Playing with a Pro

Guess who has two thumbs and is playing with a professional badminton player every week? *This girl!* (Okay, that works better in person then written, but you get it, right?)

It’s me.

He’s from Taiwan and *I think* he has an injured shoulder. Or something with his shoulder. (I didn’t exactly understand what he was telling me about it because of the language.) He’s coaching and training in one of the nearby courts and he’s coming to our court every week because he came once and he had a good time! ‘Cause we are the best and we play at a high enough level to keep a pro entertained.

More thumbs up for us!

He told me he decided to spend his recovery time in Xiamen because “the level of players and courts is so much higher here than other places (including Taiwan).” Can’t say I disagree with them. Xiamen, and Fujiian Province, is known as the creme de la creme of badminton in China for a reason.

Now keep in mind that a pro coming to play is equal parts exciting and nerve wracking. I mean, he’s not a top ten player, but he goes to a lot of the BWF competitions all over the world, and badminton is his full time job. So he’s intimidating. While a lot of people from my club came to watch him play they were too nervous to actually play with him. They left that up to the highest level guy players.

But not me. I’m not gonna waste an opportunity like that! So we got a few games of mixed doubles in before the other guys took over (and it was men’s doubles all night after that.)

Luckily he came back again the following week, and we chatted for a bit and I let him play with the highest level guys. He was too nice to refuse me, but I didn’t want to push mixed doubles on him if he doesn’t like it so much (his career is men’s doubles).¬† At the end of the night, I had already taken off my shoes when my coach called for me to play with the pro as my partner. I quickly put my shoes back on and ran out. My coach played with Sui Feng a girl who used to be much higher than me but these days we are closer. (She has more control than me, but I have strength over her. So we’re hard to compare now.)

Let the epic game begin!

Seriously, this was possibly the most epic game I have ever played. I don’t know what a pro level game feels like, but it must feel something like that game. Speed, skills, deceptions and fast reactions. It was awesome.

Nothing gets me more motivated than playing against my coach. Unfortunately, nothing is harder. He knows all my strengths and weaknesses and is evil enough to use them against me to win. Not just win mind you, but take me down a peg while doing it. Like an older dog cuffing a younger pup to show who the boss is.

But I was out for blood. Unfortunately so was my coach. At one point his partner said something chit-chatty and he told her, “don’t talk. Focus on the game.” I’ve actually never seen him say that before. He loves chit-chat!

But however serious he was, I was .5 percent more serious. And with the pro as my partner I had the confidence to do it, as long as I played smart.

I have never been so quick, I have never had as much speed and have never had such accuracy of smashes. When everyone is at a high level and plays to their full ability, the level of the game rises. And I had this anger in my belly because my opponent was my coach. There was no way I was gonna let him bully me. Lucky for me I ALSO know my weaknesses so I was ready for his deceptions, his drops and his return of serves. Several times he played right into my hand.

“I’m angry!” he said, his favorite line when he is down a few points. After he says that he always gets super focused and is usually able to win a few points. But not this time. Hunting at the net with the pro behind me we weren’t letting anything go. After one memorable net smash I hit he again said, “I’m angry!”

“It’s too late,” I said. “I’m already angry. I’m angrier.”

At one point I net smashed yelling out “fuck you!” and he managed to return it, and I net smashed it again yelling out another “fuck you!” in quick succession. That made everyone laugh (we had an audience) and I pointed my finger at my coach and said, “See? I’m more mad!”

And playing with the pro was awesome. There is a difference between them and the rest of us mortal. One thing was courtesy. Every time I was put under pressure, or missed a shot, he would apologize. Now, this is normal if your partner say, gives a lift to the opponent and they smash and you try to defend but can’t. They clearly set up a poor shot and usually apologize even though you are the one that missed it.

But with the pro he apologized to me when I was the one that clearly messed up. When I missed a shot that I should have gotten, he apologized to me. As a friend later explained to me it’s because doubles is a team sport, and pro’s know as the stronger partner they¬† shouldn’t hit a shot that will trouble their partner on the return. So if I have trouble returning a shot it’s because he hit the previous one in a way that gave our opponent an opportunity to trouble me, and therefore it is his fault.

This has happened only with three people I’ve ever played with, all of the highest level and I kinda appreciate it. Especially when most guys like to criticize their female partner when they miss a shot. But of course several times it was just me being me and not at all his fault. Luckily he was too nice to get upset. We also did a lot of high five’s and encouragement.

And we won! We won! And I gloated and gloated and gloated. Nothing as good as beating my coach.

I don’t know how long he’ll be in Xiamen, but I’m gonna take advantage of it as much as I can.

In other news I had good training this week but perhaps because it was the first week of school so I was finally busy during the days, or because I gave 10,000% on my game with the pro I sucked the next few days and took an extra day off on Sunday just to stay home and get work done.

On Saturday night I played, but weakly, and was gonna go home early and rest at 8:30. But I’ve been asking Yong Wan, one of the better guys, to help me with my return of serve. I’m too predictable, and he is master of deception and unpredictability when it comes returning serves, so he figured now was as good a time as any.

As we were training, people slowly began to filter over to us to watch, and then try themselves. And then, before I knew it I was pushed out as everyone else wanted a try. I finally left at 10pm. So much for leaving early.

Yong Wan, in grey, ended up training several of us.

My coach has a ton of drink boxes filled with birdies that anyone can just grab and train with (he has big boxes for his own use). I felt like Yong Wan looked like a kid digging out the prize from a Cracker Jack box as he was reaching in to grab the birdies.

At one point both Yong Wan and I were kicked out as others took over training and we sat together on the side. “Look at what we started!” I said pointing to the 6-7 people now training. “It’s because we’re so cool. If we do it everyone wants to.”

“Definitely is,” he said smiling.

Also, here’s a quick video of my coach being a show-off this week. His opponent wasn’t that good so he was doing his “showmanship” singles because he knew people were watching and he likes to entertain the crowds. (Youtube video)

P.S. He put the cheesy music to it.



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