COACH’S NOTEBOOK – The day before the morning after

What should players do the day before an (important) competition starts? What are the theories and guidelines that players should follow, without fail!!! Which book should players read and study […]

What should players do the day before an (important) competition starts? What are the theories and guidelines that players should follow, without fail!!! Which book should players read and study so they get it right?  Columnist Tjitte Weistra gives us a coach’s perspective.

By Tjitte Weistra, Badzine Columnist.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

I’m sorry but I will not be following up the above questions with a list of book titles and links to websites and secret recipes for guaranteed success.  Why not, you ask? Because there simply are no rules, no guidelines, no secret recipes.  It is extremely personal and whatever works for you is the golden rule.

Well, of course we know or could assume that going for a 1km breaststroke swim the day before is probably not the best preparation (actually, I speak from experience on that one 😉 )and doing a strength endurance session probably isn’t either but we do see players squatting about with players on their backs within moments of going on court, which probably wouldn’t be recommended either by leading sport scientists.

We have to address two key aspects of preparation on the last day before an event starts and those are the physical and the mental or emotional aspects.  We have to feel good from both a physical and mental perspective in order to perform well so these areas need to be looked into profoundly.

So, what can we do, the day before, to feel good in both those areas? Again, the answer is that this is very personal.  I have worked with players who have a wide variety of preferences and those preferences need to be monitored to see whether those preferences are actually working or whether slight changes to those preferences could increase the chances of performance the next day.

Quite a lot of players like to play games the day before a competition.  My personal opinion is that there are two types of players among those who like to play games the day before a competition: those who lack some confidence going into the competition (they want to test how well they are playing) and those who are very fit and have confidence in their physical ability.

There is also a reasonable percentage of players who just like to relax the day before without doing anything special or perhaps just have a bit of a hit (perhaps an English doubles or two with a bit of fun).  Those usually are the players who know they have done the work and are confident about their performance going into the tournament.  Then there is a small percentage of players whom you might find in the gym doing a fairly intense weights session or going for quite an intense run or have a reasonably tough on-court training session.

It is probably the last category which, from a coach perspective, we have to do some work with to see whether they could increase their performances by taking a slightly different approach.  Do be cautious though, because the reason why they are training quite hard the day before is most likely a matter of confidence and worry.  They often indicate that they feel “weak” if they do not do the hard session the day before and telling them to stop doing it could potentially have negative consequences for their performance.

I suggest taking the time to address this and to “try out” other options before less important events before telling them to change their routine.  At the end of the day, it is all about the players’ performance and how they achieve the best “state of mind” heading into their competition.

It is also recommended that, regardless of what players’ preferences are, the players themselves and you as coaches monitor their performance and see whether any changes in performance could possibly be related to the (preparation) activities the day before.  In most cases, it is going to be very hard to make that connection but it is always worth looking at all possible angles and this is one of them.  If performance is linked to having had too little rest due to illness or perhaps a night out on the town, then a conclusion can be fairly easily drawn.

I have been in discussion with a player who strongly believes that having 6 to 8 beers the night before makes him play better and nothing I can do or say is changing his opinion.  You may draw your own conclusions from that one ;-).

If you are a social competitive player who plays badminton on a regular basis but not as an elite or high performance player, then my suggestion would be to try and get some decent time on court the day before without overdoing it and causing fatigue perhaps.  Playing games would probably be your best option in terms of getting ready.  Trying to stay competitive on the national scene here in New Zealand still at my age and has changed the way I prepare from what I used to do when I was still playing internationally.  I now strongly believe that the best way for me to get fit is to save my energy and do as little training as possible 😉

I want to conclude with a little story which may prove the point that preparation the day before is very personal.  The day prior to the Dutch National Championships approximately 16 years ago, I was convinced by my good friend Gerben Bruijstens, now national coach in the Netherlands, to come for a mountain bike session with him through the forest in the area where we lived.  I had never done such a thing but decided it was a good idea.  I tried to keep up with his ruthless pace for about two hours and was completely shafted when we finished.

I didn’t stop half-way through or even in the early stages because I didn’t want him to think that I was weak.  Irony had it that we had to play against each other the next day in the first round of nationals.  He wasted me.   To this day, he swears that he didn’t know the draw when we jumped onto the bike which was something he did a few times per week and therefore his body was completely used to it.  And to this day, I believe and know that he was lying J

About Tjitte Weistra