Mind tricks are powerful – not only in politics, economics, information technology or general media propaganda but also in sports.
Today I tried out a new mind trick or mental strategy to win badminton games against some of my regular tougher competitors – and it worked so well, I feel like sharing it with my readers.
I base my strategy on the following discovery/assumption:
- it is relatively rare – even if players are poorly matched, with very different skills – for one player to be more than about 5 points behind.
I theorize that this is – at least partly – because:
- the more ahead a player is, the more sloppy and casual he plays. Especially drops / netshots become very effective against a leading player
- the more behind a player is, the more motivated and concentrated the player plays (there are some exceptions and limits here though)
When I am behind I can (almost naturally) catch up easier and frustrate my partner by appearing to be a stronger player now. My partner looses confidence and makes more mistakes than normally until I am a few points ahead. At this point the advantage changes and I become weaker while my partner will now catch up.
The amazing thing is that these effects are very hard to avoid works with everyone. It takes a lot of training and mental strength to keep playing properly when you are a few points ahead. It simply is too tempting to feel save and underestimate your partner.
Here is how I used this effect to my advantage:
- I tried to remember that I have an advantage when I am behind any time during the game – at least until my partner has about 18 points.
- I tried to remember that I do not want to be many points ahead as I would lose my advantage. In fact staying behind until about 18 would be ideal!
As a result of this strategy the following happened:
- I was not nervous about falling behind a few points – anymore. I felt it is part of my plan and felt in control. I also stopped the occasional swearing (or equivalent body language) which always encourages your partner.
- Although I believe staying behind until 18 is ideal, I still enjoyed staying ahead and did not try too hard to lose points.
- I played more relaxed, tried some more risky net shots until I was several points behind (or continued an “effortless” journey forward). Then I concentrated more on winning, knowing my partner is now weak feeling he is safe being ahead. I catch up – it always worked.
- I actually began to find it hard to fall behind even against players I usually lose. I was less rigid and stiff, more flexible and faster, less worried about losing any single point.
- I did actually play better when I was ahead too as I was aware that my partner had the mental advantage. He now had the advantage a bit less since I was aware of this effect.
- I seemed to impress my partner as I must have appeared much more confident and in control
- Quite often my stronger partners usually let me go ahead until about 15 points or so, so they can than play fully to catch up, knowing that they are the stronger players.
That way they have a real challenge and its more interesting for them. I do the same with weaker partners too. However, my new strategy seemed to confuse my stronger partners to the extend that they make more mistakes and get frustrated.
In a way we are both trying to fall behind. Maybe as a weaker player I have an advantage here – it comes more natural and I don’t have to change my play too much. Catching up then is not as dramatic a change for me than for the stronger player falling behind the weaker one and then catching up with all effort.
- I played quite differently, even when falling behind, staying calm and in control. My stronger partners need to adjust to the change, trying to identify what is different, trying to find a remedy. Their working memory is pushing its limits reducing bandwidth for the usual strategic calculation (where to place the shuttle etc.).
I was amazed how effortless it felt beating several players I usually lose against – just because of one mind “trick”. Of course I have no hard proof that my victories were because of the trick – but there is a good chance.
I regularly use also other mind tricks like controlling the pace of the game by either slowing down or speeding up the action – especially between the rallies e.g. an extra breath before the serve, picking up the shuttle and serving a little faster. I found this also worked, but the effect was not as impressive as the method above.
Thinking of feeling the force (direction of the smash) like a Jedi, may give you an extra edge when returning smashes. Honestly, I do not know how I am able to return fast smashes – let alone how professional players return much faster ones. Here is an example:
I would think these strategies work not only in badminton. Think tennis, table tennis and perhaps even in team sports – especially if a coach uses them consciously or less obviously.
I wonder if any of my readers have some similar or contrary experience and thoughts. Do mental “tricks” like this work for you? Who uses them?
Note: I am sure this mind trick is not a new mental strategy – but it was new for me.
[update april 2014]: the described mind trick has been useful now for over a year. However, it seems less effective after a while when I got used to using it. The psychology is probably more complicated than I described. Part of the the success at the beginning was probably the excitement about discovering something new which heightened my concentration and overall attention and motivation in the game. It could well be mostly a placebo effect. This would mean that any kind of mind trick game I come up with may work simply because I believe in it.
Keywords: mind trick games, badminton tactics and strategy, mind games