After enjoying the great game for a while, it’s natural to wonder, “Can I improve?” After all, you may go to some of your playing partners and ask them for advice on techniques to play better. Perhaps you might go to youtube and look though the coaching videos. Yet, your game may not really change that much. Is it possible to get better? Isn’t training only for those junior players and once we are past 20 years old, is it too difficult to learn new techniques? If you think about improving, you start considering going to a group lesson or if you are serious, think about taking up private lessons. Yet, there are many factors that affect the the effectiveness of any coaching you receive but what it comes down to is your desire to improve, your goals and your financial and time resources.
Firstly, let’s ask “Do I need coaching? After all if I play with better players, read books and articles, I will become better…”. The answer is, yes, it is possible, but the path will be long and slow. In every sport, the top players/performers have coaches. If the top players still use a coach, what makes you think you can do better? The limitations of self learning are slow rate of learning, imperfect technique and the ceiling for improvement is at a markedly lower level. If you are serious about improvement, having a coach is a necessity to shorten the time for learning and for a better quality result. Ask yourself, why do business people attend business courses? Why not learn by doing business by trial and error? Why are there courses for learning photography, social studies, being a teacher, cooking etc? Why do people take lessons from a music teacher? Learning badminton from a coach is no different to learning other disciplines.
What are group classes? Roughly speaking, these are classes that have a ratio of one coach to four or more students. Classes may sometimes be run on one coach to eight students.
Advantages of group classes:
Cost advantage (i.e. cheaper), socialising and learning in a group, judging your progress against others in the group, developing insight into other people’s perfect or imperfect technique.
Disadvantages of group classes:
Less individual attention from the coach, less frequency of hitting shuttles (as the feeding is slower from your training partner), time is wasted in talking (let’s face it, people like to gossip), some coaches will get your group to do press ups and situps and some running (well I’d rather be practising shot technique or footwork). You can find out what is the correct technique but the second step of changing yourself to do the correct technique is something few people can master in a group class. Why? 1) Because it’s difficult for the coach to give each person in the group enough individual attention to correct the technique, 2) the rate of feeding shots is much lower. e.g. a group class you may only get 30 attempts at a particular shot, one on one/two coaching gets you possibly double that number of attempts.
Advantages of individual coaching:
Personalised attention – this will to be to your specific goals and adapted to your specific weaknesses. Feeding and receiving shuttles will be much more concentrated – you might get to hit the shuttle 100 times or more to change and practice a specific technique. Take learning a new language as an analogy – in a group class, you learn how to say words imperfectly, smaller classes, you learn how to say it better. With very small classes, you get to practice your speech much better with someone who is interacting with you.
It is the opinion of the author that for effective improvement, one must have individual coaching of one to one or one coach to two students. This gives the attention that is needed.
Let’s look at some other factors that will influence the effectiveness of coaching:
Communication – the mutual 2 way communication between the coach and learner is critical. The more respect the coach and learner have for each other (and therefore trust), the greater the improvements that will follow. It might well be the players who already have experience of competitions and matches have greater difficulty in improving. Why? Because any change of technique will initially decrease performance whilst the new technique is being incorporated. The learner’s confidence in the coach may be tested. For the coach, it is a dilemma as the coach has to judge whether the learner can accept change or just feed the shuttle so that the poor technique is done with better consistency for a short term improvement.
Learning attitude – You can have the best coach available on earth but then, if the learner doesn’t have the right attitude inside his heart, any learning will be severely restricted. In the other words, before a learner wants to evaluate whether is it worth hiring a coach, it is very important also at the same time that he must evaluate himself whether he has the right mental and character attitude inside him to become a motivated and highly disciplined student. If the learner has that approach, then it will be a very valuable asset to have a coach with you to guide you since you have already what it takes to become a better player mentally and it is just a matter of your pure dedication and motivation towards your improvement. With a highly motivated attitude, you make better use of the coaching time you pay for and the cost effectiveness ratio is improved i.e. you get more out of each lesson. The coach will respond accordingly to your attitude – show the desire to learn and he will take you further.
Goal setting – that helps the coach adjust a level of training and attainment for you. Saying ‘I want to improve’ is too vague – the coach may think 5-10% improvement will satisfy you whereas in reality, that’s not your aim. Tell him ‘I aim to win district tournaments/get to A or B grade’ and he’s going to take you seriously.
Other things to note:
- Each coach and student have different teaching and learning styles, and also personalities. A good coach for one learner may not necessarily work for another and vice versa. It may need a change of coach to find the coach that can form a comfortable rapport for you.
- It takes a bit of time for the coach to work out what a student can or can’t do in terms of physical limits. Thus, the first few lessons are also a learning experience for the coach in improving the effectiveness of teaching for the student’s learning style..
- Taking a notebook, scribbling some notes and looking back at them goes a long way. Even a smartphone video of your performance techniques would be very helpful.
- Frequency is important. Once a week is OK, but it’s difficult to groove a shot at that low frequency (can you imagine learning a new language with only one lesson a week?) So having some weeks of two lessons per week will see a tremendous improvement in being able to break the old habits and technique and incorporating the new ones.
- Depending on your stage of learning, you may not see large short term benefits; it can take a year or more. The worst part is trying to unlearn bad habits.
- Improving your overall fitness for lessons can only help!
- One is never too old to learn. Of course, everybody has their own different ceilings for improvement. But never think you can’t learn anymore. After all, there are people who retire and learn new hobbies and skills.