As a near full-time badminton coach I hear excuses that come in an ever-widening range of shapes and sizes and some of them come from me too, at times when things get tough! There is always, almost without fail, some excuse for not achieving our full potential in badminton (or any sport or life choice) – whether it was a simple shot we didn’t get to because in our excuse-making mind the opposition was always going to win that point so it wasn’t worth the effort or a massive excuse for not pushing for a massive dream, e.g. I’ll never play for England because I’m not good enough/I started playing too late/I don’t train in a club in Milton Keynes/everyone else is better than me!
Yes, those are excuses – they are cop-outs for not applying the grit, determination, passion, drive and ability that we all have as part of our human make-up, to any secret (or not so secret) dream we may have. They are not circumstances out of our control that will prohibit us from achieving anything at all! In fact, there are few circumstances that are out of our control that would prohibit us from achieving anything if we really wanted it. Few would believe that; it’s those few that will be the winners, the top-dogs, the successful ones.
Maybe it’s a matter of educating ourselves as to what an excuse actually is: is it a genuine reason for not being able to achieve something – especially in badminton, for example – such as when you break your strings so you simply cannot continue to use your racket? But take a step or two back… when did you last check the state of your strings? Do you look after your racket? Do you carry a spare?
So, let’s look at some usual excuses:
• I’m tired
• I can’t do it
• I’m trying (my least favourite!)
• He/She’s better than me
• I always lose
• I’m not very fit
• My racket’s not very good
…and the list goes on – you can probably add a load more to that list!
How do we get players to recognise that any excuse they will come up with (either in their heads, spoken out loud or originating from their parents/friends) that is preventing them from doing what is more than possible is actually their own personal choice on a pathway to not succeeding?
• The first thing is to do is recognise excuses for what they are.
• The second thing is to get players to believe that they have many personal choices to make in whether they are successful or not.
• The third thing is to ask players whether they truly want to be successful.
We live in a culture where we tend to measure ourselves against the celebrity success of others, especially when to be ‘successful’ sometimes requires very little personal effort or talent! Youngsters, quite often, are also very much used to being at the receiving end of getting what they want without having to wait or work for it. To add to that cocktail we are becoming a nation of instant fix junkies – if we can’t be brilliant NOW then we’re obviously never going to brilliant so why should we bother! We are all guilty of that in so many different areas of life – from losing weight to being rich to playing a very difficult sport such as badminton. It feels impossible because you can’t see it happening NOW. At what point in our lives did we start to believe that everything we wanted should be due to us NOW?
So, once we can establish our goals, our dreams and our self-expectations we have to be realistic about them. If we are not being realistic (can we really expect to play for England after playing badminton twice a week for the last year or can we really expect to be 9 stone when we eat a packet of chocolate biscuits a day?), we are setting ourselves up to uncover a whole raft of excuses to cover up our own inability to do what we would like (note the word ‘like’) to do. That way it becomes everyone and everything else’s fault and we shift the responsibility for our own personal success away from ourselves and onto something that has really got nothing to do with whether we make it or not. The more we do that the longer it will take to achieve anything whatsoever.
But perhaps it’s because so many of us have it far too easy these days? Children have access to one club or another every day of the week (probably the root cause of them always being “tired” at training), spend hours on the internet or in front of the TV and have gadgets and gismos presented to them on a regular basis to keep up with the trends and they rarely get the chance to rest, to reflect, to dream or to develop a passion for something. With that passion comes the dedication, the search for any way possible to get something that is special to them. So often do we hear stories of those who had a passion for something, be it sport or anything else, who pushed themselves to the limit by walking or cycling for hours to get to training, who would get up at 5am to train or practice or who would sacrifice something (or even many things) in favour of putting all their resources towards their dream. Those people will so often be those who have little to start with but who are born with the seed of aspiration planted deep within them.
I heard a story from a very talented badminton player from another country the other day who said that they trained ten times a week with really rubbish badminton rackets and shuttles and they would have to do fitness and strength training that left them almost unable to walk at school the following day but they pushed themselves and loved it. Their coach was an ordinary someone who coached them for nothing because he was passionate about his players’ success. I know that feeling so very well. Present that scenario to most youngsters and their parents in our own culture and they would turn their noses up. Only a good racket will suffice; only the best sparring partners are required as without one a player cannot possibly train properly; only a professional ex-international player could possibly be the best coach and so on and so forth…
Oh, how I would love to be able to coach my players ten times a week and not have them complain about doing the simplest of warm up exercises let alone do 20 minutes of circuit training! Oh, how I would love to believe they had the absolute passion to do whatever it takes to become a success (at whatever level) and trust that they can do it with my help.
As long as people will continue to look outside and compare themselves and their lot with others they will continue to find excuses for not being as good as, as pretty as, as slim as, as wealthy as the next person. Once they take a deep look inside themselves, ask a few home truths and acknowledge those truths and then base their expectations on their own limitations or passion they have a pretty good chance of getting their life’s wish. Nothing needs to get in their way – whether it’s a cheap badminton racket, a 50”waistline or a low paid job. Life isn’t about the external influences that are, quite often, an illusion and misinterpreted by our own lack of vision. Life is about knowing what we want (and not being afraid to change our minds at any point) and not letting anything that we have control over stand in our way. It’s excuses or success…