Hello my badminton sisters. We need to talk.
Cause I see you, I watch you, and I learn from you.
But there are some things you do that drive me FUCKING CRAZY and you need to stop. Because what you do affects me, it affects how men see us, and it affects how future generation of badminton players treat and respect us.
Stop apologizing all the damn time!
You are gonna miss the ball. You are gonna serve into the net. You are going to be too slow/too fast, you are going to not be able to return a smash. Everybody does. It’s part of the game. Just STOP BEING SO DAMN APOLOGETIC ABOUT IT!
Every single point is gained because someone messed up. Some of the time it is you. Maybe even the majority of the time it is you. But you are learning, and growing, and even the pro’s regularly miss so you can too. When your partner makes a mistake do you sit there and glare at them? Do you slam your foot down and demand an apology for the poor shot? No. You know they tried, you know they were unsuccessful and you move on.
Bash the bird into your opponents face? Say sorry. You hit the bird and it kinda clings to the net before falling over on your opponents side? Hold your hand up and say sorry (#sorrynotsorry). That’s just the etiquette of the game. But stop being so damn apologetic for living and breathing. You have every right to play the game and you have every right to make mistakes. Stop putting yourself, and women, in a weaker position in the sport by saying sorry all the time. And while you’re at it, stop saying it so much in daily life too.
Stop Listening to Every Man’s Advice
The other night I had to pull aside a woman in my groups and talk to her. “I saw that guy you played with gave you a little coaching in your last game,” I whispered. She nodded. “Don’t listen to anything he said. He is not an expert and he has never had a coach. In fact, don’t listen to most of the guys in our group. Just smile and nod and only pay attention to what our coach says.” Then we shared a conspiratorial smile and nodded at each other.
The guy that “taught” her is an okay player, but not an expert. The girl meanwhile, takes one-on-one coaching a few times a week and is working hard to improve. She is much more qualified to tell others how to fix their mistakes yet everyone tells her. This is beyond common. I play with guys well below my level who try to “coach” me in a game and inevitably give bad advice.
Before I was at such a low level I would listen to anyone and everyone and follow their tips. But once you get past the beginners stage, the mixed messages and commands can begin to get confusing and muddle up your growing technique. When I complained about this to my coach he told me to tell my partners to “shut up.” After all, I didn’t chose them to be my coach. I didn’t chose their technique to learn. I chose the best player, my coach, and a few others who are at very high levels to coach me. Not every guy I play with. (And special message to guys who are reading this–stop “coaching” your female partners unless they specifically asked you. They asking you, not you asking them and them kinda nodding in agreement. I know, I know, you have the best critique and if only she’d listen to you she’d do so much better. But let her decide who she listens to, kay?)
But of course guys don’t like you to have your own thoughts in a game which leads me to my next point….
Don’t Massage a Guys Ego
If you are better than your male partner, play the back. If your partner cannot serve in the middle and get back in time to return the return-of-serve, don’t even ask. Just walk to the back of the court when he serves. If your partner gives you bad advice, just tell him “no” or “don’t worry I got this,” or something else. If your male partner kinda jumps in front of a shot that should be yours, make sure to tell them that it was yours and you were ready.
I have seen many games where the male partner is being the bully on the court (both playing-wise and/or verbally) and the woman kinda swallows it. Men are quick to criticize their female partners yet women are hesitant to do the same. But why? If you don’t feel comfortable pointing out their problems, that’s fine. But it doesn’t mean you need to be pushed into playing with poor technique or position because your male partner isn’t as good as he thinks he is.
Badminton is a sport and if you are better than them, then you are better than them. Let them nurse their own wounded pride. It’s not our job to play worse to make themselves feel better. I see women stifling their talents, stifling their technique and opportunity just because a guy insists, or because they don’t want to hurt a guys feelings. Stop doing this.
Also, when a game is over don’t gush about how much more work they did than you. In mixed doubles the guy is inevitably going to do more than the girl. Even with the pro’s where the women are more equal and strong partners, the guys will run around and hit the birdie more. That’s just the way mixed doubles is played. Of course compliment and encourage your partner on a job well done, (it is a tough job for them) just don’t act like you were wasted space and did nothing. The women’s role guarding the front, and covering defense, is equally important and a guy can’t win without it. Don’t forget that.
Join a Competition Even if You Think You Aren’t Good Enough
I play with women who are decent, yet when a competition comes around they demure and say they aren’t good enough. Not good enough to win? Maybe. Not good enough to enter? No way! There is more to entering competitions then just winning. There is learning to play under pressure, meeting new people and getting involved in the badminton community. You might not want to enter a big city tournament or something until you have more experience, but don’t let a community game, or a inter-group competition pass you by without trying. Even if you lose the game, you gain other things with makes participation so valuable.
Don’t Cower at the Front
Admittedly there are times where the woman just has to crouch down and get out of the way. I have been in many games when the birdie is whizzing by and it’s all you can do to stay low and not get a black eye. But I have also seen the birdie whizzing by, then suddenly slow down and in easy reach of me and I miss it because I’m still cowering with one hand over my head. It took my coach a few months to “train away the fear” but now I can stand more confidently at the front and not be afraid. (He literally sent fast hits to my face while I held up the racket in front of me to show that it would protect my face. Also, if a fast smash was coming towards me I would twist my body so it would hit my shoulder. “If you have time to twist your body, you have time to raise your racket,” my coach wisely told me.)
Obviously get away from the front if there is a net smash opportunity, but don’t squat down and cover your head with your hands when the birdie starts going quickly. I see that a LOT and at some point the opponent will just tap it lightly over the net and the girl, still crouched down huddled, hasn’t even a chance even if it is directly in front of her.
I think some girls think it is “cute” to do this. It isn’t. Defend the net, don’t cower.
I don’t mean to be harsh, and I don’t mean to come off like a man hater. But like in every sport (and society-at-large) there are different expectations from women as there are for men, and many of them aren’t fair. Women need to stop being cutesy, stop being sorry and stop demurring to the men not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of all women in badminton. ‘Cause you’re awesome! And badminton is awesome. So go out there and make it more awesome!