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Badminton England Open Day
January 30, 2014
7:46 pm
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John
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Part 1

 

Well, where to start? If any of you see my Facebook page you will have found me salivating and gushing about yesterday's BE Open Day at Milton Keynes (29 January). So, probably best to start at the beginning.

BE sent out an invitation to everyone on the coaching register inviting them to an open day at MK. I thought why not, sounds like a day out. Fortunately I put my name down quickly and was confirmed on the visit within a couple of hours. I though it would be just a few power point slides and a tour of the NBC…maybe even get to see a couple of junior team members playing…but it turned out to be so much more!

First up, there were 50 coaching colleagues lucky enough to get hold of a golden ticket; so a great opportunity to network and make new friends. And for me, a chance to meet our very own Paul Stewart! Then the real stuff started…

Jen Grill (BE Director of Performance) gave us a brief welcome to the centre followed by Neil Cottrill (BE Head of Coaching Education and Training). So, some senior guns on deck! We were then immediately whisked downstairs to the courts where I expected to see a few juniors playing and us to be escorted and controlled. But here was my first surprise; we were given a brief talk by Peter Jeffrey (GB National Coach) and introduced to the NBC coaching team and then let loose in the hall to go wherever we wanted to talk to whoever we felt like. We were loosely kept in groups but that went out of window after about 5 minutes!

There were a few of the junior squad members training…interesting enough. Then some people came in through the door – a young girl walks past me…3 nanoseconds pass as it dawns on me it was Gabby Adcock (nee White)!! She was followed by hubby Chris and Andy Ellis..wow, some of the big names are on show. Actually, out of the squad of England senior/junior players and the GB squad there were only one or two people missing (due to injuries). We were being treated to the entire elite squad! I felt like a kid in a sweet shop!!

The scene was definitely set for an entertaining day…Laugh

January 31, 2014
11:54 am
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John
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Part 2

 

The coaches explained what the players would be doing – working on their individual performance plans and practicing specific shots and situations. The term percentage improvement was introduced; not radically new but interesting nonetheless; Paul will probably talk about this a bit more. Basically the players (all of whom were obviously excellent technical exponents of the game) were working to improve specific aspects of their game; net shots, net kills and drives. The important thing here is their desire and hunger to improve. I am sure I have posted on the forum before about my frustration at club level; no one wants to practice specifics – it is all “let's play a game”. I understand this and I appreciate the pressure on time and court space but how will we really improve if we do not train? Anyhow, off the soap box…

It was a real pleasure to watch them. Focused, consistent and giving the exercise 100% commitment; this was how the normal sessions go – this wasn't put on for our benefit.

I spent a lot of time watching Gabby and Chris Adcock play; I really like them as a pairing I hope they can build on their recent Super Series win in Hong Kong. The speed and intensity of their routines was one thing. It was the accuracy and consistency of feeding that impressed me. As a coach I work hard trying to get my feeding right…boy do I have a long way to go! I took some video (yes we were allowed to film as well…wish I had known that beforehand – I would have brought a proper video camera etc).

Here is a link a small video of Gabby practicing net shots and net kills; she is being fed by Chris:

 

The players carried on doing drills and practices for a couple of hours and watching it was really good (OK so I am a sad person…). On one court all of the players were hooked up to heart monitors and their heart rates were projected on to a wall so that the coaches could observe the effort being put in.

The morning session was an eye watering experience and shows just how much effort goes into becoming an elite player. That effort comes from a team of really dedicated support staff who help the players achieve their goals; but the credit has to go to the players – they want to do this, they are motivated and they work hard to make it happen. Having watched English players struggle to overcome the Asian super stars you can easily think that they aren't really up for it or aren't taking things seriously. Trust me they are. To a man (and lady) they are working their socks off to compete with the very best in the world with a fraction of the resources. I now have a different view of them.

 

Lunch was next…so more in Part 3 later.  Wink

February 1, 2014
12:45 am
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Chen
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Hi John,

Thanks for the write-up… am following yours and Pauls feedback on this with avid interest.  I couldn't find the video link though.

I had the privilege of meeting a few England players at a Yonex demo event in Coventry last year (demo).  What impressed me most about watching them play the exhibition games was their consistency – those 1 in 10 shots that I would struggle with they would hit without fail.  They got so many shots back that looked like potential winners too and this level of consistency has to be down to the hard work and training they do.  They were all very approachable and I was able to speak with Andy Ellis for a few mins too about rackets.

Looking forward to part 3!

Chen.

February 1, 2014
8:39 pm
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John
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Chen,

 

Here is the  video:

 

 

You are absolutely spot on about the consistency – both Paul and I commented about it on Wednesday; on a good day we might get 6 out of 10, on their usual day they would get 9 or 10 out of 10 – that is a significant difference. And yes it all goes down to practice.

 

Regards

John

February 1, 2014
9:33 pm
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John
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Part 3

Lunch…very nice thank you; thanks to the BE staff for organising it.

Refreshed and fed our afternoon session was a presentation from the EIS (English Institute of Sport) team, a Q&A with some of the players, a presentation on the BE Pathways and an observation of the squad both on curt and in the gym.

EIS provide all of the services you'd expect for an elite sports team – psychology, physiotherapy, lifestyle, dietician etc. They spend a lot of time with the players monitoring all aspects of their performance and developing routines and plans to ensure that they all perform at their optimum. One of the interesting things was an approach called Wellness. Broadly speaking this looks at a wide range of factors to determine whether an athlete is in the right place to undertake the training schedule. Probably obvious stuff but good to see that allowances are made rather than just training the athletes until they break! Wellness looks at things like sleep patterns, general health and something called RSI – reactive strength index – that looks at explosive strength through a simple jump exercise. Bottom line on all of this is that that maintain a “norm” for each player and monitor regularly.

As you'd expect, the right mental attitude (and body language!!) play a key part in their performance…enter the shrink! Actually he was a nice guy (they all were). So it was good to know that all aspects of their health were catered for.

During the presentation we were given some Post-its to write down questions for the EIS team, the coaches and the players. These were collated and we had the Q&A session. For the players we had Toby Penty, Peter Mills, Lauren Smith and Heather Olver (all from the GB Programme Squad) – they answered all of the questions put to them (too many to list here). They were all a credit to BE; polite, open, honest and amusing too. A really nice group of people.

We had a presentation of the pathway structure – effectively how to get to the GB squad. I won't go into to it all here but just to say I now understand the sacrifice the players make to achieve their position; seems you have more chance of winning the lottery than becoming a senior England player! Jens Grill was fascinating to listen to. Money plays a big part in making things happen; more would be good but BE are under pressure to make every penny count – this can mean that not all of the best talent in the country gets the opportunity to take part – I guess that is the nature of the beast.

Jakob Hoi (Head GB doubles coach) gave a short presentation before rushing off to the hall to put the squad through some more torture!!

That was the chalk and talk sessions done. Next up was more training in the hall and the gym – more on that in part 4.

 

Regards

 

John

February 2, 2014
5:23 pm
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Paul Stewart
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John

 

You've done a marvellous job so far in describing some of the events of the day. From start to finish it was just a delight to be there and soak in the experience.

 

I have some video footage to upload in a future post I'll write on this topic. But for now I'll keep my comments brief becuase John has written such detailed pieces.

 

One of the most interesting people on the EIS team was the performance analyst. He's the guy that videos players, including possible opposition, then has to segregate all the video footage in respect of our players. Each video is catalogued and stored in a data base. The analyst may then work through the video with the coach and player(s), highlighting areas from a tactical and technical view depending on the coach. The data and outcomes from these sessions are fed back into the players program for improvement.

 

At this level, a player will happily work on one major area of improvement for weeks sometimes with little variation in their training. This is the difference between the professional players and the rest of us. They are prepared to practice and work on their technique because they are looking for that 1% improvement.

 

Most league players won't practice for 5 minutes never mind 5 weeks to improve a part of their game. For me, this is where the great divide is between good players and those on the England program. I rarely meet a player who wants to keep going until they get the technique correct.

 

The other comment I'll make on this post is the quality of the feeding. PLayers fed players in batches of around 20 shuttles. I'd say there must have been thousands of shuttles around with the vast majority flying very well. Duffers were sent to the bin very quickly. After each feed, especially the heavy workout sessions we witnessed in the morning for mens singles, each player had a rest of 1 minute before the next batch. Occasionally a bit longer was given due to a quick break with the coach or checking the written instructions.

 

Watching these sessions made me consider my feeding. I know I'm a good feeder but I recognised that I have to practice harder. Additionally, it would be great to ditch my box of shuttles and replace with virtually brand new shuttles for best flight. However, this is cost prohibitive.

 

There's a lot more to add to these original posts by John and over the next few days I'm sure there will be more to read.

 

Paul

February 3, 2014
1:16 pm
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John
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Paul,

Absolutely! I only gave a brief overview of the EIS team – but you are spot on the performance review stuff is vital. Interestingly enough, we were chatting to Chris Adcock – he said that because of the tournaments, they get to play the same pairs frequently. Each time they play they keep detailed notes of what worked, what didn't and what they could do next time.

It is this constant attention to detail, this desire to improve 1% here and there and the need (and desire) to train, refine and improve overall that sets the players apart from the usual club/league player.

Now imagine what could be achieved if club/league players spent a little more time practicing rather than just playing games.

 

Regards

 

John

February 3, 2014
1:31 pm
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Dobbie98
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I have really enjoyed reading this post, to gain an insight into The BE set up. It makes me want to go & see. Looking forward to reading the next installment : )

February 3, 2014
4:18 pm
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Peter Warman
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Paul and John, this is a great read, I'm sure everyone who has read this has been very interested in what you have to say even if they haven't posted to say so.

 

Great write up John, I'm looking forward to part 4, and thanks for taking the time to write about it.

 

Whilst what the professionals are a world away from most of us, two things interest me from this.

 

One, what the professionals are put through and what they are required to do is very interesting. Always great to know what goes on behind the scenes. BE don't have to explain anything, so for them to do so is a great opportunity for people to see it for themselves.

 

The second is, even though they train all day and for them to have all the resources available to them that we may not have, it's difficult not to think how you could incorporate things into YOUR game. They are looking for that extra 1% whilst I'm looking for that extra 99% Laugh, but the fact that they monitor sleep patterns and things is interesting. I know if I don't get much sleep, even if I feel fine when playing, I'm always that half a second off. Most of us have work, family or other things that take up time but it goes to show, even if YOU add that extra work then YOU will get the reward. If I forced myself to sleep better, I'd probably play better (although my list of things to do would be even longer! Laugh).

Badminton Gives Me A Purpose In Life – To Serve Others
I'd Rather Be Playing Badminton…………..

February 3, 2014
7:08 pm
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Paul Stewart
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There is a lot more to say yet and a few pictures and videos to post too.

 

The biggest problem with club badminton today is the selfishness shown amongst players. I can appreciate this is their time on court and most wish to play games. However they spoil it for those that would prefer to mix practice and play.

 

Sadly clubs are not geared to this at all even when they have a 4 + court hall. Also there is no real desire to practice as pairs and work as a pair. It's such a shame because most clubs could really benefit by formal practice sessions. If nothing else if all the players worked on their serve for just 10 minutes per session then they would improve their serve. We all know how important the serve is.

 

Paul

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