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Should training always be about winning?

By Natasha Coyle

For many sportspeople, training has a strong emphasis on training to win. But is it always about winning?

What’s the point of training if you’re not training to win? This is something I think about a lot and something that motivates me during my most intense sessions. I love winning but I also can’t win every match I play, and I have to acknowledge that someone else is objectively going to be stronger than I am. But even if I play a badminton tournament and lose more games than I win, has my training been pointless? Never.

Like most competitive sportspeople, training does have a large focus on practising for match days and aiming to get that win. Yet, training sessions do so much more for me than just focusing my mind on winning my next match.

The more I train, the more I should improve. The more shuttles I hit, the quicker my reactions will be, and this is essential for me as a doubles player who likes to play fast and aggressively. Training also allows me to practise set play, which means that if I serve in a certain part of the court I will likely receive one of three returns which I can then manipulate to my advantage. Set play, especially in doubles, can often win key points which may impact the outcome of a close match.

If I don’t attend training sessions, I won’t get picked for teams. There are expectations of me to show up but it wouldn’t be fair if I got selected over another player who was putting in the hours on the court. When I train in the gym, I know I’m getting stronger, becoming more agile, and increasing my cardiovascular stamina, which will all contribute to a more likely chance of winning.

But if training was always—and only—about winning, all the other positive elements I get from those sessions would be overshadowed by the sole emphasis on needing to win, win, win.

Training is a very social time and allows me to chat with friends, and generally get away from my desk and laptop screen. Training sessions make me feel good, even the ones that I maybe didn’t play particularly well at, but that’s what training is for – to practise new techniques and styles of play.

When I train in the gym, yes, it is about training my body so I can push it harder, and increase my strength and stamina. Yet, I love going to the gym just because it makes me feel good. I like to train in the gym alone, blast some D&B or rap through my headphones whilst I squat and deadlift. This time really allows me to focus on myself without always thinking about the end goal of winning.

Finally, if winning is the only thing on my mind when I train, I lose sight of why I’m doing it all in the first place. Sport is not a chore for me, and I’ll never be good enough to be a professional badminton player. I go to the gym and play sports because I love it; because it’s fun and social and makes me feel good. If winning was the only motivation, I’d be asking myself why I started.

Training, for me, is a combination of wanting to win my next match as well as training for the fun of it. As a sound, competitive player, I want to win BUCS and county matches and I increase my chances of doing this if I train. Yet, training is about the impact it has on me socially, especially when my degree is spent mainly alone reading and writing.

Whatever your reason is for training, don’t let the prospect of winning cloud why you started training in the first place. 


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