The Politics of Badminton

Let me tell you a sad little story that happened to me.

My first competition was actually a series of three competitions. Yet I only participated in one. Why? Because of politics.

You see, the first one was an individual one, and I signed up myself. The second one was a team one, and the teams were determined by the area you live. In the group chat I said I wanted to participate and they said, “talk to your team captain.”

“Who’s my team captain?” I asked. They gave me a name and I groaned. My team captain was my arch-nemesis.

A year ago my coach didn’t have his own courts so I trained at the university gym the same time other teachers played. With one exception the teachers were never nice to me and I figured it was due to my level at the time. My arch-nemesis, a law teacher, seemed to particularly go out of his way to make sure not only he, but other people, wouldn’t have to play with me.

Since then I’ve moved to my coaches court and I rarely see them (which is fine by me). This toady little teacher has no idea he’s my arch-nemesis as I just hate from afar. So I was all sunshine and roses as I contacted him asking to be on his team.

“Well, we haven’t decided who is team captain yet. I’m not sure it’s me,” he answered me quickly.

“Okay, well when you choose someone let me know. I want to play,” I said. “Don’t forget.”

“Sure, sure,” he answered. “I’ll let you know.”

Of course I heard nothing and one week later, when I wrote him back he replied with a quick, “Oh yeah, I’m captain and I’ve already chosen my team.” The dick was the captain the whole time. The team could only have 8 people, and as my “team” was the university there were plenty of teachers and it should have been a “first come, first serve” situation, or, if they really wanted to be fair, tryouts. In both scenarios I would have fared well.

Instead he picked his friends. The little clique that keeps all others out. It’s not like I sucked and they’re amazing mind you. I had just gotten 5th place in the first competition, better than at least one of them he chosen. But it’s just cliques and political and you need to play the “face” game of China (and Becky don’t play that).

Not long after I was invited to the Government Badminton Association Annual meeting. It was incredibly nice of them to invite me as the leader of the group is actually my coaches arch-nemesis. (Long story there but it’s the reason why my coach can’t help me with the local competitions. His arch-nemesis runs them so he stays far away.)

But I’m a foreigner, and I’m crazy passionate about badminton so everyone kinda knows me. I’m not a part of the association, not sure if I can be, but they invited me as their special guest.

I assumed it would be a typical listen-to-some-speeches-and-clap kinda meeting so I was shocked when I walked in and saw a few tables laid out in a square. There was no stage, and no audience. Would I be required to talk?!

Not only was I the only foreigner, but the only woman! The other woman at the table was the secretary and didn’t speak. I broke all kinds of glass ceilings that day!

Sure enough after a brief intro, the chairman asked us to go around one-by-one and offer criticism and solutions to make the local badminton community better. I knew what I wanted to say but I was nervous as hell. My arch-nemesis, the dude I wanted to shit talk, was right there.

But fuck it, right?

“I hope you can all understand me,” I started off shaky in Chinese. “You know I’m from America and new to badminton. I love playing in Jimei and you all know my coach.” Everyone nodded. I knew I should tread lightly over the subject of him, because of the rivalry, but I had to acknowledge it.

“I play badminton in Jimei because I live here,” I continued. “When I started I actually didn’t know a single person here who played. In fact, I don’t know many of you here today. But I play badminton because I love it and I’ve met a lot of awesome people because of badminton.

“But I don’t have a friend group and I don’t have people I can rely on to help me with things like letting me know when there is a competition. I tried joining one of the competitions and spoke out many times on the group chat, yet no one asked me to be on their team because no one knew me.” At this I threw a little shade to my arch-nemesis who happened to be busy writing something down on his notebook, avoiding my gaze.

I recapped the story to the group, leaving out his name, and said I was sad I wasn’t able to play in the competition just because I don’t know people.

I was given a notebook, a survey to fill out (I didn’t, it was too hard to write essay questions in Chinese in such a short time) andย  100rmb for participating! Nice little perks.

“The Jimei badminton community is nice people, but not very friendly to strangers. I know things are more difficult for me because I’m a foreigner and people are scared to talk to me, but you all know how much I love badminton and how serious I am. The community could be nicer to strangers and include them especially if they don’t have friends.”

With my voice shaking a little from nerves I sat down and looked over at the one person in the room I was friendly with. He gave me a thumbs up and everyone else nodded and the next person continued.

I don’t know if my little speech made anyone think differently (there is a competition today, again with a university team of teachers, and again no one told me), but I’m glad I put it out there and I’m glad I had the chance to say something publicly.

After the meeting we played a little competition (everyone got socks and strings as a prize) and they asked me out to dinner. I sat next to the one friend I had (and stayed away from my arch-nemesis) but most people were still too nervous to talk to me until they were drunk. Sigh, the life of a foreigner….

So as I wade deeper into the badminton world, I’m realizing there are games to be played and allowances that must be met. I think I’m gonna have to face my fears and try to play with the stupid teachers some more so they can see my level and hopefully begin including me. Before I wasn’t as good as some of them, but now I am easily their equal. Who knows if they will continue to be petty or finally include me.

I hate the politics of it all, and prefer to stay at my coaches gym with the group I know and am friends with. But if I want to compete I got to get into this other group at the other gym as they have more regular competitions. As a foreigner I don’t want to get mixed up in it and used, but it seems like an unavoidable part of the community here.

With the game of badminton comes the game of politics.




  1. Jeanne McConnell

    What a courageous story… Proud to know you!

  2. Marie

    Hey Becky,

    I’ve read all your posts and love your story!

    I’m a fellow badminton player in Shenzhen ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Would love to see a video of you play and learn from ya!

    1. Becky (Post author)

      Cool! How’s the Shenzhen badminton scene? Pretty active too I’d guess. I know there’s some big tournament some Xiamen people go to in Shenzhen every year but I don’t know the name. And I know. I should video myself even just so my coach and I can go over and review it, but I really hate watching myself on video so I’ve avoided it thus far. ๐Ÿ˜‰ If you ever come to Xiamen for a holiday or something, let me know. You can come to my coaches place!


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