Badminton is not a team sport, but neither is it an individual sport. You need someone to play against, or a partner if you play doubles. And since not everyone has the same schedule as you, you need to find a group, or a club, to play with.
My original group was just my friend who played very casually. I fit in perfectly well (it was a group with foreigners and everyone spoke English), but they play just for fun and their level isn’t very high. So when I started getting serious I wanted to join another group…but I had no idea how to do it.
I didn’t know anyone.
I had my coach, sure, but in the beginning he didn’t have his own courts so we would go to the school gym to play. Other teachers would be there playing too, but they were never friendly and never included me (Still don’t, a bit of a sore spot for me) so I couldn’t join them.
In China, badminton groups tend to be very clique. I don’t even get why. It’s boring to play against the same 4-10 people even if you are all the same level, but people seem to do it all the time. Luckily my coach opened his gym, and I was included, but it still took me a long time to be “one of the gang.”
Partially it was because of my level (when my coach opened his gym last June I was still pretty bad) but mostly because I am a foreigner. I quickly realized that if I sat to the side, waiting to be asked to play, no one would. They were all just kinda freaked out by me, didn’t know if I could understand them and playing with fellow Chinese people was just easier.
One time, my German friend came to play. He arrived first, and I texted a Chinese friend who was at the gym to go talk to my German friend and warm-up together before I got there. “The German can speak Chinese,” I told my Chinese friend.
But when I arrived there were only two people in the entire court. My German friend sitting on a bench and my Chinese friend sitting on the waaaaaay opposite side.
“Why didn’t you go talk to my friend?” I said angrily to my Chinese friend.
“I was too scared,” he answered honestly.
So I learned to kinda push my way into games and proactively ask people. At this point I have a pretty large group of people I regularly play with and it’s not much of a problem.
But even within my coaches group there are little cliques and they are hard to break into. Like the student clique. There are several students who are on badminton teams at their colleges and come to train extra with my coach. I rarely play with them because they are so clique. They are nice to me, and like chatting with me, but when it’s time to play, they just play with each other. Super annoying.
And since I’ve never played badminton before I don’t know how much of it is me being a foreigner and how much of it is a culture things. Are other groups in other countries like this as well? Is it tough for a Chinese player to fit into a new group too?