How to enjoy Singles?
lieber mit einem Weltmeister als immer nur wie ein Weltmeister trainieren
Being good at doubles does not mean that you can play singles--everyone knows that. Less obvious is the fact that most good singles players are clueless on the doubles court. The strategies and teamwork of doubles are highly difficult and require years of game-playing. However, if you are already a doubles specialist, as most Northwest players are, then learning to play singles is the easy part and can only enhance your doubles game and limited court time.
Part of the enjoyment of any sport is achieving "flow," which is the happy medium between anxiety and boredom. We occasionally experience this in a doubles game of players of comparable ability. Unfortunately, the range of abilities in badminton is infinitely broad and the pieces of the game that one can perfect are so varied that close competition rarely occurs. As a singles enthusiast, I can say that flow occurs most often in singles, because it is much easier to find two closely matched players than it is to find four! Also, you can play your game without messing up an incompetent partner, in your mind.
What it takes to play the game?
Front to back court movement:
The lines "I am really more of a tennis player" or "I prefer doubles" really mean "I am best at the side-to-side movement that is natural for humans such as myself." I admit it. Moving blindly backward and then forward like one of the three musketeers is not natural and it initially feels icky. I think the butterfly stroke feels icky, too. If all sports only required movements that were innate, everyone would have a gold medal. You have to train your body to adhere to basic footwork principles for badminton, just as you must move your arms like Barbie for swimming. All it takes to get from the net to the back is a jump and a twist. With correct body positioning, most shots are only two steps away.
The ease with which we observe international caliber players move is hard-earned. Just as in ballet, moving smoothly requires powerful muscles and a lifetime of special exercises. However, the most dramatic results in your game will occur in only a few weeks of training. Things to do:
Moving between two corners again and again without the shuttle. Someone needs to show you the proper footwork for each two-corner combination. Do not kill yourself. Do it slowly. Since it's more than you've ever done before, it will work for your game. Incidentally, there are 15 different combinations, including the sidelines. Do a little every day.
Using either the singles line or the doubles line and the middle, this allows you to discover what it's like to have a long rally. Your movement is restricted to only front-back retrieval, and it requires you to figure out ways to use the length of the court to beat an opponent.
Jumping rope has always been beneficial to badminton players, but for me it can be tedious. Therefore I like to do "sets" of exercises that contain the jumping and badminton-related foot and leg movements, so that I can constantly change the routine. This includes lunges, alternating ballet third-positions while jumping, cross-overs, high-knees, skipping like Dorothy when she's off to see the wizard, etc.
A crisp, consistent clear, a devastating drop, and loving the rally:
Since everyone you know is a doubles specialist, unless you can vary the pace of the shot and hit it within five inches of the sideline, smashing in singles can be disastrous. Now that you move like a dream, you want to challenge others to do the same. We singles players do not fight to the death, we fight to the pain.
In order to move your opponent to the far reaches of the court, you must consistently clear and lift to the back line and drop and redrop tightly to net. You will soon notice your opponent's lack of footwork training, because he or she will constantly be out of position and unable to recover. At that point to will always float over to your opponent's desperate shot and place it cruelly just out of reach of his flailing racket with a maddening lack of emotion. Things to do:
Begin every badminton session with five minutes of solid clears, trying to incorporate footwork. This may sound easy, but many people do not hit only clears in a five-minute warm-up. Build up to ten minutes. Eventually, you can include cross- and open court clears.
Play drop-lift games
Player A can only life and Player B can only drop. Player A serves always and the winner of the rally wins the point. Lifts must fall between the two back lines and drops must fall between the net and the service line. Although a little distracting, four players can be on the court. Even eight people can do this if you are using only half-court.
Play net games
After a low doubles serve, the rest of the rally is played between the two service lines.
Flow and Focus...Singles is a mental game
Since retiring from serious competition and three to six hours per day of training, I have experienced a lot of self-imposed stress that I cannot seem to shake. I recently started to play singles again whenever possible and my stress level has gone down. I like to think about playing even when I am not playing, and on the court, it is the only time that I am free to think of nothing but the task at hand. Because it requires (underline) complete attention, it forces you to shut everything out. I remember my ballet teacher yelling out the question, "What is ballet?" to which we first-graders responded, "Discipline!" in unison, lisps and all. Although everything requires discipline, it's far easier to have discipline when you have obsession.
Flow and focus are interdependent. You cannot achieve flow if you are not focused, and it is difficult to focus when there is no flow. To experience flow, do not challenge Geoff Stensland to a game of singles--he will make you anxious. Nor should you challenge your boyfriend to a game in order to prove yourself and beat him to a pulp. This will bore you. Play people near your level that are willing to play seriously. Here you will have some success and your ability to focus will improve with every game. Once you've experienced the headiness of true flow, there is no turning back. At this point, some obsession with singles will be inevitable, focus will become clearer and flow will occur with more frequency and ease. These things are essential to loving singles and craving the discipline it requires.
The only problem with the doubles-specialist-to-singles-player-extraordinaire transition is the unavoidable disappointment that comes with a "bad practice." This might be caused by lack of opponents, a plateau in your improvement rate, or unpleasant personalities at the gym. We singles players must persevere, still, in order to experience again what we had at the last good practice.
These are only a few of my thoughts on my favorite event. Badminton is a complicated game, so of course there is much more to know than what is in this short article. Perhaps I will write another for a future newsletter to delve further into the makings of a singles player.