Badminton is quite well behaved, young up and coming athletes are
well protected and make it to the international arena on a regular basis,
but the Association sacrifices quality of play by staging tournaments in
venues where “bums on seats” are more important than the playing surface.
More on that later ...
Nice one, Squash
Squash is impeccable. Just as I’ve
never seen a racehorse run on concrete, I’ve never seen a squash match
played on anything other than a sprung wooden floor. No sacrifices,
whether it’s Wembley, NEC, the Albert Hall or where ever, a portable court
with a proper sprung floor is not too much trouble.
It surprises me that badminton has never followed this example and I
admire squash very much for never compromising on the issue of health and
safety for the players and, of course, the standard of play has always
Having said that, I’ve just read a report from Detroit where squash
players in the “Motor City Open” were suffering on the “harder wood”
floor, with lots of injuries and drop-outs. This takes me back a few
Badminton in a hard place
The old town halls with sprung wooden floors had been closing their doors
to badminton players during the seventies and eighties. Many counties had
no choice but to adopt the modern leisure centres as their new home,
concrete floor or not. Top players from each county then had to find
somewhere else to train. Players from Essex would either move house to
Surrey or travel daily, elsewhere in the country this new regime in search
of a wooden floor would be repeated.
When it came to finding a venue for the Nationals, in order to facilitate
the spectators, it invariably dictated somewhere with a concrete floor.
Even the All England Open at Wembley – a concrete floor! Top players
rebelled, but the same thing was happening all over Europe. Even laying a
rubber over-court on top to provide some cushioning did not take away the
effects of the hard surface.
Players were suffering more injuries and in turn the tournaments suffered.
As the accumulation of fatigue in each athlete increased with each round,
sometimes the semis would be disappointing, well below the expected
standard of play. Then the final was almost a walkover with one of the
players looking completely and utterly spent. How the hell do you adapt?
Playing on hard surfaces
If you’ve played on that kind of surface – first and foremost you need
extra recovery time over and above your usual. If you’re planning to play
on a harder surface, you need to be extra light on your feet, think
“cushion and spring”, be cat like, practice your movement on court by
ghosting, listen to your feet on the floor.
If you are light on your feet there will be little to hear, if you are
heavy footed you’ll sound more like a cart horse and I would advise you
not to play on a hard surface. Even if you are light on your feet, hard
surfaces are unforgiving, you need to pace yourself more than usual. Be as
economic as you can in dispatching each opponent with as little effort as
Save as much energy as you can for the later stages. Don’t forget though,
whether you get to the final or go out in round one – you’ll need extra
Football forgets it assets
There’s more money in football than many sports put together. This doesn’t
make footballers more professional than other athletes, it just means they
have more money.
Football is a vast industry which has one or more shinning lights,
Arsene Wenger is one, amongst an enormous collection of dinosaurs and
fossils. We are led to believe that standards, training facilities,
medical backup, etc, etc at the top of the game are unsurpassed, but
that’s all spin in most cases.
You only have to witness the trials and tribulations of Michael Owen whose
game deteriorated under the training regime of Gerrard Houllier. Rio
Ferdinand’s future was put in jeopardy by Harry Redknapp in 1999. His West
Ham squad were so depleted through injury, that Redknapp risked
Ferdinand’s future by asking the young injured player to have an injection
before playing an end of season game, which at most would secure fifth
place in the League Championship.
Had nothing been learnt from the way Terry Venables allowed Paul
Gascoine’s potential to be ruined, by allowing him to play whilst injured
in that famous FA cup game?
Tennis tests its teenagers
Tennis has a few bob, again a growing industry in terms of financial
profitability. I’ve seen some badly injured players from many different
sports in my time. I can talk about burnout and the different forms in
which it can manifest itself.
Junior tennis takes the biscuit! I’ve seen ten to sixteen year old
enthusiasts whose bodies have been tortured to the limits, and yes, I’ve I
seen burnt out players in that age group and an amazing assortment of long
standing stresses and strains.
In the past I have felt compelled to write to the authorities complaining
that coaching methods at their Bisham Abbey School of Excellence was
causing injury to many players.
Twelve year olds were being instructed to perform thirty press-ups. What
more can I say? These kids are training mainly on concrete surfaces,
twelve to fifteen hours per week and playing tournaments.
They play with senior rackets, whilst these rackets are known to be
contributing to the unprecedented amount of injuries on the Senior tour.
They don’t seem to have an end of season to recover, ready for the next
For all the money they have in tennis “it don’t buy common sense”!