I have been a competitive badminton player for several years, and began playing badminton at around age 11, so let’s just say without identifying any ages here, that it’s been a while. Anyone who knows me, can attest that badminton has been a true passion of mine. It has also truly moulded me and rewarded me in sundry ways. In this blog, I would like to talk about a badminton experience that recently occurred.

Now, whilst I have had a long career as a national badminton player for my country, these days I am no longer competitive in that aspect. However, I continue to be a competitive player at local tournaments and the country’s inter club league. I participate in two teams, one being a woman’s team and the other a mixed (men and women). Staying in a competitive environment as a badminton player is of great importance to me. Due to me having spent most of my life as an elite athlete, I find that I am unable to play ‘recreationally’..At least not yet, I have vowed (with flailing fists in the air and head tilted towards the sky) that I will continue to play competitively for as long as this body of mine allows me to. Though I am almost sure, that there are times that my body has opted not to do so, but my mind has adamantly chosen to ignore such pleas for help.

For those who have played sports at a highly competitive level, you know the feeling. There is something inside of you that just won’t let you quit. Indeed, retirement is something that also, many professional athletes suffer with, hence the reason they need to take certain steps to gradually ‘de-training’ (but this is perhaps a topic for another time). There are of course also other more logical reasons to which I have chosen to continue playing for the obvious physical and mental health advantages that playing sport provides for me.

Yes, for me, playing badminton is that adrenaline rush that I need to help me, to basically…Well, keep on living. Needless to say, that when the pandemic hit and lockdowns were initiated, I did indeed not feel like myself and turns out, that I was not alone as many professional, elite, high performance and just the average sport enthusiast, also experienced withdrawal effects. Thus, when we were able to play and have our competitive league season resume, the anxiety levels soared for me. Now this, was a more welcomed anxiety, one where I was always eager to play come what may.

You may be wondering where I am going with this, but hold on, I assure you, we will get there. However, firstly, I think I ought to give a quick history about my playing career. When I competed internationally I always battled with controlling my anxiety, especially when I had to play singles. Most people on my team knew that the singles event was not my strongest, I thrived more whilst playing the doubles disciplines. Reasons being, I do not possess the strongest abilities for a single player profile, but this was the opposite for the doubles events. I also learned that I was much more comfortable playing on a court with a partner, rather than being alone and having spectators gawk at me (or at least in my mind, that is what it felt like). This would trigger feelings that made me suffer with my levels of self-efficacy and self-confidence. Not the best qualities for someone who chose to play an individual sport to say the least.

This discomfort whilst playing singles always made me quite dubious about my abilities. Whilst I had a significant amount of success on the local scene in my singles game, I never felt as confident as I should have. Fast forward to present day, this season I have found myself playing extremely well in all events, but there was somehow a more noticeable improvement in my singles matches. I was more ruthless, cutthroat and gung -ho (ok, ok perhaps some exaggeration is lurking here), however, you get my point. Something had changed, even my team captains had observed this and commented on such.

Then one day in a singles match against the strongest club in the group, I had an epiphany. Now this was my second time playing their number one singles player. We had met previously in our home match and I had lost to her in three games in a close encounter. Now we would meet again, but this time on their turf and, circumstances were a bit different. The odds were really stacked against me, as I had been competing in a weekend long tournament where I had played seven matches prior, and 16 games in total. To sum it up..I was ‘frazzled’, ‘knackered’, basically out of my mind to still want to play at my stage in the game. Yet still, I had a duty to my team and play I must.

I had told myself and a teammate that I was not really going to go ‘all out’ for the singles, and that I had much rather conserve whatever little strength and decency I had left for the other doubles events, especially since it was our last match for the season. So, it was settled, I was prepared for a hard defeat. I began playing and not shockingly, I lost the first game. Then I began playing the second game and something in me clicked. I realised that I could easily anticipate a lot of the plays that my opponent was making and more and more the winning that once seemed inevitable, now seemed nigh. I should add, that when I play, I am one of those persons who has found that celebrating my points loudly and engaging in verbal self-talk really motivates me to play at my best.

I then proceeded to win the second game, got some rest, talked to myself and had convinced same self…somehow, that I now had everything in me to try and win this match. Moving into the third and final game, I was confident, but cautious, filled with a desire to win. This move on my part, also made my opponent noticeably more nervous and doubtful in her play. I had managed to mentally defeat her with my vigour and drive. I eventually won the third game in thrilling, dramatic style by making the winning point with a hard smash (the most aggressive shot in badminton) that made its way perfectly down the line of the edge of the court. I let out a triumphant cry and the look of jubilation from my teammates, and not to mention the disappointment of my rivals, simply added to the joyous occasion. You would have thought that I had just won the gold medal at the Olympics.

However, what really struck me the most was that after the matches were done. One of my teammates told me that she had overheard the captain from the other team, telling my opponent during one of our breaks that: “Kamasha has a winner’s mentality! She wants to win! You don’t have that!” I could not believe that she was talking about me. One thing was for sure, this was definitely not the Kamasha that I or anyone had known even just a few years prior. I had never been known to have such a fighting mentality on court for my singles matches. I often cowered in fear thinking of my opponents, even at times when I was at a higher skill level than they were.

Then I pondered over what had changed to make me become that player, that person who knew how to physically and mentally intimidate opponents before even stepping on the court at times. When did I become such a force to be reckoned with?! Then it all made sense. I no longer felt the pressure of having to impress coaches at home, or thinking about performing well so that I could be selected for the national team, or wondering what people thought about the way I played. These things were past me now, I had done it all and I am now in a different, albeit still competitive phase of my career and life. I no longer had anything to prove to anyone, I just simply..Enjoy playing!!

I also realised that the team spirit here is incredible, everyone is so supportive and even though you lose a match, they really don’t ‘stress’ you for it. That was something I had not been exposed to much in the past and that also makes a significant contribution to the way I play. Now whether or not, the words that were said to my opponent were the right things to say to someone in that position or not, that is left to be discussed for another time. However, the moral of the story here (or at least I hope there is one), is that there is power in how we view things mentally. We can change our perspective on things and thus also alter outcomes by the way we approach tasks. I went into that singles game, physically sore and to make matters worse, I had been battling a knee injury all season, which no one knew of as I had never mentioned it. Yet still somehow, I managed to play some of the best badminton of the season and ultimately of my very long career.

Obviously, I am no ‘spring kitten’ anymore (yes, I have a bias to kittens) compared to several of my opponents, but I have learned to use my years of training, scientific knowledge and experience in a way that creates advantages that work for me. Most importantly, I believe that my eagerness to play badminton was so great that it fuelled me to ignore all the negatives and just play. I yearned to play badminton after having been separated for months (which greatly threatened our love affair) but alas, we endured, and I used such affection to propel me to victory. I hope that this little anecdote (ok, somewhat little) can inspire someone, to know that it is never too late to overcome your fears and achieve your maximum potential (I should probably make this a tagline) and hopefully guide you on your way to becoming more Resolute in all that you do!


Until the next time..And remember, if there is something you would like to say or hear..Let’s blog about it!