Xiao Bing! Too Slow!
Xiao Bing! Wrist higher!
Xiao Bing! Body Lower!
Xiao Bing! Too fast!
Xiao Bing! Smash it!
Xiao Bing! Hit it to the empty areas!
Xiao Bing! Don’t smash it, hit it lightly over the net!
(Xiao Bing is my chinese name and the only name my teammates know.)
Before I was just your typical schizophrenic with my coaches voice in my head. But my coach can’t play with me every second of everyday (in fact, he rarely does outside of training) and some of my other teammates have taken up the role of not only playing with me for hours every night, but teaching me as we play.
In fact, there is one guy, Xiao Jiang, who has become my defacto partner and part-time coach. I’m not even sure he liked playing with me originally, but when he comes we always end up hitting together. And when I play doubles he somehow always ends up my partner. We play well together, and tend to win, but it must be a frustrating kind of success for him.
I’m not a quick learner. My coach has long since figured out that I learn slowly and forget quickly. You have to tell me something again and again to an almost laughable degree until I maybe start remembering. Constant repetition is the name of the game for me to progress.
Xiao Jiang has slowly figured that out. “Don’t hit the birdie directly to your opponent. Hit it to one of the areas where no one is standing,” he told me a few weeks ago after we just lost a point due to me.
I know that. It’s basic strategy. But I focus more on practicing footwork and hitting the bird as quick as possible. Where is goes is less of a concern to me and it shows in my game play. But Xiao Jiang is right and I need to focus on this part of my game tactics as well. So what did I do? The next shot I hit it directly to my opponent, making it easy for them to return it. And the next, and the next.
“Hit it to the empty place!” Xiao Jiang said again and again. (“Kong de difang” he says in Chinese.) And of course I didn’t. In doubles I play the front of the net, which requires lightning fast reflexes because if a birdie comes to the front of the net, it comes fast. So I’m just happy to actually hit the damn thing but he gives me no credit.
Finally, annoyed by his constant reminders, I kinda opened up my peripheral vision, noticed where everyone was and managed to hit a few shots into the empty areas.
“The open places,” I said to him after I did it.
“Dui, dui, dui,” he said happily. Right, right, right.
Then I was right back at it, hitting the birdie directly at my opponent. And Xiao Jiang was right back at it too, “hit it to the empty places!”
I always have my coaches voice in my head when I play. It’s kinda a joke. When I do something stupid, I criticize myself out loud in my coaches voice and everyone laughs. (Sadly, everyone in the courts are familiar with my coaches voice criticizing me so they recognize the mimicry.) And now I’ve been playing with Xiao Jiang enough that his voice has joined in with my coaches. Even when I’m playing with him, I actually pre-empt his criticism by saying what I did that was wrong. (Which is probably more annoying as I show that I know what the right thing to do is while actually doing the wrong thing.)
Then, the other night I played doubles with my coach as my partner. It was the end of the night and we were the only game playing so everyone gathered around us to watch us, making me super nervous. Xiao Jiang was there and as he was watching he was coaching me from the sidelines. (“Hit to the open places!”) . Then of course, I was playing with my coach who was also coaching me. (“Xiao Bing! Too Slow!) Not only did I have their voices in my head, but I had their literal voices yelling at me. It was the ultimate in a schizophrenic moment.
But it seems to be working. Slowly but surely I’m getting better. Xiao Jiang and I are winning more and more games and I’m getting a few more “dui’s” from him then criticisms which is a good thing.
My coach watched me one time and after he said “playing with him everyday has helped you improve a lot.”
My coach has taken the more “strict” tactic with me recently pushing me to improve, so I don’t get a lot of compliments like that from him these days. And the way he said it, was considered and thoughtful. Like something he had really noticed over a period of a few days. Needless to say it felt good.
So I might be losing a bit of my sanity, but I’m gaining skill on the badminton court and that’s all that matters.