I’m the kinda person that doesn’t like to do things in a vacuum. I like to join in a community. Whether it is dating Chinese guys, or writing, I do better when I can get involved and meet with like-minded people. It helps me get more engaged and interested (and support is never a bad thing).
But I’m a bit outside the Xiamen Badminton Community for one big reason: I’m a foreigner.
I love my club, but we work totally autonomously. We play in the same gym with each other every week. Our official group language is English and we are not at all involved in the badminton community. If you asked around in Chinese, you would never hear of my group (even though half the group is Chinese). Nobody knows us.
So, when I saw my teachers team on the roster for a upcoming badminton tournament, I asked to go with him and watch. I figured if I arrived with my teacher, and sat with his team, I would get some instant street cred. They are the best Xiamen amateur team in the city.
And it worked!
I couldn’t go to the first day of the tournament (in which his team won all the games), but I went the second day just in time to watch his team lose every single game. Sigh….
They were out, and as busy people, they all left soon after. But me and a friend stayed. I mean, it wasn’t a pro game, but you could sit next to the court and see some pretty high-level play for free. I realized it was actually better than the pro game I had been to. So we settled in for the long day watching game after game of men’s singles and mixed and men’s doubles.
In the beginning, the whole room was filled with active courts. They had to get the teams widdled down to the finals quick, and they did it by using a lot of courts and 11-point games.
Then afternoon had these two teams of young guys. They were like a super hot pack of puppies. No wait, that’s a weird image. let’s see if I can’t find a better metaphor. How about these guys were like if boy bands suddenly turned into badminton players. (I later found out they couldn’t qualify for the national team, but they were still good and were part of the provincial team, so semi-pro’s I guess.)
They were all like 24-25 and filled with energy and youthful zeal and always kinda running around, heckling, being silly. Like a boy band they also had a variety of personalities ranging from the shy/serious ones, to the goofy crowd pleasers.
For fun they played men’s triple. Badminton is only played singles and doubles, but for fun, they did three vs three. With the extra bodies came extra energy and everyone was cracking up and laughing, and the guys played it up. Just like a boy band, their different personalities were on display with the more classically handsome ones being serious and the more “fashion” guys being goofy and theatrical making everyone laugh.
Then, after that game came four vs four. Four guys can’t stand on the court together without hurting each other, so they lined up in the back in a line and they would each take one hit of the birdie. It was more a question of coordination then actual skill at the game, but it was hilarious with the guys running around and after a few points they got the hang of it and managed to make some interesting points. Even the line judges, the most serious and focused judges, were laughing and having fun. No one cared about the actual score, it was just fun.
Also in the afternoon they had exhibition of an automatic serving machine. You can load up this machine with dozens of birdies and can change it to serve at different height and speeds and it was cool to watch. One of the young guys (the not handsome but funny one) hit against the machine, and later a young girl did as well. And when the machine was emptied of the dozens of birdies, a bunch of women rushed onto the court to pick them up and load them back into the machine.
And then I realized. This was the most women I had seen on the court all day. And they were just volunteers picking up the birdies, not players. The tournament had men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles. Each team had just one girl.
And I’m not criticizing the tournament, it is just a reflection of the badminton scene at large which has a lot more male players than females. I asked Xiao He if there was a Women’s badminton tournament in Xiamen and he said he had never heard of one. I asked him if there was a big national women’s only tournament and again he said he hadn’t heard of any.
I think you can guess what I want to now organize…
Anyway, my first tournament as a spectator was great. Am I now “In” with the badminton community? Not really, no. But it’s a first step. I think as the only westerner, people probably noticed me which will make the next one a little easier as they get more used to me. (I’m usually not a fan of sticking out but it works in my favor from time to time.)
Now, when will my first tournament as a player be?! 🙂