I was playing the other night and this guy, who I never met, walks in and sees me.
“Long Xiao Bing!” he calls out in a booming voice. I was in the middle of hitting with a guy but I look over at him with a “huh?” kinda expression. Was I supposed to know this guy?
“You’re Long Xiao Bing, right?” he asked me. (My Chinese name.) I nodded and he said he saw me at one of the local competitions. I have a bit of notoriety as the only western foreigner in the badminton circuit so fine. His greeting was weird, but whatever. He put his stuff down and came back and asked me if the guy I was hitting against was my coach.
“No. My coach is the boss of the courts,” I said pointing him out. The guy didn’t really hear me so he asked my hitting partner again if he was my coach. He also said no and pointed out my coach. The guy said something and went back to his court and a few minutes later was back, again, asking who my coach was. I again pointed out my coach and he had a hearty laugh and said something like “Him?! He’s my tudi!” (apprentice) implying that he was better than my coach.
“Lin Ze Xiong is your tudi?” I said with one eyebrow raised. It was obviously a joke, this guy hadn’t even greeted my coach so he was not his “master” at anytime but I felt a bit of prideful anger at him. How dare this guy, this nobody, even joke that he is better than my coach.
But whatever. I didn’t give the guy much more thought and he went to play with his friends and I played with mine. Then a couple of hours later he comes over to my side and asks me to play a game together with his friends. I agree and we play as partners, against two guys I also never met before.
He’s no gaoshou (expert) but he knows what to do and where to go so we win our first game pretty quickly. On our second game we need a new shuttle and one of our opponents runs off to get it. This guy turns to me and says, “Your front of the net is better than me.”
I just kinda nod and smile. In China you shouldn’t really accept a compliment (you should stay “humble” and refuse or dispute it) but he was right so so I just smiled. He stopped me.
“No, your front of the net is better than me,” he said again, slower. I thought maybe he thought I didn’t understand him the first time, so this time I said thanks, and something like “I train a lot,” so he would know I understood his Chinese.
He reached out and touched my arm in a gesture that meant he wanted all of my attention, in a “no, listen,” kinda way. His expression was almost quizzical, like there was some deep mystery of life he was trying to understand. “Your front of the net is better than mine,” he said again slowly.
“Of course it is!” I burst out. He was a slightly above average male player. I’m a more-than-slightly-above female player that plays mixed doubles. I need to be a net specialist. What was this guys deal?! Why was it so hard to believe that I could be better than him?!
I don’t know if this guy only plays with low-level women or if it was more a foreigner thing. (Some people can’t believe that a foreigner could ever play badminton at a level of a Chinese person.) But it felt so condescending. Like he couldn’t believe it and by telling me he I was better than him he was bestowing a huge compliment on me. I appreciate being complimented but really dude, I’m not so amazing it is beyond human comprehension. And it’s not that surprising that I could be better than you so get over it. Le sigh…
Meanwhile, my coach couldn’t get over my training session with the other coach Han. Like I wrote last week, they disagreed in a technique and my coach couldn’t let it drop until he had the last word. I didn’t see him for a few days after the training (he wasn’t at the courts for some reason) so when he saw me 2 days later he came up to me immediately.
“You know, you shouldn’t listen to other people when they coach you.”
“I know,” I said thinking of all the guys who try to tell me what to do when we play together. “There was a guy I played with last night that wouldn’t shut up,” I said. “he kept yelling out what I should do but it was so distracting I kept losing focus.”
“I also mean Han,” he said mentioning my other coach. “He can play, but he was wrong to tell you that technique.”
I laughed realizing my coach hadn’t been able to let that go for three days. “Listen to what I tell you,” he said. “I’m your coach. I have experience,” he said.
“Okay, okay” I said bowing down to him. Then I told him about the night before when I had won almost every game against a women, a university player, that used to be much better than me. Our male partners were equal levels and previously she was much better than me. But that night all our games were 22-24 or 21-23, very close. And my team won! So I was bragging about it.
“I think our levels are about the same!” I said excited. My coach nodded in agreement.
“She doesn’t have a shifu (master), so she doesn’t improve like you do.” I laughed again.
“I know, I know, you’re the best.”
He got up and told me to follow him. On another court was a professional coach, one we call shuai jiao lian, handsome coach. He’s a young guy, good looking obviously, and a professional coach. Like, he studied anatomy and coaching techniques in class, not just from playing a lot. And I think he is a semi-pro player (I think he was on the Xiamen pro team, but I’m not totally sure.) Anyway, he’s all around awesome and uses my coaches courts when the government one is closed. He was teaching a student and my coach marched us up to him and told him what Han had taught me.
Like my coach, the handsome coach disagreed with Han’s technique and spent a few minutes saying why teaching both me and his student. My coach was pleased as punch and kept kinda elbowing me saying, “See? see?” when the handsome coach said the same thing my coach had said. “Professional opinion,” my coach said nodding knowingly.
I love how petty my coach is.
Although I feel bad for Han because he is a top player in our area and of course handsome coach knows him and sometimes plays with him. I hope no one gives him shit, because like I said before I like him teaching me. Perhaps this one technique wasn’t right, but he’s a good coach and thanks to his training some things, like my return of smash, have improved.
In other training news I had the giggliest training session I ever had. I don’t know why, but as we were training backhand clears and drops I just found everything funny, especially when my coach was yelling at me and I couldn’t stop smiling.
But like usual, the more I focus and practice something, the worse I get. I started off okay-ish and went downhill quick. By the end of our session my coach was fed up with telling me the same things, and me messing it up, so he changed training to net kills. Net kills are my most favorite thing to train and I’m really good at it, but I wanted to continue to try to backhand clears and drops.
“Give me a backhand opportunity!” I begged. He said no but then he’d randomly hit a shuttle to the back of the court and when I missed it, or hit it incorrectly he was stern again.
“I gave you an opportunity, you don’t get another one.”
Cause I was in a giggly mood I just found this funny and kept asking for shots to the rear court as he kept feeding me net kills. It was like a candy addict begging her parent for a piece of broccoli and the parent refusing and giving more candy.
My coach is a real cheeky bastard.