We have been competing in Denmark and it’s a welcome relief to be playing in Europe given that so much of our time recently has been spent in Asia. Our preparation for European events is much the same as it is for any other tournament, and for this blog I thought I’d take you through how we prepare for match day during the few weeks preceding the event, and the days and hours before it.
We’ve talked before about how we have absolute trust in our training blocks at the National Badminton Centre and how these form the building blocks of our preparation. Ideally, we’d always want about six weeks to get ready for a tournament, but with the calendar being so busy that’s simply not possible. For this current trip, we had three weeks in Milton Keynes designed to get us back to winning ways.
So it was back to the nuts and bolts of our training – the conditioning phase that sees us put in some serious shifts both on court and in the gym, doing lots of sets and reps and working for up to six hours a day. It’s the time where we have to get our heads down, grit our teeth and get on with it. There are no half measures. Either you’re in it to nail every drill, every rep, every sprint, or you may as well go home. It’s pretty onerous, but for a few weeks we put our hearts and souls into every task assigned to us. The whole team have an unwavering commitment to getting the most out of us during these few weeks and by the end of it we’re completely done. Our heads start to mentally check out and head to the next tournament, so it’s really important that for the final few days when we taper off and the intensity drops, that we remain focussed. There are no smoke and mirrors here!
With Denmark, the draw was done really early so we knew our opponents well in advance which isn’t always the case. So when possible, we spend the final few days before travelling doing some video analysis, charting our opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and looking at their patterns of play.
When we compete in Europe, we’ll generally arrive a couple of days beforehand. There’s no jet lag which can be an absolute killer for me personally. We’ve played at all these arenas a hundred times before and so we know the drill. Everyone gets given a time slot to practice by the organisers and on the day before our first match we tend to do a sharpening session, maybe a bit of gym and some stretching. We tend to stick with what we know and the key thing is getting the most of hitting on the first couple of days. As we approach a tournament we never go for more than ten hours without movement to stop us from feeling sluggish.
The night before a match, we tend to keep things pretty low key. In many far-flung places we have our favourite restaurants and coffee shops. I love anywhere that makes a good steak and salad and it’s one of my go-to meals before a match. So we have dinner, maybe do some more video analysis, and then chill out by watching some TV in the hotel. I’m into my box sets and can quite happily binge on anything like Game of Thrones, Entourage and Suits. I’ve left Gabbs behind on so many of these series as I just can’t watch just one, and if I’m being honest, I’m not even that sorry. I just love them and she knows I can’t resist watching one more!
In the morning, we plan our day around the match. If we’re playing a morning match at let’s say 10am, then we’re up by 7.30am for breakfast, gym, stretching, and to get to the hall about an hour before and soak up the atmosphere. It’s there we prepare mentally for our match – keeping ourselves calm and composed and not getting too excited or nervous, whatever the circumstances. Then when it’s time for the match, everything we’ve done over the previous few weeks, days and hours comes into play and we trust ourselves that we’ve done all the right things to get ready.
For me the worst bit about preparing for a tournament is the travel. I mean, it’s just the worst and I can’t stress how much I loathe wasting huge chunks of my life on planes and at airports. It’s the dullest part of the job. Give me weights, give me the worst kind of weights session you can imagine, and I’ll happily take that over a long-haul flight.
Neither of us have any superstitions thank goodness, although one thing we do, although I wouldn’t necessarily see it as a superstitious thing, is that we have to leave the house tidy before we head off. A tidy house means a tidy mind!
So that’s how we plan our time as we get closer to an event. As devotees of routine and order (a bit too much sometimes!), we like to know what’s ahead of us so we can meticulously plan our training sessions around competitions. That’s what’s currently making next year all the more interesting as we simply don’t know what 2018 will look like yet as there’s a new grading system and a new tournament schedule to be confirmed. Whatever happens, one thing’s for sure – we’ll continue to prepare in the best way possible for every single event to give ourselves the best possible chance of success. Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail!