My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Life of an Average Athlete: In my Shoes

Life of an Average Athlete: In my Shoes

By no means am I the best in the world, nor am I the worst. I fall somewhere into the middle, don’t get me wrong I am not putting myself down by saying that at all. I’m simply just stating what it is and where I stand. Regardless of my skill level every day I strive to be the best that I can be on court and make it to the top. To improve my skills and not let anything stand in my way, the determination of wanting to succeed drives me forward. Being an athlete is one of the unique experiences in life, the ability to perform in a sport and be able travel the world while at it. This is something that I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do and would not trade it for anything.

The Beginning

I was granted a late start at badminton, starting training at 18 years old with the Alberta Elite program that ran 2 times a week. Through my friends and also under the guidance of my coaches I fell in love with the sport and at that point decided that I wanted to see how far I could get. I knew that I had started very late and that it might be impossible to even compete at a high level but that didn’t discourage me. I actually never even thought about competing at the international level at all until much later on. At first it was all just about enjoying the game and playing the local junior tournaments. That soon turned into playing the senior tournaments and nationals. Not too long after that all I did was eat, sleep, and breathe badminton. It was my life and that would not change for the foreseeable future no matter what came my way.

2015 Canada Open, Men's Singles against China. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Yeung)
My mom was the one who first planted the idea in my head, it started with her asking if Trinidad had a badminton team. That was all it took and before long I was in contact with the former national coach and then with the current coach and other players. Just like that I found myself on a flight down to my other home to play some badminton against the countries players. I arrived and met one of the most influential people in my career, Anil Seepaul. Anil was a 5 time national singles champion as well as having many other doubles and mixed titles to his name. His club was called CRISTARS and little did I know that it would so become my club to. I spent almost 6 months in Trinidad at that time, taking a semester off of school. I got my passport which would allow me to compete internationally representing Trinidad on the world stage, then it happened. I played my first international tournament of my life. October 2008 Anil and I flew off to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico International. That was the start of my career as a professional athlete. I had the pleasure of playing Anil in the finals and winning my first national singles title in the 2015 Trinidad nationals. I still have and will always have a great amount of respect for him as well as am extremely thankful for all he has done.

Winning my 1st men's singles national title, and 2nd place in both doubles and mixed
Over the years my passion and dedication for the sport grew, going to training camps in China multiple times and competing more and more around the world. Soon enough I discovered the big games, the type of tournaments/events that happen once every 4 years. Most notable on that list is the Olympics but also there are The Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games, and CAC (Central America and Caribbean games) all of which are once every 4 years multisport mini Olympic style events. For any athlete the opportunity to represent ones country at one of those events is a defining moment in their life. At that moment I knew what I wanted to do and what my goals were, maybe not so much the Olympics but something much more easily attainable, to represent Trinidad and Tobago at one of those 4 year major events.

Daily life

Now one knows that as an athlete you need to practice constantly to get to the high level as well as maintain ones skill. It started off with me just training 2 days a week on court for 2 hours each time but that quickly grew into what it is today at 6-7 days a week anywhere from 2-5 hours a day on court (the odd time more than that). On top of that there is fitness and weight training that also takes place so tack on another 1-2 hours a day. Upon that realization one quickly comes to the understanding that the majority of the day is dedicated to training and does not leave much time for other pleasures in life. Couple that with the 6 years of university I did to hammer out 3 degrees and the nightly coaching that I also do, my days pretty much are done before they start.

Who doesn't like doing multi shuttle
The love and passion was there and still is that I will gladly spend my days doing what I need to do in order to try my best to improve my game. That being said there is a lot of sacrifice to be made, this all coming from somebody who isn’t even top 200 in the world yet. I will always make time for those who are important for me and I hate to go months without seeing my closest friends. Usually that’s what ends up happening however, with all the traveling and jam packed schedules it makes planning and seeing people hard.  It’s a double edge sword because sometimes when I do finally have free time I simply don’t want to go out and do things or see people, I just want to enjoy those few hours to myself and do nothing. So I do apologize to all my friends that I see once in a while, but at the same time I thank them so much for all the support and motivation they constantly provide me to keep pushing forward.

Moving back to Calgary from Vancouver, saying goodbye to my training partners and great coach Darryl (Left)
There are many days that I wake up and just don’t want to go train, I don’t want to step on court and hit a shuttle, don’t want to do footwork or weights. But in the end my passion for it gets me up and down to the courts. No matter how sore my body is, no matter how much my legs don’t want to move. Regardless if its -30 outside, pouring rain, or a perfectly sunny day best spent outside I will be at training doing what I do. “Where there’s a will there’s a way” those are the words/saying I live by. This is also why I have it tattooed on my body because it is my motto, my burning desire that keeps me going every day.

有志者事竟成, "Where there's a will, there's a way" direct translation is a person with determination will succeed 

Am I really Traveling?

Sometimes I get to experience some amazing moments and see beautiful things around the world, spending a few days in a country and actually seeing sights as well as experiencing the culture. Other times all I see is the airport, tournament venue, and the hotel. From spending a full week in places such as Vietnam, Japan, New Zealand, French Polynesia (Tahiti) and others to the complete flip side. In some instances I’ve spent less than 72 hours in a country from the time I landed to time I took off. On average I spend 4-5 days in a place I go, however most of those days are usually taken up by practice and the tournament.

In Tahiti, French Polynesia for a tournament

The last time that I actually traveled on a plane without my badminton racquets for a vacation was pre 2008. Since 2008 (7 years to date of writing) I haven’t actually taken a vacation or traveled for “pleasure”, every time I travel it is for badminton and I carry my racquets with me. At this present moment in life it is a foreign feeling to travel for a vacation, I have a hard time justifying it when I could be spending that money and attending a tournament. That being said I have been to places like Peru 4 times and yet to see Machu Pichuu, one day I’m sure I will make that trip as well as many others to see things I want to. A lot of the time I travel alone which while can be nice it is well rather lonely, not always having people there to share in the experiences and witness some amazing sights can be a downer (I have had the opportunity to travel with some amazing people too though). Don’t get me wrong I love traveling and am happy to experience all that I have and see all I have seen.

India, Trinidad and Tobago, France
Trinidad and Tobago team in Venezuela
I swear that I sometimes spend more time outside of Calgary traveling than I do in the city some years. But the sad truth is that the 12+ hour flights now feel like nothing and all the shorter ones are just as easy as getting up and heading to training at this point. The long haul flights give me time to myself and to relax for a change while jetting across the globe. Its funny cause to me anything under 5 hours of flying doesn’t feel like traveling anymore as I’m so use to going transatlantic or transpacific at this point. While the excitement might not be as profound and hit me hard anymore I still do get excited to fly and travel the world. I love jumping on a large plane and setting off on a new adventure. Flying and being on a giant plane will always have me excited at heart, I love flying on the A380’s now and who can resist business/executive class upgrades.

Just some of the airline tickets for my travel in 2014 alone
The Battles in my Head

It goes without being said that my head can be a battleground at times constant conflicting points of view and opinions flying around. “Should I stop badminton?”, “You haven’t won an international match in a while”, “How could you blow that, it was your match to win”, “I want to train hard for this”, “I love badminton and this feeling of progressing”, “I’m happy with how I played”, etc. The stuff that goes through my mind can make a complete 180 degree turn depending on what’s happening. So many things influence it and make me think about the path I am on as I grow older.

Getting into the zone during warm up before a match. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Yeung) 
I fully understand that this can’t go on forever and there will be a time to stop and get on with life, join the real world as I so often joke about it with everybody. I will try and prolong it as long as I can, only having won a handful of international matches around the world one would think it is crazy that I still continue to play. I enjoy it too much to just stop though and even if I was at the very bottom of the world rankings I would still enjoy it all the same. The war with continue on for a few more years at least, there’s much more that I have to learn as well as want to learn.

The Hard Truth

I have been given so many opportunities through badminton, first and foremost I have traveled the world. How many people can say they have seen at least 50 countries before they were 25 years old? And I still have a few more years before I’m 30 to increase that number and to keep going to try and see as much of the world as I can in my lifetime. That aside I know I am not the top in the world and chances are I never will be, that is not me giving up from trying (I will always train to be the best) that is just a realistic look at things. The facts are there and I can see the facts, if I stated earlier maybe things would have been different or maybe they wouldn’t, maybe I would be worse or would have given it up already. I fall somewhere in the middle of it all, I love the sport too much to quit despite my win/loss ratio.

The collection of accreditation badges grows every year
In reality I will continue with it and eventually will fade out of competing professionally, there are still a few more goals I have to accomplish first. Attending one of those every 4 years games (maybe not the Olympics but hey I will try to say at least I tried to qualify). Playing in a super series event, even if just in the qualification draw although I’d like to make it into the maindraw. To qualify for a world championship would be an amazing opportunity but we will see what happens with that. For now I have my list and will work towards it over the few years I have left. I have been able to check off a few, a national title, win an international match, reach top 250 in the world, now I just need to keep setting the bar higher and setting new goals to go for.

Pan Am Championships, the yearly badminton championships

My body and mind are good for now but I know they will only hold out for so much longer. In that time I will experience as much of this part of my life as I can. It’s not every day you get to say you are a professional athlete who travels the world for a living. I thank all my coaches that I have had as well as all my sparing partners locally and around the world for their contributions to my game and career. Also everybody (friends, family, fans, etc) who support me through the highs and lows of my career, thank you for sticking around when I’m happy from a win or depressed from a loss. That’s my life, in my shoes and through my eyes at least, so I thank you for reading and getting this small glimpse into my life and thoughts as an athlete.