I’ve written a lot of blog posts but haven’t written about my training much recently so I thought I should rectify that.
The other night I won 2 straight matches against opponents I had no business winning against. (Higher level guys). My partner was amazing but even so we should have lost because I was clearly outclassed.
Then I went to my old group and won almost every single game, many by a huge margin. (When Azhi–my doubles partner–and I played together our friends complained, “You guys are too strong. It’s not fair if you play together.” We’ve been playing together for months and no one has ever complained before.)
I also played a few games with some girls that weren’t serious and while I tried to play easy and fair I felt like every time I hit it I was bullying them because they couldn’t return even the simplest of shots.
So by all measures, I have been improving.
Of course all the credit goes to my coach. In addition to our training he has been playing with me a lot recently, giving me on-court coaching. In class he trains me on footwork and repetitive drills so my motor reflexes work faster. On court he yells out where I should move or hit the shuttle so I can improve my thinking.
So I finally feel like I’m in a higher league and people are recognizing that. There is this guy in my group, a big bearish bully of a guy. We totally rub each other the wrong way. He’s a male chauvinist and openly rolls his eyes when I walk into the court to play against him.
But even he has begun to begrudgingly asks me to play on slow nights when there are few people, because he doesn’t want to waste his time on intermediate players (he’s a total snob and sneers at everyone below him, not just me) and I realized he considers me more of an equal than many of the other people.
All of this is amazing to me, especially because I recently looked back at my blog and saw that the first game I won at training was almost exactly one year ago today.
But now my problems aren’t so quick and easy to fix. I can’t just practice a technique in class and begin to use it the next day. It’s because my techniques are harder and mastering them takes more time.
And footwork, fucking footwork, the never ending uphill battle. My coach focuses our training on footwork for the first half. He still makes me do “bian bian,” our nickname which I translate into side-to-side. It’s my least favorite footwork exercise which he makes me do alllll the time. (In chinese the word for shit, 大便 da bian, has a similar pronunciation as the word for side, 边bian, so I often call this exercise shit.) I know it’s good for me, and I’m happy when I’m playing and quicker at the net, I just hate actually doing it, especially as my coach is super strict and makes me do this with the utmost precision.
This is my coach demonstrating “bian-bian.”
(Notice how he gets across the court in only two steps? And how he touches the line precisely in the middle part? Yeah, those two things are hard for me to do. He also had a major cold when he filmed this and is doing it slower than he likes.)
But there is one problem that is hard to overcome.
Playing with girls.
There are just NO girls that regularly play in my coaches group. This is good because guys play faster and stronger (lots more smashes) so I get used to the speed. But it’s bad because I’m unconsciously picking up male style. And while I am a stronger girl, who prefers to play smashes over drops, I still need to learn proper mixed doubles and women’s doubles technique and regularly watching men’s doubles doesn’t help me. (And I also never get to play women’s doubles despite my next two competitions being women’s doubles.)
The only thing I can think to do is play back of the court when my partner is a guy. Like, I pretend I am a guy and we are all playing men’s doubles. This gives our opponents an advantage as my back of the court play is pretty miserable. (I train mixed doubles which emphasizes the front and middle.) But it’s good practice for me, and can make an easy game much more challenging.
So even though I have been focusing on some other aspects of badminton lately, I am still training, training, training my little heart out. I have two competitions next month and I’m determined not to embarrass myself. We’ll see how that goes.