Books the Ideal Mental Health Remedy for Leydon-Davis

No tournaments. Quarantined at home. Closed training facilities. Postponed Olympic Games. Lacking motivation.

The COVID-19-ravaged 2020 was becoming a real issue for Oliver Leydon-Davis.

Having won the men’s doubles with Abhinav Manota at VICTOR Oceania Championships 2020 and climbed to his highest world ranking (67th in men’s doubles, 70th in mixed doubles with Anona Pak), New Zealand’s aspiring Olympian was aiming to qualify for Tokyo 2020 when the pandemic hit.

Over 10 weeks were then spent in isolation (as per the New Zealand government requirements) and Leydon-Davis was one of many that had to shake up his training routine.

The 30-year-old, however, did not see it as all ‘doom and gloom’.

“It was a unique opportunity to sit down and reassess. The year became a push-pause, push-pause process, but with everything essentially pushed back 12 months, it gave us an extra window to grow and develop partnerships,” he told Badminton Oceania.

“Our coach had set us up with a training diary and it was the acceptance and good communication between our team which helped us make the most of the eight weeks of (the first) lockdown.”

Pak and Leydon-Davis are currently 70th in the world.

The lockdown also provided a new opportunity for Leydon-Davis – it opened his eyes to the importance of self-reflection and methods for coping with negative thoughts.

“I’ve become more aware of my thoughts and it was a raw exposure of how you talk to yourself. It was revealing where I can get better in my life,” he said.

“I can be a harsh critic and set high standards for myself. There were some tough days where I had to deal with negative self-talk. So, I turned to books to look for mental health models. You notice patterns in your behaviour and learn how to cope with these.

“We have to acknowledge there are things we can’t control, but we must maintain a level of self-awareness and self-control to stay focussed and, particularly as doubles players, hold each other accountable. Thankfully, we were motivated and fed off each other, documenting our activities throughout lockdown.”

Leydon-Davis and his partners are back on court following New Zealand’s successful battle with COVID-19. Now, they eagerly await the easing of tight border controls to storm ahead with their Olympic qualification campaign.

** First published on Badminton Oceania website by Tom Leonard.

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