What I’ve learned from 10 years of pro Badminton

by Kieran Merrilees, LAPS Partnership Manager for Scotland

At the age of 18 I was selected and relocated from Glasgow to Milton Keynes for the Olympic Badminton programme, where I would embark on my journey as a professional player. I got an early reality check of what was required of me in this new chapter with a 6.45am alarm signalling our first session of the day and a phrase that would fill me with trepidation:

“45 minutes high intensity on the bike.”

This was a 7am start, 5 days a week. 15 minutes to get out of bed and hop onto the bike for what felt like a never-ending torment. To this day I’m still scarred from those mornings on the bike. A few friends are keen cyclists and always tell me how much I’d enjoy their cycling holidays in France, that I’m missing out on some great cycling routes. I might well be, but no thanks.

Another two sessions would follow each day lasting around 90mins to 2 hours – a gruelling mixture of badminton and weights training, a small sacrifice if that meant giving myself the best chance of achieving my goals.

It required an insane amount of discipline, dedication and a willingness to push your body to the limit to complete this programme week in week out, to “bank” those marginal gains that make the difference in sport. Discipline and dedication are attributes that I’ve found invaluable in life after sport, even if I’m not so sure about the willingness to push your body to the limit.

I trained under many different coaches and training regimes, so it was important to be able to adapt quickly to the ever changing styles of training. Through the tough training programmes and 16-20 competitions each year, injuries were inevitable. I unfortunately had my fair share, including nearly chopping my thumb off one Christmas Eve (a story for another day). It was incredibly tough mentally to continuously stop start your career and get back to the level and the ranking you were at before the setback. Adversity is something as athletes we face and learn to deal with on numerous occasions through our sporting careers and facing those challenges and set backs builds our resilience and ability to bounce back from disappointments in the future.

2018 was the year the curtain closed on my international Badminton career. 10 years jet-setting around the world chasing my sporting aspirations culminated in a bitter tasting early exit in the Commonwealth Games, a major event in the calendar that would only come around every 4 years.

I was seeded in the top 8, so expected to be around the business end of the competition where medals were up for grabs. One of the beautiful things about sport is it allows both competitors and supporters the ability to romanticize over the perfect outcome and aim high. As UFC superstar Conor McGregor says,

“ I am cocky in prediction and confident in preparation.”

I was not confident in my preparation while a change in training circumstances and a dramatic loss of form didn’t allow me to be cocky in prediction!

I remember the moment my last competitive game had been played, losing an incredibly tight match where ironically I put in one of my best performances of the year against an at the time unknown player who later that year went on to crack the world top 30 and win one of the best tournaments in the sport. I was deflated, disappointed and ultimately knew that although I still had years left in me, I had mentally checked out and ready to move on to the next chapter.

On reflection, I’m able to look back with immense pride on the journey I went on, I focus more on what I did achieve and appreciate the skillsets, friendships and experiences I’ve made through sport. Career accolades aside, I’ve learned how to make sacrifices to benefit my own self-development, discipline and dedication were instilled in me, I’ve gained the ability to be flexible in approach as well as become resilient. I see these same skills among current and other ex-sporting professionals and I firmly believe they’ll will be invaluable as we make the transition into your next career move.

If you’re actively seeking a new role or are currently making the transition out of sport or want to discuss other potential partnerships with us here at LAPS, give Kieran a shout! His details are:


Twitter – https://twitter.com/KieranMERR

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kieran-merrilees-a338a91b6/

LAPS Members can discuss Kieran’s post on our Community page