Racketloneers – Brave or Foolish?

Its a Saturday afternoon and I’m having a well earned rest, sitting down on the sofa after a morning Winter League Tennis match.  As I’m thinking about the week ahead, I realise there’s only 7 days before my next Racketlon tournament.  Only. 7. days!

Its the first tournament of this calender year and I’d like to start the year off with a good performance.  Not necessarily winning the tournament.  Perhaps even placing last, it doesnt matter too much to me, so long as I put in a good performance – that I feel satisfied I tried, played well, but maybe was beaten by a better player.

If my target is to play well, what must I do to ensure that happens? Well everyone knows, the answer to that is straightforward.  Whether its studying for an exam, playing in an orchestra, or competing on court, the answer is the same – plenty of practise.  Thats where its particularly tough for those that choose a life of Racketlon.

Now Racketlon is a niche but growing sport.  Its a Sport where combatants play their opponent at Table Tennis, Badminton, Squash and Tennis.  Its a combination Sport like Triathlon but for lovers of Racket Sports.  The Victor is the player that scores the most points overall in matches to 21.  The concept can be traced to 1980s Scandanavia, but now, in the UK, Tournaments are held every 4 to 6 weeks.  Attracting roughly 80 participants, players travel from all around the UK.

The UK Tour, organised by UK Racketlon is a set of National Tournaments hosted by cities as far apart as Durham and Bath.  All tournaments I would say are National Tournaments, attracting players from all parts of the UK.  There isnt really such a thing as a City tournament, or a County Tournament that just attracts citizens of whatever locality.  Not so in traditional solo sports like Badminton or Squash where entries might be more geographically restricted.

Which made me think, Are Racketlon Players Brave or Foolish?  And what I mean by this is that I think very few coaches would enter their pupils into a National Tournament unless they were Tournament Ready.  Or a Father and Son might say lets enter the Summer Tournament after we’ve had a few more months of training rather than risk being demoralised; you know, that pervading fear of failure feeling that makes inaction seem like the best way (forwards).

Getting National Tournament ready for a 4 sport event is a very, very tall order.  And that’s what I was thinking while resting on the sofa after my Tennis match (which I lost, and was thinking about how to improve).  How on earth is it possible to get tournament ready in 4 Sports?  There’s only 7 days in a week.  So its not really possible to play each Sport twice in 1 week.  And some club nights are going to clash, and I’ve got to go shopping 1 night, or do some homework, or see some friends and before you know it there might be 2 or 3 sport slots a week, if you’re lucky.

Now a solo Table Tennis player might get pretty good, pretty quick playing 3 times a week, but how quick will a Racketlon player progress if they are squeezing 4 sports into 3 slots every week?

So as I consider what training I can do in the next 7 days, I also look back at the last 2 weeks and realise apart from the morning’s tennis match I’ve played just 40 mins of one sport and 90 mins of another – in the last 2 weeks.  Should I pull out of the tournament?

Honestly, that thought has never seriously crossed my mind.  We Racketlon Players are pretty much all in the same boat.  We train and play and play and train when we can, grateful for the opportunity when it arises.  Its never enough. There simply isnt enough hours in the day.  And even if there was, the energy levels needed to sustain serious 4 sport training is Max – maybe super Max !

What we have learned to do when we step onto that strange court is to draw on our memories and believe in ourselves.  Unike  that solo sport specialist who relies on their present and highly tuned, trained form, the Racketlon Player has to dig deep and rely on personal confidence that ability to play has accrued in the body and mind.  That the investment over the years is cumulative and has accumulated. Its not so much as beating the other player through finely honed skills, more like fighting back with resilient determination and making your opponent play one more shot.  Force them to play a little harder, push the margins a little more extreme and not giving many cheap points away.

I think this bravery of Racketlon Players is pretty unique in the sporting world.  The bravery to step on an unfamilar court, in a National Tournament with insufficient training, often facing a specialist superior player should be celebrated.  Its the classic David v Goliath.  Everyone admires the story, but very few put themselves out there as David.

But Racketlon players do all the time.  It takes a special character to begin playing Racketlon to step out from the crwod and be measured.  But once you’re hooked, the game will provide you with many rewards, particularly Bravery and courage.  With courage defined as “despite insufficient training, lack of skills in many areas, the will and determination to take on a superior opponent and, against the odds and utilising opposing skill sets, make sufficient small wins here and there in  a calculating and optimistic manner”.

Win or lose, you will gain from the Racketlon experience.

Simon Lau
Feb 2024

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