Why am I So Into Badminton?! (Or Dealing with a Sports Obsession in your Middle Age)

The other night my friends and I were hanging out. I was talking about how my two-month summer holiday had began and how I was now playing badminton five nights a week.

“Wow, you must really suck,” my friend joked. “You play five nights a week and still somehow manage to be so bad.”

“Yeah, I do,” I said back. “And yet, I’m still better than you. So you suck even worse,”

Joking aside, he kinda hit the nail on the head. I do kinda suck, but there’s a reason.

I’m a middle-aged, overweight woman with major health problems who has never seriously played a sport in her life. 

No matter what I do, or how I improve, I can’t escape those facts. And yet, I dedicate more and more time to playing badminton. I forsake my friends, I forsake going out and having fun, I’ve even canceled dates just to play badminton. I watch videos in my free time, practice swinging the racket in my house and work towards constant improvement.

Xiamen badminton

Even if I’m not actually playing I’m keeping an eye on everyone else. Normally I’m obsessed with my phone but when I play or I’m in the courts, my phone goes untouched for hours.

I mean, it’s a bit embarrassing even. We can accept a sports obsession from someone who is an expert and has been playing a long time. Or we can accept it from a kid who has just started training (then we can dream about their future in the major leagues.) But an adult? Who isn’t an expert but is practicing and learning for the first time yet totally obsessed? It’s not something we see that often, and honestly, not something we accept, not even me. Sometimes when I’m talking about it I think “Who am I to be talking about this? Who am I to care so much? I haven’t earned it.”

It’s kinda too easy to make fun of someone like me. I get it. I don’t deserve to be so obsessed because I’m not good enough and I haven’t been playing very long.

Also, what’s my end game? I’m obviously never going to be an Olympic athlete or even on the nationals team. For that to happen I would need to be a decade younger and have started playing before I was a teen.

And yet, I’m getting more obsessed with the sport. And not just in my daily life, but deep in my subconscious as well. Just to give you a little example, a few weeks ago, when I got my root canal, I thought about badminton, and badminton plays to keep me calm and relaxed. Also, when I’m falling asleep and have a twitching muscle, my brain now imagines me hitting a birdie instead of falling off the sidewalk like I used to.

But why? As a writer I’ve been wanting to write a “Why I love badminton post.” People ask me all the time. And yet, I don’t really have a good answer. If I can find some meaning, then I can find some sense, and some justification for it all.

Sure, it’s good for your health, sure it’s a fun sport, sure it’s a good way to meet people. But I hate sports, hate sweating even more, and I have a lot of friends. I don’t care about those factors.

I’m the kind of person that tries to find meaning in everything I do. Good situations or bad I always want to learn a lesson, or have a realization about something. I don’t know if there is some divine purpose and meaning to everything (in fact, I suspect there isn’t) but I have found that finding meaning that matters to me, learning lessons in my own life, has made me a happier person.

So what’s the meaning of a 40-year-old woman suddenly seriously taking up a sport? I have been completely unable to find it.

I spend more time in this gym with strangers than I do with my closest friends. Why? What's the meaning of it all?

I spend more time in this gym with strangers than I do with my closest friends. Why? What’s the meaning of it all?

Then the other day I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast with guest BJ Miller, a triple amputee who specializes in end of life care (hospice and palliative care). At one point, he said something interesting about meaning and finding meaning in your life. (I wrote this down on the bus as I was listening to it, so it’s not an exact quote.)

“Do something that makes you feel happy in your bones to be alive at that moment. On behalf of nothing else but that moment. We could all benefit from letting ourselves delight ourselves from things free of any meaning. It doesn’t have to be a means to an end.”

And I realized that’s it. That’s why I am dedicating more and more of my time to badminton. That’s why I walk away from a four hour training period, broken, exhausted, walking slightly with a limp yet absolutely soaring. It’s not a conscious thing. In fact, many times I’ll consciously be beating myself up for doing a bad job, or playing poorly yet I feel this happy little flutter of excitement in my stomach. Because in that moment I feel happy to be alive.

So I give up. I’m done with looking for meaning, and I’m done with feeling embarrassed about my obsession, and done with looking for justification. Why do I love badminton? Because I do. I feel happy in my bones. Period. End of story. End of meaning.

6 Comments

  1. Holofanboi

    I LOLED reading this! Im going through the exact same thing (im 30) and my wife, family and friends think ive gone nuts.

    From replaying the day’s match over and over before sleep, watching videos to analyze my own form and reading everything I can about badminton, im now spending a ton of money on shuttles and courts just to cater to my desire to smack another shuttle. That and cheering for my favvy player during BWF.

    Its strange, I used to be into the latest smartphones/computer and cars and now im wondering what the hell happened. Nearly every freetime I have is being spent on the sport of badminton. My weight is dropping at an unprecedented rate for the past 4 months and sometimes sad when friends say I look better now than I did before I got married LOL.

    On a more serious note, how the flying hell do you sustain FOUR hours of session!? My body is on the verge of breaking apart after just an hour!!!

    Reply
    1. Becky (Post author)

      Haha, that’s great to hear! I’ve actually had to force myself to stop watching badminton videos before bed because it gets me too excited and wakes me up. Badminton is the new caffeine I guess.

      And I don’t know how I do it. These days I always tell myself, “Okay, today you are going to go home early. Only 2 or 3 hours today.” and then before I know it is is past 10pm (when the bus stops running) so I figure I might as well keep playing till everyone finishes and my coach can drive me home. (Between 11 and midnight.) That’s why sometimes if I’m feeling a bit sick or a little off, I won’t go to badminton. I know if I go I will go 100%. I can’t half-ass it once I’m on the court.

      Reply
  2. Phichsuong

    I was googled, why am I so obsessed with badminton and this blog came up. After reading this, it makes me feel better because I thought I was the only one. The quote you wrote make me not have to question anymore. I felt the same way like you, I was daydreaming about badminton everyday and thinking everway to improve my skill. Although I started early than you, at age of 20, it still considered late. My obsession began a year after playing. After two year my skill improve dramatically due to my obsession that I would find everyway to train myself, imagined every moves I could think of, and watch the game everyday. I thought I was crazy doing all these because there no way I would be an athlete or play tournament. Although I don’t go competitions since badminton is not very popular in my area, but I keep playing at my school gym with other Chinese people. I kinda find your page late, but Thank you Becky, I will keep reading all your blogs.

    Reply
    1. Becky (Post author)

      Thanks a lot! Have you ever been to California to play? I know you said you were from Texas in the other post, and California is super far away, but maybe some holiday you can take a badminton trip out there and meet some other serious American players. It seems like if you aren’t on the east or west coast in the USA then you have a hard time finding badminton people, right?

      Reply
      1. Phichsuong

        I always wanted to play tournaments but none of the tournament is closer to our area. It either 2 or 3 hour drive, and it hard for me to adjust my schedule because I have school and work for my family. I definitely look forward to visit California. I guess it not about tournaments for me, I think that if I live in an area where there a lot of badmintonians, I will be able to expose myself to other players and be able to learn the different playing styles and skills. By the way, I forgot to mention that you look way younger than 40s. When I read your blog, I was like “really?”
        Thank for the tips.

        Reply
        1. Becky (Post author)

          Yeah it sucks if the tournament is several hours away, because I assume they start early in the morning and you would either need to leave before dawn or spend the night (and money) on a hotel room. And I know, I’ve always looked young. I guess it’s okay now, but when I was 30’s I looked like 18-19 and everyone thought I was in high school which really made me mad because I was a working professional! But everyone treated me like a kid…

          Reply

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