the talent 'rubbed off on you'
  4. You were lazy as a child! You just couldn't be bothered moving. Or maybe you were just not a good mover on the court. Whatever the reason, you developed your skills and 'talent' because that's the only way you could keep up and compete with the other players
  5. Your personality is one of pure playfulness, fun, jokes and being a 'smartass'. This personality may have allowed you to be a much more 'creative' player and helped you develop natural skills and talents that someone more regimented may not have
  6. A combination of all the types above

*** Something interesting to notice is that talent often arises in the early years of life. We're not saying that it can't develop later though - this is just our generalised perception of it ***

Coming back to the question of whether a player like Bob would be able to put the hard work in: this really depends on the person and the type of talent that the person has developed.

We have seen talented players work hard and become the best in the world. As a generalisation, and based on the numbering system above, we'd see these traits in talent types: 1, 2 and 3.

On the other hand, we have seen talented players stay at the same level they're at because their lack of drive, motivation or willpower is the limiting factor in their improvement. We think that we'd see these being players who have talent types 4 and 5, keeping in mind that it may also originate from types 1 and 2 also.

And this may be summed up by the well-known quote: "hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard."

Yuta Watanabe Badminton Talent

And so we move to our final question:

Would Bob improve dramatically, be as good as everyone thinks he would be and succeed, if he put in the hard work at training?

The short answer is: YES. 

But it does rely on some qualifying factors:

  • Bob keeps the motivation/drive and doesn't burn out
  • Bob doesn't lose this 'sense of self' in the process of training hard. Sometimes training regimes can somewhat turn players into 'robots' rather than unique players. And if he is made to 'turn off' his natural skills/techniques, he may lose the very things that made him talented in the first place
  • Bob doesn't get injured! Type 4 talented players aren't used to training too hard and their bodies might not be up for it!
  • Bob can handle the expectations placed on him to be a great player. If not, the pressure of it all may cause him to either underperform or call it quits

Our Final Thoughts

While talent is often a prized possession, it is not the fuel for fire that some claim it to be, and in fact, can be more of a burden if left un-nurtured. Most raw talent without its appropriate cultivation can lead to a lack of motivation and the player (like Bob) may start taking his/her abilities for granted. 

We are not disregarding or undermining the importance of either attributes though. We do believe that both are required to achieve the highest form of success. But in the same light, we have found that some of the biggest drivers for success is hardship or loss.

There are so many success stories of players, athletes and business people who have been told that they can't do, be or achieve something. But rather than give up, it's used as inspiration to prove the doubters wrong. Humans can perceive adversity as something which is more powerful than just being praised all the time. Similarly, losing in badminton can become a significant driver for success.

In essence, it is not whether talent is better than hard work. It's how one can nurture a player to really tap into his/her motivations in order to drive success. And talent is the cherry on top, which can only take you so far if it's not complimented with effort & working hard - as demonstrated below:

 

Do you have a different perspective? Please comment below and let’s chat!

A collaborative piece by Josef Sutrisna & Jeffrey Tho.

We'd love to hear your opinions, comments, tips and tricks so please feel free to comment below. If you would like us to write about something in particular, please let us know!
Volant Wear Badminton Team Clothing Apparel Performance Comfort Lin Dan Lee Chong Wei Olympics Smash Jump
Main image source: BWF Badminton
Body image source 1: Badminton Europe
Body image source 2: Nova Scotia Junior Badminton Training Center
Body image source 3: BWF Badminton
Body image source 4: Life Hack
Josef Sutrisna
Josef Sutrisna

Josef is an active competitive player in the New Zealand league. Amongst many other things, he loves badminton because of the physical fitness and split-second intelligence that the sport requires.


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