Monday, 6 June 2011

Olympic Countdown - Badminton

This is one sport where I’ve applied for tickets, for two reasons: I used to play regularly, and it was also the subject of my practical work when I took a Sports Vision Diploma about ten years ago.

For that diploma, I looked at the Sussex Under-13 badminton squad, of which my son was a member at the time. I conducted a series of visual tests and compared the results with the coaches’ estimation of the players’ abilities.

For nearly every test there was no correlation between vision and ability. There was one test, however, in which you have to read out some numbers that are close to you, and some that are further away, alternating from one to the other.

Actually, this test showed no correlation with ability either. But it occurred to me that this was a test of speed of vocalisation as well as vision. So I got the kids to read out the numbers from a page, and subtracted this time from the time it took to do the other test. And when I did that, I got a statistically significant correlation with the coaches’ player ratings.

The test is supposed to show the ability to focus clearly on different objects when moving the eyes between them. But it’s actually possible to do the test without moving your eyes, by taking in central and more peripheral information at the same time. Such a skill is clearly important in badminton, where you need to concentrate on the shuttle but be aware of your opponent’s position as well. And indeed this is a required skill in many sports.

One evening when I was playing, a coach was feeding shuttles to a young player, who was returning them with drop shots to the coach who stayed in the same position just the other side of the net. The problem with this is that it’s a form of “blocked” training, which doesn’t take into account the tactical side of the game that’s required in a match. Players can look good in training, but regularly under-perform on match day, or can’t progress their game beyond a certain level.

It would have been much better if the coach, having fed the shuttle from one position, moved to a different place to which the return had to be made. Or he could even have instructed the player to return the shuttle to where he wasn’t, which would have been even more realistic.
I guess the young man won’t be representing the UK next year.

David Donner