Food for thoughts
I have been getting an increasing amount of messages on social media from parents all around the world, who has a kid (or kids), who plays badminton. The questions are usually something like "How many times a week did you practice when you were 7-11 years old?", "How many personal training sessions did you have growing up?" "My daughter/son don't have the right mentality when playing, what can I do?", "What racket should I buy for my kid?"
Every time I get questions like these, it makes me think. Therefore I thought I would share a few of my opinions with you all. Obviously, I'm not a parent and I'm not saying that I know how to be a good one. Still I would like to share some random thoughts and stories from my early days as a badminton player 😉
When I was a kid never 'paced' by my parents. First of all, it wasn't necessary, because as soon as I stepped into Odense Badminton Club I fell in love with the sport. I would go to the club after school and play around with the shuttle before my session started. If there weren't any players at the club when I arrived, which was usually the case, I would play up against the wall or throw the shuttle up in the air and whisper to myself: "This is the World Championships match point" and then smash the shuttle to the other side of the court, which was empty. If I were lucky my dad would go with me and play a bit, and when my sister started I enjoyed playing with her and teaching her some tricks.
The amount of private training sessions I got when I was growing up can be counted on two hands. Not much! What I would often do though, is go to the club together with my friends from the club. We usually went some time before our practice started or during the weekends. We would play small fun games, or do some skills where we tried to play the same shots we had seen the best players do when we watched them play on the television. We would play a bit, go to the cafeteria and eat, take part in our scheduled 2 hour training, eat again, sit behind the court and talk and laugh. I would usually stay in the club until dinner was served at home, and if I were allowed, I would go again and see if I was lucky to get invited on court by some of the older players who were training in the evenings. My training definitely wasn't seriously monitored. Odense Badminton Club was my second home.
My fear is that more and more parents are trying to take control of their kids training way too early. And that It gets way too serious, way too soon. The most important thing for my parents was that I enjoyed badminton and that it was FUN. I'm not sure that I would have fallen in love with the game the way I did if my parents would have paced my to do 4 private training sessions a week at age 7,8,9. There is of course a place for private sessions, strength training etc.! This is of course important, but it is not the most important thing during that age in my opinion. When your kid grows up and starts to take their own decisions, it is my experience that the chance of them quitting is pretty big if they were paced from an early age.
I'd always make me sad when I saw other kid's parents get angry with them for not doing well in practice or loosing matches at a U9/U11 tournament. The worst thing would be a parent who would go to their kid practices from time to time and sit behind the court and look like the world was going under if their kid didn't live up to their expectations. Luckily it didn't happen often in my club. But it never helps. I'm not saying parents shouldn't go to their kid(s) training sessions, I'm just saying that there are many ways to do it.
I totally agree that if a kid is just wasting time and look like she/he doesn't want to be playing or behaving poorly, parents should react somehow by talking to their kid. However, if this scenario happens often, there is probably some underlying reason. It could just be be that your kid doesn't enjoy badminton as much as you would like them to. You can't push your kid to deeply love something if it doesn't come from within.
I have been very fortunate to have really supportive and awesome parents. They would come from time to time to my practices, but it wasn't to take notes so that we could evaluate my training over dinner later that day. They came to say hi and tell me what time dinner was, or make sure that I had enough food with me. The only time they would get really angry with me, would be if I behaved badly by yelling bad words or throwing around with my racket. Of course this didn't happen often, but I did have quite a temper... And I still have, haha!
Some of the best conversations my sister and I had with our parents have been on the road when we were going to badminton tournaments around the country. We would pack up a big cooler bag with all kinds of food and snacks we could bring. We often would sleep on air mattresses after crazy days with around 10 matches. We always had a great time together with all the other players and their parents. I was fortunate that my mom or dad took time to go with me or come watch me play tournaments whenever they had time. I'm aware that this is not always possible for some parents due to a hectic schedule. I just know that it was important for me that I got the support from my family that I did (and still do) and it is a time I will always think back on with a smile on my face!
I know this was a random bunch of words, but I hope at least some of you found it worth your time (if you even got this far, lol). And seriously - It probably doesn't matter what racket your kid has when they start out (as long as it is a Yonex racket of course! J.
Support your kid and motivate them the best you can! No matter if it's badminton, soccer, playing music or something totally different.