I carefully lugged my precious racket, shoes, knee support and sweat towel 7,861 miles (12,650 km) from China to America for a mere 5 days of play. Even though I barely played it was worth it.
In fact the only day I actually played games was my first night back in America. Jet lagging and without car or cash, my dad brought me to a YMCA where my suspicions about badminton in America were confirmed. About 25 people showed up, all asians (Chinese and Indian.) One white guy came for a few games before taking off but the lady at the desk told my dad he was married to an Asian and possibly had lived in Asia previously.
It was fun, they played well and bonus points, the Chinese dad coaching his ABC son said my Chinese was better than his kids! *Fist pump*
But the main event for lugging my racket all those miles was training at Boston Badminton with Eva Lee (Olympic player).
I participated in the four-day training camp during weekday afternoons. Who do you think my training partners were? “Weekday” and “afternoons” are the key words.
Kids. Little kids were my training partners. ‘Cause everyone else was working.
It actually turned out okay as we almost never played together just did constant, serious training drills. I trained with the older kids and we would spent the hours rotating around the court doing specific drills such as drops, clears, etc. Each position had a specific shot pattern such as drop-lift-drop-lift-drop-net-net-net then repeat.
And these kids could hit it well, sending clears all the way back and keeping track of the hitting pattern much better than me. (I would regularly forget the shot order and inevitably hit a clear when I was supposed to hit a lift or whatever it was.)
We all got 1-on-1 time with Coach Lee as our rotation would include time with her for 15-20 birdies of some other tricky shot combination. (Luckily she would call it out as she fed us the birdies so I didn’t need to remember it.)
The whole thing was very regimented and formal which I actually liked. Class with my coach is much more relaxed. He knows what he wants me to learn, but we go with the flow, and my energy level and ability. He could just want to do a quick review of something I mastered before but I could get stuck and we’ll spend all class on it. Or, we’ll flit through several moves as he sometimes gets bored just watching me do the same thing over and over again.
But coach Lee was much more disciplined with her approach and everything was precisely figured out. Drills went on for a specific time period and rotations were done with a specific amount of birdies ensuring everyone got the exact same time. We used all the proper terminology, so I finally learned all the English words and I liked the precision of it all.
And the kids were good, and youthful, and spry and everything a 41-year-old woman is not. The last 30 minutes of each day was spent on torturous body exercises. One day we did jump rope intervals, another day we several cycles of a killer core workout, and my last day we did “suicides.” (We ran back and forth between several courts, stopping and touching various lines under 45 seconds.)
I would be sucking my breath, muscles shaking, sweating my ass off and these kids would be running around hitting each others butts and giggling. I hobbled out day after day while they would finish class, grab a birdie and run around playing capture the flag. They never tired.
“Are you sore?” I asked one of the older girls my last day and she kinda shrugged while I didn’t dare sit down at breaks for fear I couldn’t stand up again. Ah youth….
We only actually played games two times. Once was a “one point singles” game and the other was a five point doubles game to ensure constant rotation and a change to play with everyone. In the singles game I got the biggest handicap but I lost miserably. I can’t really play against kids. It seems unfair, ya know? Even though these kids are awesome and deserve hard competition, I just couldn’t bring myself to play seriously. In the doubles we won but only because my partner, one of the assistant coaches, kept telling me to play seriously.
“There is no honor in beating children,” I said to him. But he said I shouldn’t worry about it and I was a little curious to see if I could actually beat them. Each time I played seriously we won easily which made me feel pretty awful. (I swear one of the kids was on the verge of tears not only because they lost 5-0 but also because his sister was his partner and she was bullying him.)
But actually I was quite envious of the kids and not just for their copious amounts of energy and youthful muscles. During the class their shots were great, their form was great and their footwork was great. And with more time and height as they grow, they will get the game play part down. Several of them have played in tournaments already and I have a feeling they will be future champions. I couldn’t help but wonder how good I could have been if I had found badminton at that age…
I left Boston Badminton with more than just sore muscles…I had big muscles! I swear in those four days I started getting a six-pack and tightened up like never before. I really saw the benefits of our long warm-ups and body training exercises everyday. But I’m a bit lazy by nature and know I won’t do it myself unless pushed. So I texted my coach and told him we needed to add that part to my training.
I didn’t actually get to see Eva play as she had shoulder surgery recently and was still recovering. She is playing in the World Championships this month and her partner was coming to train with her the week after I left. Too bad, I would have liked to watch them train to see how the pro’s do it.
After that I didn’t touch my racket again in America, But I wasn’t exactly lazy.
“Don’t get fat,” my coach texted me, and being the good little tudi (apprentice) I am, I listened. In my parents town they have a brand new 38 million dollar YMCA which conveniently has a one week free trial. This place was swank with a huge pool, amazing workout room and dozens of classes with every health trend ever. I did a different class everyday, changing from cardio to strength training to yoga and somehow managed not to gain weight while back in the fattest country in the world. Yay me.
I’m going to write about American badminton in another post, but overall I was really heartened by what I saw. Of course normal people would reply “I wasn’t too bad at badminton” which actually meant they played outside when they were little, but there were more players than I expected to find, especially in the east coast and better than I thought too.
But I missed my Chinese badminton friends and coach and my racket, sweat towel and knee support and I made the arduous journey back (my shoes were left behind as a casualty.) On my first night back a lot of people came out to play and my coach had a little “welcome back tournament” for me. I now have another month of summer holiday in which I expect to play badminton as much as possible.
It’s good to be home.