I’m gonna come off as sounding like a dick in this post, but this is how I’ve been feeling lately.
I’m unsatisfied with playing recently. Not with MY playing, I’ve been doing okay these days, but with everyone else.
I’m now better than the average player. Not just women, but better than the average man too. (Even with their addition strength and speed they can’t beat me.)
I’m also invited to more games (not just tolerated as before) as my expertise is seen as a benefit and can guarantee a win. I’m no longer being paired up with the strongest player. In fact, in some groups, I’m paired with the weakest player. (The strongest player is usually paired with the weaker player to make the teams more even.)
I’m also purposely left out of games and people will pass me over and not want to play with me because of my higher level.
All of that is very flattering and I sound like an egomaniac, but there is one caveat.
I’m not a gaoshou.
I’m kinda hovering at that annoying level where playing the average player is boring for me, but with experts I get killed. Playing mixed doubles against a men’s doubles team is inherently unequal. The mixed doubles team is weaker. But as a woman, I have figured out to use men’s doubles against them. Intermediate men, who are used to men’s doubles, are used to speed and strength. All you gotta do is play the net, where they are less experienced, and you can win more often than not.
Sometimes it almost laughable. I’ve had opponents hit it to me high and to the back and they hunker down in defense ready for the smash so well they can’t even react when I drop it at the net. Or they try to play the net but it is always sloppy and too high so I get to do net smash.
But gaoshou are not fooled so easily, so my technique doesn’t work when playing against them. They also give me less opportunities. I basically have no time to strategize when playing with gaoshou, I can only react.
Last Sunday I got to play with three awesome players. It was also all young guys, gaoshou’s (and me) so it was all fast smashes and quick movements. We lost majorly but I had the most fun I had in awhile. I felt like an idiot, we lost because of me, but still, it was so fun. I was depressed at how poorly I played, but I was so exhilarated at the challenge.
This Sunday I won almost every game by huge margins despite playing all with guys. Like, more than 10 points in some cases. I’ve long given up seeing “winning” as an achievement in daily play, and this is a perfect example of why. Sure, I won, but I played so lazily. My serves were high, I didn’t work on returning serves well, and I didn’t practice my “ready” position because I could move slowly and still get the shuttle. Despite winning I left feeling downhearted.
This was the same group that a few months ago I found challenging. A win wasn’t guaranteed back then and I had to work hard to prove myself. But I train and they don’t, so I’ve advanced and they haven’t.
That’s my problem in general. As I improve, the amount of people that I can play with for a challenging game is dwindling, so great games are few and far between. I kinda knew this would be a problem *eventually,* after all, the better you play, the less people play at your level, but I just didn’t know it would come now.
It doesn’t help that many of the top players in my club are students, the majority of which just graduated university (and the others are preparing for finals) so they are all busy these days and club nights haven’t been very challenging.
I’m also getting a lot of false confidence because I see winning as “so easy.” But then when I play with actual gaoshou I’m almost bewildered and look for other excuses as to why I lost. “It can’t be me, I always win. Must be my partner player poorly,” or “I‘m tired today, that’s why.” Even though deep down I know I’m just not good enough.
I don’t want to be the best player in a game. I don’t want to win all my games. I want to leave feeling crushed and broken like I used to. Because winning doesn’t give you that fire in your belly to improve. It doesn’t make you fight harder and focus more. I hope I start losing again!