I have played badminton for half my life. Four years in high school, four years for the UC Berkeley club, then I picked it up again very seriously trained and competed for 3 years and now I play for fun with my co-worker and near my house.
I love playing of course because of the game itself and also because I am really good at it. I no longer make beginner mistakes playing a competitive sport. The game itself then rises to another level, not just keeping the shuttlecock in play, but strategy comes into play. I can turn the racket certain angles to make subtle last minute adjustments. I can wait to hit the shuttlecock when I want to hit it, not because it’s just there. These are very deliberate choices I can make on the court because I am no longer chasing after my target, but I’m at the target earlier.
I played today with a team and they were not at the same skill level. So I told my partner to go easier and don’t smash and just practice our drops and high shots. It was still fun without being too lopsided.
Then we played against another team where they were good singles players, highly skilled and strong smashing. We lost the first game, and I switched tactics to attack more, do drop shots more to spread out the defense, relax my nerves and focus on defense. We readily beat this team in the second game. Physically, nothing changed but my playing improved drastically because of my mine and mental shift.
I can now relate to athletes who talk about having to work on the mental focus to get to the next level.