Disclaimer: These are ideas and things I have come across and have worked for me. They may or may not work for you, as we all have individual specialties and weaknesses. Some may be easier for you, some may be harder, and there are some you may already know. I am only offering an opinion, but if the advice given here conflicts with the advice given by your personal coach(es), please you use your judgment. Otherwise, train hard, be positive, and let your abilities grow… Anyways, let’s start…
We all have to do footwork, but there is a tremendous difference when there is no focus. The basis of footwork is to practice the steps that you would take if you were to hit an imaginary shuttle in a game situation. So shouldn’t you really pretend you are hitting a shuttle? It’s so easy just to do the movements, but if the quality is so low, would there even be any benefit in the first place?
If you are not going to be making sloppy strokes, or hitting the shuttle with your head down, or looking to the side at your friend in a real game situation, then take the effort to put yourself into an imaginary condition, as if you were really doing it. Then, there will be obvious benefits in performing footwork.
Try this: The next time you have to do footwork, try looking across the court as if you had an imaginary opponent. For all overhead strokes, try looking up, as if you were going to contact the shuttle.
2. Don’t Give Up Easily
It’s just one of those days… We all have bad days… everyone does. But don’t give up! It’s okay, just try to make the most of it. I know it’s easier said than done, but if you work hard and grind it out, it gives some really good tournament experience.
Sometimes you may be playing poorly, or your opponent is having a really good day. This always happens in tournaments every now and then. Like it or not, it is something we all have to deal with. Here’s a little advice I got from Kim Dong Moon. Basically, we all play at a certain percentage of our abilities. Maybe you are normally at 80%, but today you are at 60%.
So, if you give up and play with half your normal ability, you would only be at 40%. This means there is still a 20% difference to your full ability. If you try your hardest, maybe you can get close to 60%. It may not be the 80% you’re used to, but at least it’s better than 40%. Kim also said that in tournaments, you will likely be lower than your practice percentage.
You have to factor in fatigue, nervousness, and a lot of other things that do not occur in practice. That is why practice is important and you should always try your best, whatever it may be. If you have a 100% practice percentage, you may play at 80% at your tournament. If you practice with 80%, then you will only get 60%.
Try this: Next time things don’t work out, take things down a notch. For example, stick to the basics, and focus on consistency. Play simple, and focus on not making any errors instead of trying to win points.
3. Play Safe
These are exact words, but important words, again from Kim Dong Moon. The idea is simple and should not be anything new to you. We are just elaborating and putting a spin on things, to help the concept stick in your head. It’s easy to go for that super jump slice, or a very late around-the-head cross court smash, or even any fake, for that matter.
But let’s take into account WHEN you try things. Will you be able to pull off the exact same shot when it’s 20-20 in the 3rd game in a tournament? You could risk it but look at it this way. Let’s say the chances of you hitting the shot over is 50/50. The worst case scenario is if you miss. Let’s say you do get the shot over.
However, you still have to deal with the risk that your opponent will get it back. Most crazy shots may be a winner if it works, but are you really willing to gamble it all away? Will you be able to do it again next time? Sure, you may win a few times, but there will still be those times you will fail to account for.
So instead of practicing wild shots, why don’t you practice a high defensive lift to the baseline? Or maybe a recovery block with proper footwork to anticipate the 2nd shot? Sure, I have to serve return fakes that might work on you, but when playing Kim Dong Moon, I saw a lot of drives coming back at my face on those same shots. Maybe it would have been better if I just played a net shot for a serve return, got a lift for my partner, and took my chances trying to cut off a weak return after he smashed.
Try this: Next time you play a tournament (or even a practice game), try to record your match and count all your unforced errors. An unforced error should be self-explanatory, but give yourself some credit. If you try to hit a net shot into the net with someone charging in, then it’s not really unforced, is it? Or if you get faked out and hit a late recovery shot into the net. But, if you hit an offensive push out, smash it into the net, or the worst, serve into the net or out, then yes, that is enforced. You can also try to play practice games where you punish unforced errors by losing a point or give an extra point to your opponent. Just try it, I’m sure you’ll really see a difference.
4. Back to Basics
Can you hit a drop shot? I can… kind of, yet I also can’t very consistent. Well, at least to the standards I compete at. Try it next time: when someone lifts to you, hit a drop shot. Where does it land? Is it before the service line? Is it tight? Do your opponents know you’re going to hit a drop? Are you slicing the bird? These are some of the things you can take note of and then you can assess if your shot is really good or not.
People have different techniques; they may not necessarily be wrong, as long as it gives you the quality of shot you are looking for, without giving up some other factor (i.e. if someone teaches you how to hit a drop tight, but the entire building can see the drop coming, then there is a problem). Basics are important. Fakes and higher level deceptive shots are fun, interesting, but not as effective in the long run. How often can you fake? How often SHOULD you fake? If everything you do is a fake, then nothing is a fake. You just become someone who hits everything late, right?
Try this: How consistently can you do some of these shots: high defensive lift off a net shot, backhand clear (straight), backhand drop (crosscourt), crosscourt net shot, flick serve? If there are problems, talk to your coaches, and refer to the last tip for some more advice.
5. Move It
This is one of the most common problems I see with training. Everything should be done with some sort of movement, as I can promise you, there are very few cases when you can stand with both feet planted down, and hit a drop shot. Furthermore, a standing net shot seems to be the most uncommon to me in a game situation, yet the most common in practice. If you know the movement and you know how to do the shot, there should be no excuse when it comes to using movement.
Even if you only take one step, it changes everything. This is one of my biggest training problems, and the habits in practice do transfer to tournament situations. So what if I’m fast? I am still late getting to the shuttle and the shot quality goes down, down, down… When you practice shots, try to add movement.
Try it with different movements you might face. If you have to practice net spins, do it with a lunge, do it as if it were a serve return, do it after shadow swinging a smash from the backcourt, or do it after shadowing a defensive block. Be creative, but be realistic. If you can simulate a game situation, then try it!
Try this: Can’t hit backhand shots in the deep corner with power? Assuming you have proper grip and stroke, try timing your racquet foot landing with the stroke. Contact and step should be at the same time. Backhand overheads seem tremendously difficult without movement. How many of you know people with a good backhand?
Happy practicing! Hope this helps