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Shannon Pohl Puts the Good in Bad-Minton

Shannon Pohl Puts the Good in Bad-Minton

Athlete Ambassador’s Name: Shannon Pohl

Date of Birth: 11/09/80

Home Country: USA

Home Town: Arlington Heights, IL

Resides: Chicago, IL

Sport: Badminton

College: University of Illinois

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When Shannon Pohl, the former USA # 1 Women’s Badminton Singles and 2012 USA Badminton Developmental Coach of the Year, introduced herself to the students at Patrick Henry Elementary on October 20, 2014, she made her message as the World Sport Chicago’s Athlete Ambassador clear:

“Sports has changed my life and I want to share my passion for fitness and physical education with all of you to help influence you to make positive life choices.”

Pohl, who did not start playing badminton until high school, spoke to the students about the physical, psychological and social benefits of physical education for children’s development, including higher brain function, better attention span, concentration and health. In her introduction, Pohl captured Yogi Berra’s advice on goal setting and knowing “where you’re going,” and seconded Michael Jordan on quitting versus failing: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

Whether it’s career or personal goals, effective goal setting provides individuals with a basis for self-improvement, and should therefore not be underestimated. Some examples of goals students at Henry Elementary pointed out are taking good notes, turning in a paper on time, making a minimum and stated grade on an upcoming test, saving a certain amount of money, and making an improvement related to sports. We’ve all had that feeling of getting things done without really testing ourselves, but how can setting goals help to enhance our performance?

Kingston and Hardy (1997) highlight three types of goals: (1) Outcome goals, (2) Performance goals, and (3) Process goals. The outcome goals refer to the outcome of an event such as the Olympic Games, for example. The process goals relate to specific behaviors exhibited by an individual during a performance (e.g. Shannon Pohl fundraised and gave speeches to save up money for training, and moved to Denmark for elite training at the International Badminton Academy). Finally, performance goals relate to specific criteria that can help an athlete improve what they are trying to do (e.g. clearing the shuttle more accurately in routines and increasing the jump height).

Badminton is the fastest recorded ball/racket sport in the world. The shuttlecock, made of only the left wing of a goose so it spins consistently, can whip across the net as fast as 206mph/332 kmh. The secret to goal setting, on the other hand, is deliberate slowness and focus on process. Or as Gould (1998) argues, “athletes should set process and performance goals as opposed to just outcome goals.” Upon her graduation, Pohl attended the Olympic Training Center and set herself a goal of going to the Olympics. However, she also set different process and performance goals, which let her and her coaches review her strengths and areas for improvement. In addition, setting performance and process related goals allowed Pohl to increase her self-confidence and utilize it positively toward her performance.

Yet, whether it is professional or recreational, setbacks are a common occurrence at athletic and personal performance. A multiple-goal strategy provides opportunities for success, but it does not by itself lead to success. Michael Jordan, arguably the world’s greatest basketball player, said: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” The words of basketball legend might be carrying particular resonance with Shannon Pohl, who missed the Olympics by one spot, but has competed at four World Championships, represented Team USA in over 75 tournaments and 46 countries, won bronze in Pan American Championships and gold in Maccabiah Games, and ultimately made her passion into her living. By opening the Shannon Pohl Badminton Academy, Pohl arrived at a profound understanding of what Michael Jordan meant when he said, “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”  

Shannon Pohl with the students at Patrick Henry Elementary School

Shannon Pohl with the students at Patrick Henry Elementary School

Go make it happen! :)

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