“If You’re Losing Then Why are You Smiling?”

The other night I was smiling and laughing and a friend asked if my team was winning.

“No,” I said.

“If you’re losing, then why are you smiling?”

Good question.

See, now “winning” is no longer my goal or purpose while playing. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to, very much. But now I’m at a stage where normal play is…well…normal. To improve I need to try new techniques and tactics. And when you try new things you fail a lot at first.

And I’m totally okay with that because every now and then it works, and it is amazing.

The other night, after about a month break for traveling, I started off slow, taking some time to get back into it, remembering how to play. But then I started trying some of my moves again, and as usual, failing.

You see, there is this “thing” that the better players do against me. It’s a bit hard to describe but let me try. When I serve, instead of hitting it hard and to the rear of the court (so my partner gets it), they tap it lightly over the net forcing me to react incredibly quickly to hit it back. And my reaction time isn’t that great. So I miss it. And miss it. And miss it again.

And this little move, a short return on my serve, is my kryponite. I mean, yeah, I’m getting better (there was a time when one friends would taunt me and tell me exactly where they would hit it and I would STILL miss it.) But, I can’t allow this clear, obvious lapse. So I’ve been working on my reaction time so I can hit them back. (I’ve also been working on my serve. I can force them to hit it long and to the back if I serve it correctly.)

But I’m competitive by nature, and revenge is sweet. I don’t want to just react and get their short returns, I wanna dish it out too. And not just a simple tap, hitting the birdie directly across from where I am standing, but I want to do one of those little twisty taps where it barely clears the net, but shoots it sideways, far from where my opponent is standing.

I’ve been trying for awhile, but the usual result is I hit the net, on my side, and we lose the point. But I kept trying for a few weeks and the other night I did it. I DID IT! I tapped it over, it shot sideways, barely cleared the net and my opponent (who happens to be the best player in our group) jumped but failed to hit it back. There was a moment of shocked silence as we all processed what had just happened, then everyone erupted into cheers. It was the end of Mighty Ducks, Major League and Bad News Bears all combined. (Did I just date myself?)

Everyone was shouting, hooting, giving me high fives. And my “everyone” I mean three people (my partner and my two opponents), but I felt like I had just won the Olympics. And my friends were acting like it too even though it was just one little point in one little game and really not at all impressive. But they’ve seen my entire badminton journey and knew me when I could barely hit the bird. So they knew what a big deal this more advanced move was for me and they were cheering not for the move, but more for the journey it took me to get there.

Since then I’ve done that move successfully a few times. Of course for every success there is about 25 fails but I know with more time, that number will go down and eventually there will be more successes then failures. I guess I didn’t exactly know that before. No, I mean, intellectually I knew it. It’s the basis for every inspirational poster isn’t it? But now I know it from experience. I trust that it will happen to me.

So if I’m losing why am I still smiling? Because I’m getting better. And winning will come later. I know that now. I can wait for it.

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