My motley team of strangers finally got together and played our competition together. We lost–bigtime–but I was totally expecting it and I actually had a lot of fun, so it was kinda a win.
I was put together with a team of strangers and then I was chosen to be captain. Even from the beginning I knew we wouldn’t win. I know the best players in my district, as does my coach, and neither of us recognized any name in my team. And when we played together, just once, my suspicions were confirmed.
“You can beat them in singles,” whispered Azhi, my mixed doubles partner. My singles game is terrible but I knew he was right. They were just beginners, and social players without the discipline and footwork of someone who trained regularly.
But a captain can’t give up hope, right? So on game day I went with a cheery disposition. As Azhi and I were walking to the court, a car comes up next to us honking the horn and people cheering inside. It was apparently my team (I had only met two of them previously, so I met the other three on the day of the competition).
Go Black Dragons!
As captain I signed us in and picked up our free swag. I got a badminton backpack, and all team members got a free sweat towel. We went to warm-up together and Azhi and I hit against two of the guys. The guys were really impressed with us which confirmed my suspicions even further. Not to downplay Azhi and I, but you should be mildly impressed by us, not very.
I also saw the players we were playing against. We had two other teams in our group and one team was made up of my friends I play with often. In fact, the mixed doubles team I would need to play against was with Mrs. Bai, my partner in the university competition last year.
The games went just about how I thought, with our opponents killing us. I knew we would lose men’s doubles (and we lost spectacularly with my team not even getting 10 points to the opponents 30 n almost all the games) but I expected Azhi and I to have a chance at mixed doubles. We lost both games, but I was quite pleased after. Because we didn’t lose because of me. Not to throw Azhi under the bus, but he knew he played poorly. He’s been on a bit of a losing streak recently and was out of his groove.
And I’m not saying anything he doesn’t already know because Chinese people can be quite blunt when speaking. “You played really good,” said Mrs. Bai. “You improved a lot. He didn’t improve though,” she said pointing to Azhi. Also, the male mixed doubles player comforted Azhi after in a “don’t worry, you’ll get them next time,” kinda way. Have you noticed people tend to comfort the person that played worse? In mixed doubles it’s usually me being comforted, but not this time.
But the cutest thing was The Black Dragons. As we played each game the other teammates watched and encouraged. Once when Azhi and I hit a good shot I heard a big cheer behind us and I turned and saw all my teammates watching and clapping, with big smiles and bright shiny eyes. I couldn’t help but laugh at how cute they were. I listened to them and every point we got they cheered and every point we lost they yelled encouraging things.
The other woman on the team was the substitute and even though she didn’t play, she came ready and brought everyone snacks and took a lot of pictures and was just cheery and encouraging. I will admit as captain I screwed her a bit. We played two games of mixed doubles against two teams, and I realized at the last minute I could have put her in the second game. A more generous captain would have done that but I was too selfish and the second game was against Mrs. Bai so I really wanted to play. Also, I asked Azhi and he said he didn’t know this woman and wouldn’t be very confident playing with her so I played both mixed doubles games. Yeah, I’m a bit of a jerk.
But we were such a good team! Many people on other teams left as soon as their portion was over, but we all stayed and watched everyone’s games. We took a group photo after the game was over and then we all went outside to play a little game the tournament had set up. (You try to hit 10 birdies into a hole a few feet away. The more you get in the higher a prize you can get. I ended up getting half in and got the top prize, a bag of dried mushrooms.)
I was disappointed that I lost my games but I actually played well so I wasn’t that bummed. It’s funny because when I got second place in the tournament last year with Mrs. Bai I was really not happy. Also in the game with Azhi when we won third I was annoyed too. Because we should have won. And I know it was me, my nerves and my poor playing that made us lose.
Meanwhile this time we didn’t even place top 8 and I felt really happy. Because I played well, better than I expected. I played almost normal to how I play during a club night which means I’m finally getting used to the pressure of competitions. Funny how our expectations can influence our mood so much. Win and feel sad, lose and feel happy….
Afterwards I got a lot of compliments from friends including Xiao Jiang, a guy that helped me out a year ago. He was the line judge for my second game and while he was very careful to remain neutral during the game, afterwards he was all compliments.
“You did so good!” he said smiling. “Too bad about your partner.” Ouch, haha. And my teammates were just so cheery and nice I couldn’t feel sad even if I wanted to.
But not everyone was happy. Afterwards on the group chat one of the guys apologized for playing poorly and letting the team down. As captain I couldn’t accept that.
“You don’t need to be sorry!” I wrote back. “We ALL lost so no one person has to feel embarrassed.” They sent back laughing emojis as a response.
This was my first experience as team captain, and honestly I kinda liked it. I really had no idea what I was supposed to do, but it worked out. I do need to thank Azhi for helping me. I was in a special chat group for the team captains and while I kept abreast of everything, I ran it by him to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I had to fill out some things and make the roster both before and during the competition and I didn’t know how to write my teammates names. So he helped me with that too.
Also, while Azhi and I only speak Chinese he was able to “translate” for me (from Chinese to Chinese.) When I talk with new people I tend to be more nervous and as captain I wanted to make sure I understood everything. So someone would say something to me and I’d agree and then I’d look to him to tell it to me again in vocabulary he knows I know. I also relied on him to tell me which courts we were playing and who our opponents were as he could understand the announcements over the loudspeaker better than I.
I suspect that in my district for these community competitions when a team is set it stays the same, so I think we will play together again, but I’m not sure. Even if we have no chance of winning now or the future, I’ll be happy to play with this group of cheerful. friendly players. Go Black Dragons!