Men of Badminton! Stop Doing This…

A few months ago I wrote a blog post called Women of Badminton! Stop Doing This... But now I’m turning my eye towards you fellas.

Why did it take me so long? Well, honestly? Guys are a little more sensitive than women. Women get more criticism and are just more used to it. Also, I think women are more willing to listen to another women. Men? Not so much (on both accounts).

Guys also don’t trust me or where I’m coming from. As if my gender and feelings aren’t enough, but I have to prove myself either as an excellent badminton player, or a stable woman not prone to hysteria, or whatever. If guys can get behind my personality then they assume that I am understanding it wrong. Maybe it’s a culture thing, or “sorry all the guys you are friends with are such jerks,” kinda anything to avoid the responsibility themselves.

But guys, what you need to do, and what women are begging you to do across all fields and cultures right now, is just listen. Don’t write off what I say as “she’s in a different culture” or “she’s a different type of woman than the women I play with.” Just listen to my words and accept them. If you feel defensive think about why. Because it is in your power to make badminton more fun not only for women (perhaps you aren’t interested in that) but for the game itself.

Any guy still with me? Okay, let’s get to it!

Stop Criticizing Teaching Women

This is the #1 complaint I hear from women and the #1 problem I have. When guys play with guys, they tend to be more supportive. If a guy misses a shot, his partner usually says something like “no problem.” When a guy partners with a girl and she misses a shot the guy usually says something like “keep your racket higher,” or “move faster,” or whatever. When a guy makes a mistake, it’s just a mistake and he knows what he did wrong and it’s all part of the game. When a woman makes a mistake the male partner almost always thinks it was because she didn’t know what to do, and it is his “responsibility” to tell her how to play better.

Even if you tell her in a friendly tone, no one likes to be criticized constantly by their partner. In fact expert players know that criticizing your partner mid-game only leads to ruin. When people (of any gender) focus too much on one aspect, the rest of their game becomes stiff and unnatural. Also, it’s going to create bad feelings because more often than not the woman already knows what she did wrong. You telling her is insulting her intelligence. We are not stupid! You make mistakes and miss the shuttle and most of the time you know why, right? You don’t need someone pointing the obvious out to you after every shuttle you miss. Yet guys feel like it is their duty to tell their female partner what was wrong.

Look women are weaker and slower than a man. Some guys think women don’t realize this fully, but trust me, TRUST ME, we do. I’ve heard it said a women needs to be three levels higher than a man to play an equal game with him and don’t you think this rankles us?! How would you feel if some eighteen-year-old kid flailing around the badminton court with no footwork or strategy manages a win because he is younger (aka faster and stronger) than you. This kid, with no training and little experience starts thinking he’s better than you just because of his youth. And then when that kid tells you what you did wrong?! You who have trained and have years of experience over him?! Yeah, you get pissed.

It makes you feel like shit, like all of your experience and hard work meant nothing. And it makes you seethe with anger. And unlike the pay-gap there is nothing women can do to change this because it is biology. We know this. And we also have to sit and listen to men talk about how they could play with professional women because “I’m a man, so I could take on Ratchanock Intanon (top female singles player from Thailand) and win.”

Not only is that sexist garbage (in my experience it is only really sexist guys that say things like this) but it completely misses the point. Women play badminton different than men. We have our own strengths and our own skills. Men’s doubles is a very different game than mixed doubles precisely because of that. Our bodies are different, our muscles are different. We hit the shuttle different. To compare women to men is a folly. You need to see, and recognize, that women play differently, not better, not worse, just different.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Women aren’t “weak men” in badminton. Women play differently, appreciate that difference.

That was a bit of a divergent, but guys, don’t criticize your female partners during game play. If there is a female player you want to help improve, by all means take her after the game and feed her some birdies and help her practice a skill she needs to improve. But yelling teaching at her in the middle of a game, even if you use a kind and friendly voice, doesn’t help. So unless she specifically asks you to help her, stop doing it. (Also, wait for her to ask. Don’t say “can I give you tips?” because most women are too polite to refuse you even if they don’t want you to. So don’t ask. Assume she is fine unless she reaches out to you for help.)

Stop Assuming Women Want to Play With Women

My club is mostly guys. When I see another woman coming in for the night I am happy. I know real mixed doubles is in my nights plan. When I see three other women I groan. It’s because I know that I will be playing women’s doubles all night long on the furthest away court.

Most men prefer to play men’s doubles. I get it and that’s fine. If there are only one or two girls, the guys are fine with playing mixed doubles. Not their preference, but they’ll do it because mixed doubles is still fun (in many ways I think it is more challenging for the guy that men’s doubles) and they want the women to improve. But if there are four women guys are almost gleeful because they can push us off on each other.

Now, I enjoy playing women’s doubles (mostly because I’m stronger than most women and can win a lot) but it is not my discipline. I play and train mixed doubles. So while I’m happy to play several game with other women I don’t want to spend the whole night completely cut off from the guys. But guys think women are happy to play with other women, and yes, while we are, we’d like to play with the guys too.

Stop Asking Women to Take Break

This also tops my list of “least favorite things.” When I’m on the court warming up, or hitting back and forth with someone, or just finished a game and standing on the court waiting for other people to come out and someone says, “How about you take a break?” Grrrr.

I have never seen a group of guys ask the weakest male player to take a break, yet asking the woman to take a break is pretty common. Once a woman is out of the game, it’s harder for her to get back into it, so I loath giving up my precious court-time. When this happens to me I usually shake my head and flat out refuse or I’ll go off the court making a big, loud stink with curses and fake crying just to make it as annoying as possible to dismiss me. But I play badminton because I love it. I don’t play it for the social aspects so I am not as interested in being polite or having people like me.

I see other women asked off the court and they try to look cool and unaffected, but I can see their cheeks blush red. It’s basically being picked last for a team sport. No, it’s worse. It’s like being kicked off the team in front of the whole school. It feels humiliating to be asked off the court simply because you are a woman and therefore “the weakest.”

If a game ends and most people move off the court to drink some water and wipe down and one woman is still kinda hanging out on the court, then let her play. Even if you have a foursome waiting, even if you feel like she will slow down the game, just let her play. I find that most women take more breaks anyway, so play out a game or two and then she’ll take a break and you can play men’s doubles.

Actively Include Women

Like I said, once a woman goes off the court it is harder for her to get back in because of this. Guys are less eager to play with women so women end up benched a lot more in one night that the guys. When this happens to me, I sit on the side of the court, watch with puppy dog eyes and either directly insert myself into the next game, or make eye contact with a guy who might be searching for a partner so he kinda has to call me to play out of social nicety.  But it’s pretty pathetic to make yourself vulnerable in this way and most women have too much pride (I don’t, haha). So what do they do? Go to the bench and play on their phone hoping someone calls them to play so they don’t have to feel unpopular or unloved.

But what inevitably happens? Guys look over for someone to play with, everyone’s eyes are glued to the phone so the guy will call another guys name to get his attention and call him out to play. Very rarely will a woman’s name be called in this situation (only if the other team is a mixed doubles team).

I think guys assume women are “resting” and need a break, so they write off asking her to play. But that is usually not the case, and if it is, she will refuse playing with a “I’m too tired” or whatever. So it is nice of you to ask and will make the women appreciate you

Don’t Play Easy Just Because a Woman is on the Court

Some guys treat playing with women like playing with children. High easy lobs or gentle hits over the net. Some guys won’t smash on women because they think “women are too weak and can’t return it so it is unfair” or “My smash is too strong so I don’t want to hurt a woman.”

And I know guys genuinely think they are doing the right thing by not playing to their full strength. Like, giving the woman a chance and a more fun game to play. And maybe in some recreational league this is fine. But if you are in a competitive/serious club, then you are insulting these women. You and your own opinion are determining her level and preventing her from improving. You are deciding what level she should be at and ensuring she stays there. Because no one ever improves playing at their own level. You need to be pushed, you need to fail, you need to face tougher opponents and only then can you improve. And if a woman only plays 2-3 times a week, then she can’t waste a game with an opponent that won’t take her serious.

This took a long time for me to “train” my male teammates into playing serious with me. I’ve had to yell at them, talk gently to them, have my coach talk to them etc. If a smash hit me I would go overboard proving I was fine (“I like it,” I’d usually growl in a tough guy voice) so the guy wouldn’t be worried to smash me again. It was so frustrating because me and my coach would train smash returns and then in games I would never get the chance to practice because no one would smash with their full strength on me. But in a competition the woman will always be smashed on, so returning a smash is an incredibly important skill for a woman to learn and practice.

So do your whole club a favor, and start playing serious with a fast speed and your best strategy.

Stop Telling the Woman to Stay at the Front

This is for intermediate to expert level mixed doubles, but stop telling the women to stay in the front. Most women cling to the front, too nervous, or unsure, where else to go. Some women prefer only playing the front, leaving the back to the guy.

But, again, that’s lower level playing and fine for a recreational game. If you are playing a higher level, then it’s imperative the woman goes back in defense. If she doesn’t then it is too easy for your opponents to use your weaker formation against you. Most women naturally stay at the front, that’s what early training tells her to do, so if your female partner is going back, especially for defense, it means she is training a higher level game. Even if she isn’t doing it right, or going too far back, that’s fine. Trust her. Don’t yell at her mid game where to go and what to do. I hate when guys yell out “go to the front!” as they birdie is whizzing by. It means they don’t trust me to play my own game and assumes that because they are faster and stronger than me, they know better too. (Again, guys rarely do this with weaker male partners, just female partners.)

Also, if they are yelling at me where to go it means they are paying too much attention on me and not enough attention on the game. My coach and I have lost a lot of games this way because he looks at me and the shuttle is an afterthought. For training with my coach, that is fine. Game play with a partner, not fine. I always tell my male partner to “shut up and pay attention to the game, not to me,” when they shout out what I should do/where I should go.

If your female partner is going back, accept that she knows what she is doing and she is training the higher level mixed doubles. Accept that she is working on improving herself and deal with it. Don’t bully her into staying at the front just so you have a clear back to run around in.

If you are more comfortable with the lower level doubles of the women staying at the front, but your partner keeps going side-by-side in defense, then see it as an opportunity for you to improve as well. I know some guys don’t like a woman going back because they don’t know what to do. Work to improve yourself so you can also play better.

 

 

I could go on, but this seems like a good place to stop. I feel like perhaps I lost a few male readers with this blog post. But just like I play badminton because I love it, not to make friends, I also write this blog because I love it, not to make friends. 😉

Truthfully the guys I play with are awesome. I see them more often, and for more hours, then I see my best friends and if I didn’t get along with them, I would have found a new club. But they do these things unintentionally, or because they think they are genuinely helpful. Before I said anything to them I think they really had no idea. (Most women won’t speak up in their defense and will just deal with the annoyance so guys don’t know.) The guys I now regularly play with don’t do this. But I play with a lot of people over the course of a week, in several different clubs, so I have to go through this “training” process again and again.

If nothing else I have said convinced you, let me leave you with this: all of these complaints I have are against high level, but not pro guys. Every time I play with a professional badminton player, or professional coach or umpire or something, they are kind, and generous and play serious and take all their opponents serious (even when they are at a much higher level of the male players). When I miss a shot the pro players who is my partner actually often apologizes to me! They don’t do any of the above. So if you want to be a pro, start acting like one. Pro’s respect badminton too much to give anything less than their serious attention to all aspects regardless of their partners sex or skill level. Be like a pro and respect the women in the game. Cause we ain’t going anywhere.

 

 

 

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